Is your NOSE making you overeat?

Does anything smell better than December?

There's the scent of a freshly cut Christmas tree... the burning wood in your fireplace... and all of those delicious foods.

But it's that last one you have to watch for.

The smell alone can wreck your diet!

New research shows how sniffing out your next meal can tempt you into an eating spree that'll add hundreds of calories to your plate.

Whether it's the scent of cinnamon wafting through the room from a baking pie... or the junk in the food court of the local shopping mall... those smells trigger a process that goes from your nose to your brain to your belly to your mouth and back to your belly again.

You smell the food, and your brain wants it, so your tummy rumbles. You shovel that food into your mouth... and next thing you know, you can't figure out why your waistline keeps expanding.

But your nose sure knows!

In a series of experiments, college students were given meals under two conditions.

Some just got a meal, with no extra stimulation of any kind. But others were first subject to what you might experience when you go out shopping this time of year: Scents of delicious foods were brought in, and they were shown bright pictures of tempting dishes.

Care to guess who ate more?

That's right... the folks in the second group.

They consumed 220 extra calories during that meal.

That's more than 10 percent of your calorie intake for an entire day, tacked onto a meal because of a tempting smell.

Eating like that even sometimes can lead to weight gain. Eating that way regularly can put you on the path toward metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and more.

Now that you know what's happening inside your body -- from your nose to your brain to your belly -- take steps to protect yourself.

But you don't have to go into hiding until after Christmas, and you don't have to pinch your nose every time you go out.

Just be aware of what those smells can do to your eating habits any time of year. And understand that retailers and restaurants know all about this effect and use it to lure you into eating foods you know you should avoid.

Some sneaky shops even pipe in fake smells to make you hungry.

Yes, they're trying to manipulate you.

Don't fall for it. Enjoy the smells, but don't let it change how you eat -- or by the end of December, you could have a little more in common with Santa Claus than you'd like.