Dr. Isam Hamdallah is a bariatric and general surgeon with Saint Agnes Medical Group.

On average, Americans pack on 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season, running from the last week of November through the first week of January. Around the world, people from various cultures and religions celebrate holidays like Christmas and the New Year, and come together for joyous social gatherings.

For many of us, food is fundamental to the holiday season. It can be hard to avoid the special meals, extra servings of favorite dishes, special candies or desserts, and alcohol. It may not sound like much, but studies suggest that the few pounds we gain during this time could last. That means we enter each year a few pounds heavier—which can add up over time.

Dr. Isam Hamdallah, a bariatric and general surgeon with Saint Agnes Medical Group, suggests these four tips to avoid holiday weight gain:

  • Pick a partner. Chances are, you aren’t alone in your goal to stay healthy this holiday season. Talk with a close friend, co-worker or family member about partnering to eat healthier and squeeze in more activity before the end of the year.
  • Make a new holiday happy hour tradition. Instead of going to a restaurant to celebrate with friends, go to an exercise class or volunteer to serve meals at a shelter. Eliminate temptations by doing something positive for your health and others’.
  • Be picky at parties. Bypass the sweet treats and prioritize vegetables and fruit, shrimp cocktail, and nuts. They tend to be lower in calories and more filling than traditional holiday fare. Indulge in a treat you’ll really enjoy—a small glass of eggnog or festive cookie—and skip items you won’t truly savor.
  • Slim down holiday staples. Offer to bring a brightly colored salad or veggie-based side dish to holiday gatherings. Research lightened up versions of your family favorites.

If you find yourself having trouble with holiday weight or want to talk about your health goals, schedule a time to speak with your primary care physician or weight loss surgery expert.

Dr. Isam Hamdallah is a bariatric and general surgeon with Saint Agnes Medical Group.