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32 Science-Backed Ways To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

This holiday season, stave off extra pounds by being mindful at the dinner table, drinking tons of water, and getting outside despite the frigid temps. Read on for more simple tips for avoiding extra lbs into the New Year.
32 Science-Backed Ways To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
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Avoiding holiday weight gain may sound as feasible as Santa fitting down billions of chimneys on Christmas Eve, but we promise there are logical strategies (that work all year round) to stay on track. Many of us experience weight gain during the festive winter months, but packing on a few pounds in December is far from inevitable A prospective study of holiday weight gain. Yanovski, J.A., Yanovski, S.Z., Sovik, K.N., et al. Development Endocrinology Branch, National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD. New England Journal of Medicine, 2000 Mar 23;342(12):861-7. Weight and body composition change over a six-week holiday period. Wagner, D.R., Larson, J.N., Wengreen, H. Human Movement Science Program, HPER Dept., Utah State University, Logan, UT. Eating and Weight Disorders, 2012 Mar;17(1).. Don’t get us wrong — the holiday season is all about celebrating, having fun, and indulging. So pass the eggnog and yule log (in moderation) and let’s tackle how to navigate holiday party food spreads, hectic schedules, and ruined gym routines — without turning into Mr. Scrooge.

Holiday Weight Tips

Tips for Eating and Drinking
 

1. Eat Before Celebrating
Skipping breakfast and/or lunch in order to “save your appetite” for Christmas ham and other treats probably isn’t the best weight-maintenance tactic Neural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens: a pilot fMRI study. Leidy, H.J., Lepping, R.J., Savage, C.R., et al. Department of Dietetics and Nutrition, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, Kansas. Obesity, 2011 Oct;19(10):2019-25.. While the jury’s out on how important breakfast really is, not breaking the fast ‘til the afternoon may lead to bingeing later on (read: four slices of pumpkin pie) Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. Astbury, N.M., Taylor, M.A., Macdonarld, I.A. School of Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s Medical Centre, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2UH, UK. Journal of Nutrition, 2011 Jul;141(7):1381-9. Epub 2011 May 11.. Make sure to stick to a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein, which will help tone down the urge to stuff your face at a party later on in the day.

2. Bring Your Own
Rather than try to figure out what’s in every food item at a friend’s party (or avoid it altogether), bring one healthier side dish or dessert that you can count on. Taste the dishes you’d like to, but know you have your healthy alternative to fall back on (an especially safe bet for those with food allergies or intolerances).

3. Chew Slowly
Eating slowly may not be easy when appetizer options are endless (and you’ve just got to try one of everything before they’re gone!) but it pays off to pace chewing. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos, A., le Roux, CW., Alexiadou, K., et al. Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2010 Jan; 95(1):333-7. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. Hollis, J.F., Gullion, C.M., Stevens, V.J., et al. Center for Health Research, Kaiser Permanente Northwest, Portland, Oregon. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2008 Aug;35(2):118-26. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. Andrade, A.M., Greene, G.W., Melanson, K.J. Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences, University of Rhode Island, Kingston. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008 Jul;108(7):1186-91.. So slow down, and take a second to savor each bite of baked brie and each scoop of spiced nuts.

4. Serve Meals Restaurant-Style
When it’s time to sit down for the main event, leave food on the kitchen counter (away from reach) rather than display a basket full of piping hot rolls, multiple casseroles, and an entire turkey right on the table. When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather, and then decide if you really want those seconds. Changing up the environment — in this case, by leaving food near the stove — can help reduce overall food intake Eating as an automatic behavior. Cohen, D., Farley, T.A., RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, CA, USA. Preventing Chronic Disease, 2008 Jan;5(1):A23..

5. Use Smaller Plates
History shows plate sizes have expanded significantly over the years The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium. Wansink, B., Wansink, C.S. Applied Economics and Management Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, USA. International Journal of Obesity, 2010 May;34(5):943-4.. Whether you’re dining at a friend's or family member’s house or your own, choose the smaller salad plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like plate (12 inches or more). Using smaller plates can actually make us feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big white space on the plate with less food (and smaller plates generally require smaller portions) Normative influences on food intake. Herman, C.P., Polivy, J. Department of Psychology, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada. Physiological Behavior, 2005 Dec 15;86(5):762-72..

