This time next week if the scale reads two pounds higher than normal, you're right there with the rest of humanity.  That's the average weight gain during Christmas week, but the truly surprising thing is how long it takes to get rid of it!

There are so many creative ways to gain weight this time of year.  It's Grandma's cookin', holiday party smorgasbords, wing and nacho parties during college football bowl games, dinners out to celebrate a great year, and oh yeah...alcohol.  All of that alongside our regular need for pizza and chocolate adds up to tighter pants, and it's kind of amazing that the average weight gain is only a pound or two.

The two-pound Christmas season weight gain is happening right now, but some say we actually start packing on the pounds in October around Halloween and we carry that through January 1. When you look at it that way, the scale can tip six or eight pounds higher.

So how long does it take to deflate after the holidays?  The experts say it can take as long as five months!  Weight peaks about ten days after Christmas and we tend to lose half of it quickly, but the other half may not come off until after Easter.  If only the extra pounds would come off as quick as the pizza went in.

I weigh myself every single day to keep it all under surveillance and reduce the risk of being surprised by the consequences of my inability to say no to chips and guacamole.  That seems to help me keep it all under control.  If I eat chips and drink vodka, the scale goes up.  If I eat carrots and grapefruit, it goes down.  I know these things.  But that doesn't make it easy.

Here are some expert tips to avoid the holiday weight gain:

-- Don't go to holiday parties when you're famished.  Eat something small before you go, so you'll eat less when you're there.  In theory.

-- Watch the alcohol.  The lowest-calorie booze might have 80 calories per shot, and the highest-calorie creamy or fruity frozen drinks might pack 600 calories or more.  Two of those and two or three rounds of finger foods and you're in trouble.

-- Pay attention to your body's cues.  Aim for satisfied and not stuffed, and live to eat another day.

-- Get enough sleep.  Feeling rested keeps cravings at bay and it keeps our brains from directing us toward unhealthy foods.  We'll make better choices when we're not tired.  In theory.

My gym is always packed in January and it's great to see so many people working to burn off the holiday bulge, but if we can hold off the weight gain now we'll save ourselves a lot of work on the treadmill then.  We can do this.  We just have to decide if we really want to.