Feast - and fat - season is upon us

It's time to get out the fat pants and the buffet dress. The holiday season is upon us.

Beginning with Thanksgiving, going nonstop right through the end of the year, Americans pack on the pounds. Then Jan. 1, rising out of our sugar rush, covered with cookie crumbs and splashes of eggnog, we are full of remorse.

According to Weight Watchers, most of us eat more on Thanksgiving than on any other holiday. We rationalize that it's just one day a year, so what's an extra 2,000 calories? And it's tradition, after all.

Maybe it's time for a new tradition.

"I try to encourage people not to gain weight over the holidays," says Judy Fields, a Fair Oaks, Calif., registered dietitian who specializes in weight control.

"If you give yourself permission to gain weight just because of the holidays, in January it's easy to keep on rationalizing. Plus, following the holiday season is typically an emotional low time, which makes it even more difficult to face the reality of what you've done to yourself."

That doesn't mean you should beat yourself over the head if you do gain a little weight during party season.

"A normal fluctuation is 3 pounds for women and 5 for men. If you don't allow yourself to go over that, it will be much easier to deal with in January," says Fields.

"For people who have fluctuated over the years and have a yo-yo thing going, it is more difficult to avoid weight gain, but not impossible," Fields says. "As we get older there is a potential to lose muscle mass, so it is easier to get fatter as we age. We burn calories at a slower rate, all the more reason you should try to keep a stable weight through times of stress or through the holiday season."

So, should we skip all the goodies during the holidays?

"This dietitian certainly isn't going to do that," says Fields. "Just try to keep the excess to a once-a-day treat. Also, weigh yourself frequently during the holiday season, daily or weekly. That will remind you of the reality of balancing food with weight."