If we could give you two pieces of advice on how to avoid weight gain during the holiday season, they would be to (1) beware of your emotional baggage and; (2) listen to your body!

Our bodies know exactly what they need in order to function optimally. The problem is, most of us use the holiday season as an excuse to ignore this important information. Instead, we wear ourselves out with Christmas shopping, call off the daily jog in favor of extra sleep, help ourselves to cute snowman cookies just because the kids made them, or drown our loneliness in pints of Ben and Jerry’s or Heineken, because the holidays are just… tough. It’s different for everybody, but most of us deal with something of the sort every single year. Why do we do this? We propose that it is largely because of one thing: emotional baggage.

Your physical body ultimately consists of pure energy. When you feel an intense emotion, you are actually feeling a specific vibrational frequency that is unique to that emotion. Now, by “emotional baggage,” we mean something that is quite real. When an emotional experience is very powerful, the emotional energy may become trapped in the body, resulting in an area of pure emotional vibration being created that then distorts the normal energy field of the body. In a very literal sense, our bodies can be inhabited by the trapped “energies” of these past emotional events. These trapped energies are referred to as “trapped emotions,” and are responsible for guiding (or misguiding) our choices on a daily basis. For example, if you have a trapped emotion of anger from a past event, you’ll be more likely to become angry when future situations arise that may upset you. This is because part of your body is already resonating with anger, and is just waiting for someone (or something stressful) to light the fuse.

Do you dread the coming holiday season? For many people the holidays are fraught with emotion, with a potential new conflict looming around every corner. Whether it’s trudging through mealtime with a dysfunctional family or the feelings of loss and loneliness experienced when the holidays are spent alone, these can be stressful times that can be disruptive to your body, your emotions and your routines. The old emotional baggage of past holidays may turn this holiday season into a cataclysmic event. Luckily, you can release your emotional baggage and start deciding for yourself what kind of an emotional experience you want to have.

The first thing that you need is a certain level of awareness of what is going on within you and around you. This includes recognizing what your body needs physically such as fuel and rest, and what you need emotionally in order to feel okay, such as emotional support from a spouse, a lunch date with a friend or even just some alone time. You can decide how thin you want to spread yourself with holiday responsibilities. You shouldn’t volunteer to cook dinner for the entire extended family if it interferes with your health, your family or your stress level – it won’t be worth it. You also shouldn’t throw your routines out the window just because of the holidays. Find a way to work exercise into your holiday chores. Keep eating healthy even if no one else does. Do squats while rolling out the pastry for a pie. Challenge yourself to get the whole house cleaned in half the normal time, and you’ll work up a sweat with all the scrubbing and running from room to room. At holiday mealtimes, come prepared with stories to tell so you’re talking more, and as a result, eating more slowly. Eat your salad first so you fill up on live food instead of the sugary and fattening stuff. Remember your body’s needs and respect them. After all, your organs and muscles aren’t on vacation, even if you are!

If you’re feeling stressed about family interaction, go outside for a few minutes to get some fresh air. This is probably a better solution than another piece of pumpkin pie. Ask yourself if you’re overreacting. Recognize your own feelings and analyze what your sister / dad / Aunt Evelyn meant to say. Give the other person the benefit of the doubt – it’s likely no offense was meant. If you aren’t sure, ask for clarification, then react appropriately, with kindness, with love and with forgiveness if you can. Some people really don’t have a handle on their behavior, but it doesn’t have to affect how you feel. It doesn’t have to be your problem. If the absence of family is your battle, join a group of other singles and have a potluck where you can focus on creating new friends and “family”, and not mourning your lack thereof. You don’t always have control over what happens to you, but you can choose to respond proactively. If you plan something in advance, you’ll have something to look forward to. Be open to changing how you feel about the holiday season, and if you release your trapped emotions about loss and loneliness, you may just stop feeling empty altogether.

If you make it through the holidays largely unscathed, do take time to set some goals for the new year. Most of us tend to set large, far-reaching goals, but we suggest that you don’t just leave them there. If your overall goal is to lose 20 pounds, what kind of a plan do you need in order to actually make it happen? Set a completion date. Break it up into smaller milestones by month, week and day. If you get discouraged along the way, it could be due to emotional baggage! Resolve to not let your “trapped emotions” get in your way in 2013!

Dr. Bradley Nelson is the author of “The Emotion Code: How to Release Your Trapped Emotions for Abundant Health, Love and Happiness”. Natalie Nelson is his daughter and COO of Healers Library. Visit EmotionCodeOffer.com for free audio and ebook versions of “The Emotion Code.”