Roasted Turkey

6. Pick Protein
Protein can help maintain a healthy weight because high-protein diets are associated with greater satiety (and as an added benefit, it’s important for healthy muscle growth) Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity. Clifton, P. Baker IDI Heart and Diabetes Institute, University of South Australia, Adelaide, SA, Australia. The British Journal of Nutrition, 2012 Aug;108 Suppl 2:S122-9.. Make sure to serve up some turkey or ham, or prepare animal-free alternatives like quinoa, lentils, or beans.

7. Fill Up on Fiber
Snacking on vegetables and other high-fiber items like legumes can help keep us fuller, longer (though there’s always space for dessert) Dietary fiber and weight regulation. Howarth, N.C., Saltzman, E., Roberts, S.B. Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, MA. Nutrition Review, 2001 May;59(5):129-39. Dietary fiber and body weight. Slavin, J.L. Department of Food Science and Nutrition, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota. Nutrition, 2005 Mar;21(3):411-8.. Give the vegetable platter a second chance with a healthy and tasty dip.

8. Make Room for (Healthy) Fats
Cutting butter and oil can slash calories (and it’s easy to swap in foods like applesauce, avocado, banana, or flax into holiday baked goods), but not all fats are bad fats. Not only do we need fat in our diets to provide energy and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, it also helps us feel full. Get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from avocadoes (hello, guacamole), nuts, and olive oil (in baked goods, on veggies, or in homemade dressings) Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Assuncao, M.L., Ferreira, H.S., dos Santos, A.F., et al. Faculdade de Nutricao, Universidade Federal de Alagoas, Maceio, AL, Brazil. Lipids, 2009 Jul;44(7):593-601.. Bonus tip: Combining fat with fiber — like dipping veggies in guac — has been shown to increase fat’s power to make us feel full Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post Ingestive Effects. Montmayeur, J.P., le Coutre, J., Boca Raton, FL. CRC Press; 2010..

9. Sneak in the Veggies
Munching on vegetables has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity Relationship of fruit and vegetable intake with adiposity: a systematic review. Ledouz, T.A., Hingle, M.D., Branowski, T. Department of Pediatrics, USDA/ARS Children’s Nutrition Research Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, TX, USA.. Mix pureed veggies, like pumpkin, into baked goods or casseroles, or sneak them into starchy pasta or potato dishes. Adding veggies increases fiber, which helps make us fuller Dietary fibers reduce food intake by satiation without conditioned taste aversion in mice. Rasoamanana, R., Even, P.C., Darcel, N., et al. AgroParisTech, Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France; Nutrition Physiology and Ingestive Behavior, Paris, France. Physiology Behavior, 2012 Dec 23;110-111C:13-19..

10. Ditch Added Sugar
Holiday cookies, cakes, and pies are nothing short of tempting, but all that added sugar may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity Consumption of added sugars and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk among US adolescents. Welsh J.A., Sharma A., Cunningham S.A.,et. al., Nutrition and Health Science Program, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Atlanta, GA, Circulation. 2011 Jan 25;123(3):249-57. High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Fulgoni V 3rd, Nutrition Impact, LLC, Battle Creek, MI, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2008 Dec;88(6):1715S.. Stick to sugar that comes in its natural form (in fruits, veggies, and whole grains) and try small tastes of the desserts you’re truly craving rather than loading up a full plate of bland cookies Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Schulze M.B., Manson J.E., Ludwig D.S., Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, Journal of the American Medical Association 2004 Aug 25;292(8):927-34..

