Do you pile on the kilos after the holiday binging? It is possible to eat sensibly even in the face of a sumptuous spread.

How do we survive the holiday buffet? Standing plate in hand in a buffet line? May be, you could chew this over. Which one of these categories you fall into?

Those who pick what they like, resolutely untempted by the rest; the adventurous, equally resolved to get a portion from all the steaming / cold serving trays; and the I-paid-for-it kind, piling the plate with all they like and some more, making a mental note of what they should attack in the second round.

Whatever your modus operandi, you end up with more food than you bargained for. It is a conspiracy, really.

Against the sight of food simmering on a low flame, its aromatic nearness and alluring variety, what are your chances of walking away with a slim meal?

And then, this: as you teeter on the “Do I, Don't I” precipice of a second helping, comes “helpful” advice. “Hey, did you try the chocolate soufflé? Heavenly, don't miss it!”

Resisting is a waste of time. You're committed to a waistline-snapping diet disaster.

To find out how some people “survive the pitfalls of all-you-can-eat dining”, researchers at Cornell University Food and Brand Lab decided to observe both normal and overweight diners at buffets.

And, this is what they found: heavier diners are more likely to sit near the buffet tables and serve themselves quickly. They would walk to the tables, grab a plate and start spooning in the calories. You won't find them browsing the food items. The normal-weight eaters, on the other hand, tended to browse the tables, scout around before making their choices.

Often, they reached out for smaller plates.

For the statistically-minded, 71 per cent of normal-weight diners browsed the buffet before serving themselves, compared to 33 per cent of obese diners; 27 per cent of normal-weight patrons faced the buffet compared to 42 per cent of obese diners. The more interesting finding is the distance at which the big eaters sat — an average of 16 feet closer than the other diners did, no doubt to reduce the distance walked for a second, third … food-gathering effort.

So, it's all about the three Cs — calories the food is laden with, the convenience of reaching it and the choices that ensure you make those return trips. “Indulgence over good sense” says the study.

“Overeating is a personality problem,” says Dharini Krishnan, National President, Indian Dietetic Association. “Some gorge because it's easy to get at all that yum stuff. Others could be overwhelmed by the spread, and lose their appetite.”

Needn't be so, say wedding / festival / year-end buffet veterans. It is possible to move down the holiday high-foodline with minimum weight gain. The study's conclusions have a few lessons to offer. Empty plate in hand, browse the dishes, make a recce. If you're in the queue, take small portions of what look appealing; sit as far away as possible from temptation; eat with a group; chat and chew slowly.

Brian Wansink, in his book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think, gives you another trick. Calling it the Rule of Two, he asks us to not have more than two items on the plate at a time. If you're going back for a scoop of ice-cream and chocolate syrup, it's fine, but see that you don't add gajar halwa to the combo. It also helps keep the serving sizes small, since you don't want to overload on those two items alone.