Holiday season begins next week, and you know what that means: Parties, food, and wrecked diets! Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or simply don’t want to gain any, the holidays can present you with seemingly insurmountable odds. You might fear that you will enter January carrying an extra 15 unwanted pounds… but it doesn’t have to be that way. If you make a plan now, you can maintain your healthy choices and avoid holiday weight gain.

Step One: Choose your battles. It’s not at all realistic to promise yourself that you won’t touch sweets for the next two months. You will be facing temptation at every turn, and most people don’t have that kind of willpower. Instead, set reasonable limits that you know you can abide. Don’t snack on holiday cookies every day in the break room at work, but choose two or three events that will be “diet free zones”. Give yourself a little break and let yourself cut loose at predetermined times.

Step Two: Plan a strategy for parties. For all other events, you need to develop a game plan. Remember that parties are about spending time with friends or family, and not really about the food. Try to position yourself away from buffet tables. Arrive a little late and leave a bit early. Fill up on fresh veggies or fruit if they’re offered, or have a healthy snack before you even arrive. Avoid alcohol; it’s packed with calories, and will lower your inhibitions about junk food.

Step Three: Tighten up on your habits at home. If you know you’ll be attending lots of holiday parties, make sure to keep extra healthy, low-calorie food in your own home to compensate. Don’t skip workouts, and extend them by an extra ten minutes or so, if you can.

Step Four: Don’t beat yourself up if you fall off the wagon. If you do slip up and eat too much of Aunt Matilda’s fudge, don’t beat yourself up about it. Giving into a perception of defeat could lead you straight to Uncle Ned’s homemade pizza rolls or Cousin Sally’s cheese dip. Just because you splurged, doesn’t mean the day is “ruined” and you might as well keep splurging. Start over and do better for the rest of the day.