It’s possible, if not likely, to pack on five pounds between now and January––and it’s easier than you might think. Most people only add a pound or two over the holidays. But when you look at what a few extra indulgences can cost you, the calories add up fast. Gaining five pounds before the New Year would mean taking in an extra 17,500 calories or so between now and January. If that sounds like a lot, you’re right.

Thanksgiving Dinner is no longer the norm – we’ve turned the holiday into an entire day of eating.  Many people plan the main event for early in the day–– then squeeze in a repeat performance later in the evening. Total calories for the day could easily top 5000 or more, or about 2500 calories beyond what the average person needs.

Even if you’ve been working at home, you may be receiving treats from friends and co-workers and gift baskets are often loaded with high-calorie foods. Just two handfuls of caramel popcorn three days a week for a month (2200 calories), and three pieces of chocolate a week for a month (1600), could put an extra pound on you.  You could easily eat 10 mini muffins over the course of a few days (1000 calories), or make a few dives into the salami and crackers (700 calories).  

And if you’re doing more home baking these days, it only takes 6 holiday cookies (and a few samples of cookie dough) to set you back another 500 calories or so.

If cocktails and appetizers get you in the holiday mood, you could easily rack up an extra 2000 calories from hors d’oeuvres (averaging about 100 calories each), and alcoholic drinks (like sweet martinis at 300 calories each).

Now tack on the extra calories lurking in your holiday dinner – 1000 or so from a couple of potato pancakes and some beef brisket for Hanukkah, or from typical Christmas dinner foods like pecan pie (500 calories), prime rib (800 calories for 8 ounces), macaroni and cheese (500 calories per cup) and creamy artichoke dip (600 calories in a half cup). Finally, take your weight gain over the finish line on Christmas morning with a slice of quiche (500 calories), a cinnamon roll (500) and a cup of eggnog (400).

On top of all this, you might be moving around less, too. Give up your daily 45 minute walks (175 calories) from now until New Year’s Day, and you may be facing the scale with a sense of dread.

To keep your holiday weight gain in check, here are some tips to help.

• Try  to stick to your usual eating and exercise patterns, rather than using the holiday season to let yourself go.
•  Have a substantial snack in the mid-afternoon to  help  curb your intake at holiday dinners.
• Watch your alcohol calories. Try alternating alcoholic beverages with calorie-free ones, or stick to sparkling mineral water with a slice of lime which feels festive.
• Save up some calories so you can enjoy the special items that you only eat once a year. And steer clear of the ‘everyday’ treats that you could eat any time.
• Holidays can be stressful, which can lead to stress eating. Have a soothing cup of tea or take a walk or jog instead.

Susan Bowerman, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., F.A.N.D. – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Trainingat Herbalife. Susan is a Registered Dietitian and a Board-Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics.