First things first, you must learn self-control. If you know you shouldn't be eating that piece of Aunt Mildred's famous strawberry cheesecake, don't eat it. When it comes to eating, you need to think before you put the fork in your mouth. Self-control use to be one of my biggest weight-loss issues. If I got the craving or urge to have something, I would impulsively do it and blindly reassure myself, "It's okay, I only get to eat this every once in a while." Until giving into my cravings "every once in a while" turned into all the time and I no longer had control. Realizing the need for self-control is just as important, if not more important, as attaining that control. Looking back now on all the fattening, grease-soaked, sugary foods I have consumed over the years, I can say with confidence that it was not worth it. Sure, foods can be delicious; their powers somehow intoxicate the mind, driving it to never-ending cravings. It becomes an addiction that people cannot say no to. The most important rule is to say no. Listen to your stomach, not your mind.
But that's where you run into another problem: what do you reach for when you get hungry? Most people opt for the chips and dip route, and if you didn't already know that potato chips and Doritos were not the wisest of snack options, then I hope you are also unaware that pizza is now a vegetable (side note: I planted an old pizza box in my backyard a few months ago and still no pizza tree. What gives, Congress?). These fingers foods will not only keep you coming back for more (because they're salty), but they won't fill you either, so you will remain hungry. The best route is the vegetable platter. Most parties are now equipped with the infamous tray of carrots, broccoli, and celery, but be careful—that creamy dip in the center is not your friend. The fiber in the vegetables will fill you up and keep you satisfied just in time for the main courses.
The main courses are tricky to tip-toe around, but try to stay away from things covered in cheese, made with heavy creams, and doused with grease. If you're at a barbeque, get your burger or hot dog with out the bun to save yourself some calories and bloating. Take only small spoonfuls of potato and macaroni salads (if any at all). Portion control is key here because you want to be satisfied, but you don't want to pile the wrong foods on your plate. Make sure to get plenty of vegetables, and always finish your meal with a salad (unless it is already dressed with a cream sauce) because it will help to expand your stomach, giving you the feeling of fullness.
At a special gathering, you don't want to completely deprive yourself of something you really want to have. My advice for desert time is either only take a small taste, or plan for eating that slice of strawberry cheesecake or double-chocolate chip cookie in advance so you can work it into your calories for the day. If you don't think your self-control can handle just having a taste, go for the the fruit salad instead, but fruit must also be eaten in moderation because of it's high sugar content.
Another sneaky calorie-killer to watch out for is alcohol. If you must, limit yourself to two drinks for the entire party, like a glass of wine or a light beer. Many people don't even think about the liquid calories they consume, so steer clear of soda as well and drink plenty of water because it will keep you feeling full.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself. If you feel that you are limiting yourself so much that it makes you miserable, then you will never stick to your diet. Sometimes having a treat to look forward to makes dieting during the holidays a lot easier. When I had first gotten serious about my diet, it was right around Thanksgiving and people thought I was insane for starting a diet at the very beginning of the holiday eating-spree, but I stuck to my diet because I was determined. At Thanksgiving I only had a taste of everything (except the turkey, obviously) and loaded up on vegetables. For Christmas, I snacked on vegetables during the day, portion controlled my meal, and even had a small slice of chocolate banana cream pie! My point being is that it is absolutely possible to go through even the most food-filled holidays and still stick to your diet. So go enjoy your holidays and leave your diet worries at the door!