The holiday eating season that begins with Halloween candy and ends with champagne on New Year's Eve could be linked to stress, according to a recent study released in Germany.

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Those who put pressure on themselves to create the "perfect" holiday, or holiday meal, may lose track of their waistlines during this time of year.

"There is nothing perfect out there, and people need to take a deep breath and remember the important thing is being with friends, family, loved ones during the season," said Alan Cavaiola, professor of psychology at Monmouth University. "Everything else will fall into place."

A traditional Thanksgiving meal can tally up to 3,000 calories per person. At Christmas, that figure balloons to 5,000. Dr. Felicia Stoler, a dietitian, says some opt to skip breakfast and lunch on big meal days, which is a big no-no.

"You need to eat normally in the morning and afternoon, or you will lose all control and binge," said Stoler. "Your eyes will be bigger than your stomach and you will pack on the calories. This will be stored as fat virtually right away, since your metabolism will be thrown way off."

As a final piece of advice, Cavaiola said, "Know when to leave the table by listening to your body."

The following strategies can help:

  • Drink a glass of water before you eat. Water takes up space and is calorie-free.
  • Start with the fruits and veggies.
  • Skip the dips and dressings, especially the creamy ones, or opt for lower-calorie versions if available.
  • Eat slowly, and wait 20 minutes before you go back for seconds or dessert.
  • Try small amounts of multiple foods rather than taking two or three servings of any one food.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • If you do have more than one alcoholic drink, make a point to drink a full glass of water between drinks. It will slow you down, fill you up, and help keep you from getting dehydrated.
  • Stick to your exercise routine during the holidays, or start one.
  • Make a list of all the good reasons you do not want to gain weight over the holidays or why you want to lose weight after the holidays. Read the list every day and remind yourself of it whenever you are tempted to overindulge.
  • Don't beat yourself up if you slip up. Get back on the horse tomorrow.