You know how it goes... it starts with a few chips and dips at the company Christmas party and ends up with you sprawled on the sofa polishing off a box of chocolates, watching a festive film on TV.

Tips to help you stay in shape over the festive season - without having to miss out!

You know how it starts with a few chips and dips at the company Christmas party and ends up with you sprawled on the sofa polishing off a box of chocolates, watching a festive film on TV. But surely, as the saying goes, 'it would be rude not to'. So what I propose is not a Spartan abstinence but a middle ground, aimed at getting you through the Yuletide period without storing your saddlebags full enough to fuel your 'New Year new you' workouts until Easter.

'Tis the season to be jolly - Steer clear of the fatty dips such as sour cream and taramasalata, opting instead for salsa and tzatziki at only around 5-10 calories per portion. The simplest yet most effective advice is to avoid temptation so don't stand by the buffet table or you'll end up grazing the evening away.

One for the road - Spicy drinks, such as bloody Mary, won't stimulate your appetite nearly as much as sweet drinks. Another sound tactic is to alternate each alcoholic drink with a glass of water (your skin, kidneys and waist line will thank you for this one). If there's really too much stigma attached to a glass of pure water then try the socially acceptable method of dilution, the spritzer. Also, remember seasonal protocol is on your side with a medium sherry weighing in at only 60 calories compared with 95 for a glass of wine, 120 for a rum and coke and up to 500 for a cocktail.

The gift of fitness - ensure your Christmas wish list includes either home exercise equipment, a workout DVD or some snazzy new training gear as you'll be itching to try them out and so you'll be driven to sneak in a quick workout even when the gym's closed.

The calm before the storm - When shopping, remember you're not heading for a bunker having just heard the 4 minute warning. The shops will close for merely one day (if at all in some cases) so don't overstock, buy only what you need and never go grocery shopping when you're hungry.

Damage limitation - Take the skin off the turkey, dry roast the spuds, steam the vegetables and make custard with skimmed milk to reduce calorie intake whilst still enjoying traditional fayre. When visiting friends and relatives a little discipline is called for, so fill your plate but only once, never return to the buffet


Have your cake and eat it - It is only once a year, after all, so treat yourself to a slice of Christmas cake but try it 'undressed'. An average portion will register over 400 calories yet removing the icing and marzipan can save you more than half this.

Take a hike - A walk of just 15 minutes can reduce chocolate cravings, research from the University of Exeter has found, so taking the whole family out for a a stroll in the crisp winter air is great for bonding and for your belly.

Don't be a scrooge - After eating your blood sugar levels will rise and the pancreas releases insulin to control such. The result is that a few hours later this level may significantly drop leaving you feeling ravenous. A good action plan here is to throw away your left overs or you'll be tempted to

see them off when you're not even really hungry.

The morning after the night before - Amazingly, you'll tend to wake up feeling hungry after a pig-out as your body will have secreted insulin into the blood overnight causing blood sugar levels to plummet. Go with it. Rather than skipping breakfast in a vain attempt to compensate for the

previous days Romanesque orgy of eating opt for a light healthy snack. At all costs, avoid the binge-fast cycle which is an inevitable road to corpulent ruin.

And the most important tip of all - it's not the amount you eat and exercise between Christmas and New Year that is the's the amount between New Year and Christmas that makes the real difference!!