11/29/2011 08:36 am ET Updated Jan 29, 2012

How to Get Back On Track After an Indulgent Long Weekend

Overdo the holiday? Don't wait until January 1 to get back on track -- climb back on the wagon today! It's so easy to let one holiday derail you with a huge meal, a long weekend and not enough exercise.

I'm often asked, "What can I do to help me lose weight and/or improve my health?" I'd definitely make my recommendations based on a list of common denominators that helped overweight contestants win a place on "The Biggest Loser." As the nutritionist for six seasons of the show, I've identified the key factors that have helped America earn its top ranking among obese nations of the world. I found that most of our contestants:

1. Had absolutely no idea how many calories their body really needs (and how many more they are actually taking in)

2. Skipped breakfast and, often, many other meals

3. Didn't eat enough fruit or vegetables

4. Didn't eat enough protein (lean protein)

5. Didn't eat enough whole grains

6. Ate too much white stuff: white flour, white pasta, white sugar, white rice, simple carbs

7. Didn't feel they had time to plan ahead -- they found themselves grabbing something quick for a meal -- often consumed in the car or at their desk

8. Often had enough calories in beverages alone to meet their daily caloric needs -- but didn't drink enough water

9. Didn't exercise enough (if at all)

10. Prioritized their spouse, partner, children and/or their jobs over their own health and well-being

These 10 factors helped us to create the Biggest Loser eating plan, which is based on the following recommendations:

1. Learn your body's calorie needs -- you must burn off more calories than you are taking in

2. Don't skip meals -- you must develop a regular eating schedule of three meals and two or three snacks per day

3. Eat plenty fruit and vegetables

4. Eat plenty of lean protein

5. Eliminate white stuff: white flour, white pasta, white sugar, white rice, simple carbs

6. Choose whole grains

7. Plan ahead -- your meals, your snacks and your exercise. As Jillian has said, if you don't plan ahead, you plan to fail.

8. EAT your calories, with the exception of milk

9. Include exercise as part of your weight loss plan

10. Prioritize your health and well-being; if you don't have your health, you can't take care of your loved ones

BL12's Antone Davis has stayed on the ranch because he knows exactly how to keep the scale moving downward by following these guidelines. These recommendations work! Antone's calorie budget was determined to be about 2,000 calories. The way for him to divide those calories up throughout the day is to divide 2,000 by 4 = 500 calories.

That means:

Breakfast = 500 calories

Lunch = 500 calories

Dinner = 500 calories

2 snacks = 500 calories / 2 = 250

He can choose to have his two 250 calorie snacks in the morning, afternoon or evening -- whatever works best for his schedule and his energy level.

Cheryl Forberg, RD is a James Beard award-winning chef, nutritionist for NBC's "The Biggest Loser" and NYT bestselling author. Her latest book is "Flavor First" (Rodale). She lives on a farm in Napa, California. For plenty of scrumptious recipes, visit Cheryl's website and follow her on Twitter and Facebook