Maybe I'll never convince you but I'll have a jolly good try: It isn't a forgone conclusion you put on weight over the holiday season.

Train yourself to eat slowly and more slowly again. Of course, that will only help if you eat less as a result.

It's less to do with digestion (although I expect it might help that, too) but is all to do with enabling you to take a smaller portion in the first place.

It will also help you avoid a second helping - you'll just run out of time. Everyone else will be finished and you'll be embarrassed to go on.

I'm not a calorie counting sort of person although, as a former yo-yo dieter, I'm a walking calorie book. I expect some of you are, too.

But although I've stopped an obsession with calorie counting, the adage "don't count calories but calories do count" is, of course, very true.

So allow me a small indulgence as I lay an awful truth before you: A mince pie is approximately 250 calories. This means that if, each day, all you eat in addition to your normal intake is two mince pies, you'll put on a pound over a week.

Now calculate how much extra you're likely to eat each day. In addition to the two mince pies, there may be an extra two or three alcoholic drinks. Perhaps you'll have an extra course at each meal.

Chances are the portion sizes will be bigger than normal, the pressure to eat greater than normal ("I've slaved over a hot stove, surely you've got room for it?").

Add all that up. It's a lot more than two extra mince pies a day. Now you see where the extra weight comes from.

Now that we've done our calorie counting, we can move on. You'll be surprised to hear I'm not suggesting you give up all mince pies or that you go teetotal for the duration. That's not my approach. Along that route lies deprivation and if you try that for the holiday period, I can guarantee that, when January comes, you'll go totally berserk. You'll flip and put on extra weight then instead of now.

So you're serving yourself (or asking for) smaller portions. You savour them and enjoy every mouthful. Is that enough to prevent the holiday spread? It will help but there's more you can try.

One of the problems of the season is that one meal follows hot on the heels of the next. In between, the chances are you'll be sitting around watching television. And while there, the chocolates are being passed round - and the nuts, the satsumas and even the mince pies. Sound like a familiar scenario?

Each time something comes your way, ask yourself this question: "Am I hungry?" Unless you can honestly say you are, pass the chocolates on to the next person.

Is it likely you're hungry? You've just finished a four- course meal. You've staggered from the table to the armchair. And now the food is coming round again.

Your focus from this time until the next meal is to work up an appetite. How do you do that? By not letting a single morsel pass your lips between one bumper meal and the next.

Deprived? Not at all. I never said you couldn't eat the meal. I'm just suggesting you don't eat when you're already stuffed. Slim people don't. Watch them. It's very instructive.