THE silly season is fast approaching and we all know it's prime time for kilo creep. Here's how to support your weight loss goals and still enjoy your chock-a-block schedule with no regrets.

Win the booze battle

For most of us, avoiding alcohol around Christmas is close to impossible. Plus, let's be honest, it's the silly season - you deserve that odd Espresso Martini. But that doesn't mean you can't be smart about it.

Look for the lower calorie options (without whipping out the calorie counter at the bar). Think spritzers or simply alternating with a glass of water in between rounds to help curb the liquid calories and maintain hydration. Every day you don't drink is one less hangover and two less bacon and egg rolls.

Hone in on your hormones

Among the joys of it all, the build-up to Christmas can also be anything but merry. When we're stressed, we produce a hormone called cortisol. When elevated, it favours body fat storage, particularly around the belly, plus tells your brain to signal hunger. Couple this with pulling an all-nighter and you'll likely find yourself hitting up the nearest burger joint to rid those hunger pangs.

Find other ways other than food and booze to address your stress. Be it a brisk walk, 5 minutes of mediations, plenty of shut-eye or deep calming breaths - when you address stress, those extra five kilos might suddenly fall away.

Mind the munchies

The Christmas lead-up brings weekly cheese platters, office parties, pre-holiday catch ups and an excess of Ferrero Rochers.

What's your defence? The pre-plan. If you know you have an event coming up, make sure you've eaten something healthy beforehand. Never turn up hungry (or hangry) and make sure you have enough fuel in the tank to avoid getting tipsy too quickly. Also, take your conversations away from the grazing board to stop your hand from wandering. Out of sight, out of mind.

Keep on lifting

A lot of people let their training slip in the lead-up to Christmas because there's always a "better offer". So, adjust your workout schedule to suit your social calendar. The ideal exercise program for weight loss includes a combination of cardio and weights. Circuit-style cardio training is great for bulk calorie burning but don't forget to rock the resistance. Weight training keeps the calorie burn going for longer, even when you're not exercising. This is often called the "after burn effect", which refers to the oxygen (and calories) your body uses to help your muscles recover.

Fire up your fibre

Health experts agree that a key to a healthy weight and immune system lies in keeping the vast number of microbes living in your gut happy - and this can be increasingly hard to maintain as the festivities soar. One of the most important nutrients for gut health is resistant starch, which is a type of fibre that resists digestion and ferments in the gut to stimulate the growth of "friendly" bacteria. You can find this type of fibre in everyday foods like oats, lentils, peas, beans, barley and cooked then cooled rice (like sushi). Not only will these foods help keep your gut in check, it will help prevent belly bloat and keep mindless munchies at bay.

Kathleen Alleaume is a nutrition and exercise scientist and founder of The Right Balance. Follow her @therightbalance

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