December 15, 2015 05:44 PM

Courtesy Iskra Lawrence

We all know it can be tough around the holidays to eat healthy, stay active and maintain a positive body image. It’s not just tempting treats that sabotage — friends and relatives may unknowingly throw off your game with insensitive comments about your weight.

But according to plus-size model Iskra Lawrence, founder of body-positive and fashion website RunwayRiot, holiday celebrations don’t have to leave you feeling bad about your body. Here are her tips for PEOPLE readers about staying healthy and strong this season.

1. If someone says something inappropriate about your looks, make a joke or change the subject.

Keep it lighthearted, and think about why the person might be have a negative mindset. “When this happens to me, I try to remind myself that they must have something going on, they must be hurting,” says Lawrence. “Everyone has their insecurities and may just need a little bit of help. I always feel sorry for people who exude negativity.” Try to be the positive person who makes everyone feel good.

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2. Stay firm about how you want to live your life.

Remember: You are in control. Just because you go home for the holidays doesn’t mean you have to adopt the habits of everyone else there. “I go back home with a new way of thinking,” says Lawrence. “I’ve learned to say, ‘This is what I want to do, this is how I want to be, this is what I want to eat,’ or ‘I’m going to the gym.’ ” It’s okay to make decisions that are right for you.

 

3. Ask yourself how you will feel later.

“When it comes to holiday treats, I always ask myself, ‘Will I feel good after that?’ ” says Lawrence. Along with enjoying things in moderation, she also knows when to stop. “You really only need three bites of something you’re craving. It’s hard because we’re conditioned to eat everything. My grandmother taught me, ‘You must finish your plate.’ But you can say no, or just have a little piece.”

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4. Don’t feel guilty.

You’re allowed to indulge a little bit!  “Just do the healthy stuff too and don’t beat yourself up,” says Lawrence. “You’re human.”

5. See workouts as a reward.

Remember how you feel after exercise: strong and fit. “Flip your thinking and look at it as a reward instead of a chore,” she suggests.

–Sheila Cosgrove Baylis

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