Is gaining a few pounds during the holidays something you accept as inevitable? Do you think it’s no big deal or feel there’s not much you can really do about it anyway? If so, you may want to think again.

Most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the holidays, according to the National Institutes of Health. Over time, those pounds can really add up.

With so many goodies lurking wherever you turn, and a crazy schedule that likely doesn’t leave you with much time to focus on yourself, how do you avoid gaining weight at this time of the year?

Here are a few tricks that can help.

Find time to be active. Between work and family commitments, parties, shopping and visits from relatives or friends, you may find it hard to get in your regular workout. But it’s important to do so. Staying active not only helps burn off some of the calories you consume, but it can help you manage stress and improve sleep. If you can’t get in your usual workout, get creative. Take a walk during lunch. Play a game of touch football after a holiday dinner. Or do a few extra laps around the mall when shopping.

Focus on portion control. Let’s face it. You’re not going to pass up every delicious goodie you encounter at this time of the year. The holiday season is all about enjoying the foods you love, and the most important thing you can do to avoid weight gain is to pay attention to how much you eat. Temptations are hard to resist, but if you stick to a taste or a small portion and continue eating healthy most of the time, you’re less likely to send the scale in the wrong direction.

Decide what’s really worth it. Although portion control is a crucial component of weight management, it’s also wise to learn how to be selective when there’s so much food to choose from. Even if you stick to small portions but eat everything that comes your way, you may not be happy with the results when the new year rolls around. Decide what foods are worth indulging in and skip the foods that don’t make your heart skip a beat.

Get enough sleep. Busy schedules can make it hard to get in a good night’s sleep. But don’t let your lengthy to-do list affect how much shut-eye you get or your waist may pay the price. Studies suggest a link between how much you sleep and the likelihood you’ll gain weight. Although no definitive cause and effect has been determined, it’s thought too little sleep affects hormones that regulate hunger and stimulate appetite (ghrelin and leptin). When you’re tired, you’re also less likely to exercise and more likely to make poor food choices.

Don’t be a slave to stress. Ever notice how you crave crunchy potato chips, gooey mac and cheese or a sweet treat when you’re stressed? That’s because as levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – rise, your appetite increases and blood sugar drops. Stress also drives cravings for comfort and junk foods, which is why biting into a crunchy, sweet apple isn’t quite as satisfying when stress strikes. Learning how to de-stress can help keep your weight in check.

Sources:

https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2007/November/docs/01features_01.htm

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/10-ways-to-avoid-holiday-weight-gain#1

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/expert-answers/sleep-and-weight-gain/faq-20058198

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/06/how-sleep-loss-adds-to-weight-gain/?_r=0

http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/stress-weight-gain#1

http://news.health.com/2014/07/18/5-ways-to-beat-stress-induced-weight-gain/