Weight Control: Gaining Ground on Weight Gain (cont.)

Even if your weight gain doesn't spiral out of control, sometimes adding just five or 10 extra pounds is enough to put your health at risk, Yanagisawa says.

"It all depends on where you are at when you gain the weight," he says. "If your BMI (body mass index) is already high; if you have high blood pressure, or diabetes, for example; if the gain causes a jump in your waist size; then even a small amount of extra weight could jeopardize your health."

Checking Weight Gain: Where to Start

If you've had a break in your normal eating routine -- because of the holiday season or a vacation, for example -- you may only need to return to your previous eating habits to lose the extra weight, Yanagisawa says.

"You may not even have to diet, per se, but if you just start eating like you did before you gained the weight and if you do it right away, you might be able to drop those extra pounds without too much trouble," says Yanagisawa.

At the same time, he cautions, this might not be as easy as it sounds.

"Once you've been overeating for several weeks it's easy to say, 'What's one more cookie or one more piece of chocolate?' When you're in the mindset of eating more, it's easy to keep eating more and not return to how you ate before you gained the weight," he says.

If you find this is the case for you, a more formal diet may be necessary, even for just a few weeks.

"Some people just need the mindset of being on a diet in order to stick with an eating plan," he says.

When choosing a diet, says weight management expert Abby Aronowitz, PhD, look for one that's balanced, but focuses on a lower calorie intake than what you have been eating.

"The most important tool for weight loss isn't the foods you eat, but that you burn up more calories than you have taken in," she says.

Aronowitz suggests taking pen to paper and figuring out how many calories you were eating before you gained the weight, then choosing an eating plan that falls a little below that number.

The Art of Cutting Down

If a formal diet plan is not for you, you can still accomplish your weight goals if you master the subtle art of "cutting down," experts say.

One of the best ways is to reduce your intake of snacks and treats -- the area where most of our empty calories lie, Kraus says.

"You can eat your regular meals, and they can even be hearty meals, but you should cut out or at least cut down on desserts, sweets, and between-meal treats," says Kraus. "And watch the coffee break; it can be a diet-killer."

Just can't give up desserts? Eat everything you were eating before, says Aronowitz. Just don't eat all of it.

"Leave over a few bites of everything on your plate -- or ditch a little before digging in if you feel you want to eat the whole thing," she says.