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Making a Plan to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain continued...

Instead, he says, you have to have a coping plan.

In research published recently in the journal Behavior Research and Therapy, doctors found that dieters who tried to control their appetites using avoidance strategies were at greater risk for overeating than those who developed coping skills to control their overeating.

Among the strategies that work best is positive self-talk, with the help of appetite "flash cards," says Judith Beck, PhD, clinical associate professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia and author of TheBeck Diet Solution.

"Part of the Beck Solution is to make a list of every good reason why you want to lose weight, and read it to yourself every morning -- and when you are tempted to eat something you hadn't planned, just read it again, so you're constantly reminding yourself why it's worth it to turn down food," she says.

She believes you have to rehearse your reasons for wanting to be thin, the same way you rehearse the speech you give your boss when asking for a raise or the pep talk you give yourself before any challenging situation.

"You have to condition yourself and change your mind-set about what food means to you," says Beck.

Muller says this method works well for those who are "thinkers" and do well with a script. For those who are more spur-of-the-moment, "see it and eat it" types, a technique called "mindful eating" may work best, she says.

"So often, overeating is connected to a primitive, emotional place inside us, and we just mindlessly start eating," says Muller. "So one of the strategies would be to cultivate mindfulness: Keep bringing yourself back to the here and now, notice what's in your hand, notice what's on your plate, and pay attention to what you are eating."

Huberman says you can also go party-by-party, with a plan for each event: "You can limit the number of dishes you will eat, limit how much you will eat at each course, limit yourself to the three foods you absolutely love the most. The key is to put parameters around how much you will consume, and then stick to your plan."

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