12/15/2014 05:44 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST

Downsizing: Navigating the minefield that is the Christmas season

The holidays: Everyone coming together to celebrate over food, drink and other forms of debauchery.

But for me, if I’m being honest, it’s a bit of worry, because sliding up to a family dinner is a little like a wildebeest sliding up to a lion’s den.

It ain’t good.

It’s the one time of year where everyone is afforded a free pass — a get-out-of-jail-free card for just about anything.

Chocolate-covered almonds? Go on, it’s Christmas.

Extra gravy on that Yorkshire pudding? Yes, my God, it’s Christmas.

Rum cake? Fill your boots, 'tis the season.

A minefield of treats and goodies

The holidays are like a minefield for those of us trying to navigate our way through a healthy lifestyle.

And this culture of “go on, b’y, it’s Christmas” isn’t the healthiest of attitudes to maintain.

So what do you do? How in the world do you combat all of this temptation?

Look, I’m no Richard Simmons —I haven’t a single sequin blazer in my wardrobe. But, my advice to you would be to make a plan. You need a strategy.

For example, if there happens to be coconut cream pie on Christmas Day at my folks' place, I’m probably going to have a slice. But that’s all I’m going to have. I’ve set boundaries for myself. Guideposts to navigate between.

So how do I make sure that I don’t slip up?

Well, if I’m going to a place where the nutritional opportunities are going to be limited — that’s a polite way of saying “if I’m going to a meal where there’ll be a bunch of crap” — I’ll bring a healthy option. Something that doesn’t make me feel dirty once I’ve eaten it.

Control and contributions

One of the excuses I used to make all the time was “I have no control over what they cook.” And while that is true, you do have some control over what you contribute. And chances are, there’s somebody there who will thank you for the option.

As for the other people out there in Christmasland — the ones who don’t necessarily pay stringent attention on what they’re putting in their bodies — if you know of anyone in your life who may or may not be struggling with finding their way to a healthier place, think of them.

I’m not saying serve Jenny Craig at every meal — 'cause that’s just nasty. But what I am saying is, try to find a way to provide at least one thing that everyone at the table can enjoy.

Here’s an example: My 38th birthday was in August. At the advertising agency where I work, it’s customary for a member in your department to buy you a cake on your special day.

And because I’ve been on this fairly public journey to better health, the folks in HR and the creative department did a little thinking. Even research. And on my big day, they presented me with half a watermelon garnished with fruits of various sizes. Candles flaming on top — the works.

It was amazing. It was pretty ugly, but it made me feel as though people understood.

It was something so small. 

For them, it was just a watermelon. For me, it meant the world. It really did.

So, this holiday season, as you're dousing your fruitcakes in booze, keep in mind those in your life who could use a bit of support.

And for those of us out there struggling with the season — we’ve got this.

It’s time we stopped being the wildebeest, and started roaring like lions.

Roar. Heh.

How's Dave doing? 

Editor's note: Earlier this year, Dave Sullivan told us about his decision to lose weight and get into a healthier way of life. 

So, how is his mission going? 

Dave, who started out at 415 pounds, tells us that he still goes to the gym three to four times a week, and is still adjusting his diet. "I’ve reached the halfway point with 95 pounds gone, which is pretty substantial," he said. "I'm now wrapping my mind around winter. I’m planning on attacking it full force with a load of snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Fingers crossed I don’t wind up lost in the woods."