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During the holiday season I find it hard to avoid all the treats. Saying no to the goodies at family gatherings, community events, and the workplace can be next to impossible. I invariably put on some extra pounds.

So each year, after the holidays, I implement my ten-point plan for losing the extra pounds before the warmer weather returns. I dispense with the negative self-talk for having gained weight. After all, having a few extra pounds keeps me warmer in the winter.

My system has worked well for more than 20 years! Most of the year, I weigh only a few pounds more than when I was at my best weight in college. You can benefit from the same system! Follow these tips to take off unwanted pounds without counting calories or trying difficult to follow, unproven, and possibly dangerous diet regimes.

1. Drink lots of water. The American Dietetic Association suggests eight cups or more each day for adults. Not only is it calorie free but water will also help you feel full and you'll eat less.

2. Eat three balanced meals a day. Skipping meals will only encourage you to overeat later. Choose lean meats, low-fat dairy products, breads and cereals with minimal or no high calorie spreads or sauces, and lots of fruits and vegetables. Limit portion size and stick with only one serving.

3. Hungry between meals? ALLOW yourself to snack on small amounts of low calorie foods. Choose lightly salted pretzels, low-fat or better still air-popped popcorn, or a couple of ginger snaps or vanilla wafers. And once again, go for the fruits and vegetables. I can't stress this enough!

4. Find yourself wanting TOO MANY snacks between meals? Ask yourself if food is what you really want. So often for many of us what we need is something else. Maybe you're feeling frustrated or sad or lonely. Think about what you might do to meet the needs that are not true hunger.

5. Eliminate the "extras". We all know what they are: cakes, pies, candy, cookies, chips... Occasionally, however, allow yourself to enjoy a small portion of a high calorie treat. Doing so will help you feel less deprived and you will be more likely to continue with better habits. But here's the catch: limit yourself to only eating the best. After all, the calories from anything less than the best just aren't worth it. Also, you must limit yourself to only two to three tablespoons. Eat as slowly and mindfully as you can. You'll find yourself enjoying the treat more than if you'd quickly polished off a larger serving.

6. Increase your activity any way you can. Whenever possible, walk rather than drive. Choose to park on the far side of parking lots. Choose the stairs rather than elevators. Stop asking your children to go for this or that and go yourself.

7. Go easy on sauces. Better still eliminate sauces. This includes salad dressings, mayonnaise, and gravies as well as various sauces for pasta and vegetables. A little adds to our enjoyment of food. A lot is trouble. Often, but not always, tomato-based sauces are lower in calories than other sauces.

8. Eat slowly. Enjoy your food! Try chewing your food as many times as you can. Or eat a few bites and then stop and talk with someone else before eating another few bites. It takes our bodies as much as 30 minutes to register when we are full.

9. Don't weigh yourself every day. Body weight can fluctuate by many pounds from day to day because of changes in water weight. Weigh yourself once a week if you must. Look instead for your clothes to start fitting better. And give yourself time. It took time to put the weight on. It will take time to take the pounds off.

10. Do you eat out often? Look for ways to cut back on meals out. Making wise choices in most restaurants is difficult. Familiarize yourself with the lowest calorie choices on the menus at your favorite restaurants. Most fast food restaurants have nutrition brochures. For other restaurants this information may not be readily available. Avoid the all you can eat buffet meals. The more food choices we have, the more we're likely to eat.

Is it easy to follow this plan? No maybe not. But if you put your mind to it you can do it! You will find the extra pounds coming off slowly but surely. And you will ease yourself into a healthier diet. Then when the holidays roll around ease up a LITTLE and enjoy!

Lori Pirog is a freelance writer, illustrator, and artist with a Master's degree in Human Nutrition. She publishes a FREE newsletter for beginning children's writers, illustrators, and artists with creative ideas, resources, and tips on how to save time and money, get organized, and
stay healthy. To subscribe visit .
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