Ah, look at those cute petit fours, all wrapped in chocolate with tiny gilded bows like sweet little holiday gifts. One won't hurt. And well, they are called petit "fours" so perhaps they're meant to be consumed in quadruplet. Same with the gingerbread men -- they might as well all meet their end as a cohesive family.

Then pile on the pumpkin pie and the German chocolate cake and, well, before you know it, it's January and you're making your annual weight-loss resolution with regret and tight pants.

(Jeff Durham/Bay Area News Group)

Thanksgiving ushers in the traditional season of eating, drinking and merrymaking. But for a lot of us -- even in the fitness-conscious Bay Area -- the temptation to stuff our respective pie holes can bite us back and sour the fun. Whether it's because of stress from being around family, seasonal depression or just plain gluttony with all the yummy treats on hand, it's good to know there are ways to be merry without gorging and drinking our way to the next dress size. And the next. And the next ...

"The change of seasons alone is enough to cause a lot of us to overeat, especially as the weather gets colder," said Bay Area fitness guru Joanie Greggains. "Combine this with the stress of the holidays, the economy, and the abundance of holiday food and the temptation can become overwhelming for anyone."

And at parties, alcohol can lower your resistance and good food judgment, plus it's a dose of empty calories.

But that doesn't mean you have to pass up the parties entirely -- just shift your focus, says South Bay weight loss coach Sandy Stewart. "If your focus has been on food in the past, shift it to the people, the festivities and the events going on at the parties," she said. "The key is to prioritize what is most important to you and then be true to yourself. A goal well set can be stronger than any sights or smells of the season."

Taming temptation

Sweets are always an overwhelming temptation for Jacqueline Moshref, an HR manager at a Sunnyvale medical device firm. She says she's a major chocoholic and is addicted to sugar. She also has the hazardous job of stocking the break room.

"I'm always the one opening up the boxes of Famous Amos cookies and putting away the Cheez-Its. It's not good," she said.

So she and about 14 colleagues started a "Biggest Loser" contest in October, planning to keep it up through mid-January. They've so far made it through Halloween by buying their least-favorite candies and not bringing any of it into the office. Now onward to Thanksgiving and beyond.

"People asked, why are you doing (the contest) at the holidays?" said Moshref, 52, of San Jose, who is about 15 pounds on her way to losing her goal of 100. "Obviously, this is the worst time of year for overindulging. While the timing (for the contest) wasn't purposely chosen to occur during the holidays, I'm looking at it as a way to stay very focused on my goal to eat healthfully and actually lose weight at this time of year."

Sleep on it

Sometimes, other aspects of a healthy lifestyle can support your restraint. Stewart says the best defense against overindulging is to get an ample amount of sleep each night.

"When we are tired, we are vulnerable to the abundant goodies that can fill the offices and break rooms, and we can enter into mindless eating," she said. "We're not even enjoying the goodies, but simply eating to just keep going. Being well-rested helps avoid that."

Next, she said, prioritize what is most important to you and be realistic with your plans.

"If your priority is to wear a form-fitting outfit for New Year's, then own what it will take to make that happen," she said. "If that means losing five pounds before New Year's Eve, start now, don't wait until December 25th."

Most health professionals say reasonable weight loss is about a pound a week during non-holiday periods. So a five-pound loss is doable, but will likely mean passing up all those treat platters for the next eight weeks. So be realistic with your plans.

"If all you dream about is the food between November and December, including your aunt's famous homemade pie, then buy something not so form-fitting for New Year's and reasonably enjoy the food you are dreaming about," Stewart said. "Then own the consequences of your food choices."

Greggains agrees it rarely works to avoid all of your favorite foods during the holiday season, so she suggests planning ahead for your indulgences.

"In fact, denying yourself of all treats often results in food binges at a later date," she said. "The key is to pick your favorite one or two indulgences, and enjoy. This will put an end to any feelings of deprivation."

In addition, avoid food peer pressure. "There is nothing worse than falling prey to loved ones or colleagues encouraging you to drink more when you've had enough or to eat more when you're already full," Greggains said. "You end up feeling terrible because you allowed yourself to be pressured into doing something you did not want to do.

"This holiday season, honor your body," she said. "Speak up, in a nice way of course, about the amount and type of food and drink you want."

For Moshref, she knows she'll be tempted on Thanksgiving Day by the candied yams and the pumpkin pie. So she's going to allow herself a taste of things, and just one single piece of pie.

"Once Thanksgiving Day is over, I'm gonna bake Christmas cookies, but not have any myself," she said. "I'm not depriving myself. I'm getting healthy."

Make merry

Above all, go to the parties. You don't have to stay home with a stalk of celery while everyone else is having fun.

"Arrive with the right holiday attitude," Greggains said. "Make it more about spending time with family and friends and less about food. Holiday events with family members can stir up lots of emotions. If this happens to you, take time to calm down before seeking comfort in holiday foods.

"And repeat after me," she said. "It's just another meal. Focus on being grateful for what you have and you'll see that family and friends are at the center of the holidays, not food."

set limits on alcohol

Alcohol can increase your appetite and decrease your willpower at the holiday table. Plus, that holiday cocktail is probably loaded with empty calories.

  • To avoid a nasty next-day hangover, alternate alcoholic drinks with non-alcoholic beverages. For every glass of wine, beer or cocktail, follow it with a glass of water. You will drink less and stay hydrated.
  • Don't drink on an empty stomach. Without food, alcohol is absorbed quickly and hits your brain in less than five minutes, lowering your inhibitions. Before your first sip, eat a small handful of nuts or a few cubes of cheese.
  • If you come home a little tipsy, you may reach for a snack before bed. So before you go to the party, pop up some healthful, low-calorie popcorn and leave it out in plain sight. When you get home, you'll reach for that instead of a bag of chips.

    Sources include ABC News, fitness expert Joanie Greggains