Bread Basket

11. Take it Easy On Simple Carbs
That’s the white stuff — white bread, pastries, and refined sugars (like those in soda). These foods provide energy, but they lack the same nutrients (vitamins, minerals, and fiber) as complex carbohydrates Carbohydrates  Starches; Simple sugars; Sugars; Complex carbohydrates; Diet - carbohydrates; Simple carbohydrates. A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia.. The body breaks down simple carbs quickly, which creates a spike in blood sugar (insulin) that leaves us feeling hungrier, faster The role of carbohydrates in insulin resistance. Bessesen, D.H. University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, Cener for Human Nutrition and Denver Health Medical Center, Denver CO. Journal of Nutrition, 2001 Oct;131(10):2782S-2786S.. Choose whole grains instead (i.e. whole-grain rolls, brown rice or quinoa, and desserts made with whole-wheat flour), which may reduce potentially dangerous excess abdominal fat buildup The effects of a whole grain-enriched hypocaloric diet on cardiovascular disease risk factors in men and women with metabolic syndrome. Katcher, H.I., Legro, R.S., Kunselman, A.R., et al. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Core Endocrine Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008 Jan;87(1): 79-90..

12. Just Say No
Though Grandma or Uncle Bob may encourage overeating by shoving seconds onto an already cleaned plate, it’s okay to respectfully decline Genes, Behavior, and the Social Environment: Moving Beyond the Nature/Nuture Debate. Faith, M.S., Kral, T.V. University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Institute of Medicine Committee on Assessing Interactions Among Social, Behavioral, and Genetic Factors in Health; National Academies Press; 2006.. “I’m full” or “I’m taking a break” should be enough for friends and family members to back off (and give you some time to decide if you’d really like more). 

13. Wait Before Grabbing Seconds
The quicker we shovel down a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos, A., le Roux, CW., Alexiadou, K., et al. Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2010 Jan; 95(1):333-7.. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or sit down and chat with friends before dishing up seconds or eyeing the dessert table

14. Invest in Some Toss-Away Tupperware
Before guests head out and leave you with half-full platters of food, have some Tupperware at the ready (or better yet, ask people to bring their own for a more eco-friendly holiday party). Encourage friends and family members to load up their containers before leaving. That way, your fridge won’t be clogged with huge (and tempting) dishes of special occasion food for the next week.

15. Freeze It
If you end up with loads of leftovers on your kitchen counters, pack up the extras and stash ‘em in the freezer for a later date. When the food is out of sight, studies show you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping (like when you’re in your pjs and everyone’s asleep) ‘I just can’t help myself’: effects of food-cue exposure in overweight and lean individuals. Ferriday, D., Brunstrom, J.M. Department of Experimental Psychology, University of Bristol, England, UK. International Journal of Obesity. June 15, 2010. Do distant foods decrease intake? The effect of food accessibility on consumption. Maas, J., de Ridder, D.T., de Vet, E., et al. Department of Clinical and Health Psychology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands. Psychology & Health. 2011 Jan 1:1-15..

16. Turn Off the Tube
Though turning off the TV during the ABC Family’s “25 Days of Christmas” feels like a sin, eating while watching television is linked to poor food choices and overeating Mediators of longitudinal associations between television viewing and eating behaviours in adolescents. Pearson, N., Ball, K., Crawford, D. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. March 30, 2011.. Getting sucked into A Christmas Story or Elf may bring on mindless eating, since it can be easy to lose track of just how many candied pecans or gingersnaps we’ve thrown down the hatch. And it’s not just the mindlessness of watching television that’ll get us. Commercials for unhealthy foods and drinks may increase our desire for low-nutrient junk, fast food, and sugary beverages.

Gum

17. Chew Gum
Popping a piece of sugar-free gum won’t necessarily curb your appetite. But chewing a 5-calorie stick can keep the mouth busy when cooking up a meal or socializing amongst a sea of hor d’ouevres at a party. While the long-term effects of gum chewing on weight loss are minimal, studies show it can lower cravings for sweet and salty snacks, and decrease hunger between meals Effects of chewing gum on short-term appetite regulation in moderately restrained eaters. Hetherington, M.M and Regan, M.F. Institute of Psychological Sciences, University of Leeds, Leeds, England, UK. Appetite 2011 Jun; 57(2): 475 – 482. Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite. Hetherington, M.M. and Boyland, E. Department of Psychology, Glasgow Caledonian University, Glasgow, UK. Appetite 2001 May; 48(3): 397-401..

18. Turn Your Back on Temptation
The closer we’re situated to food that’s in our line of vision, the more we’ll actually consume The office candy dish: proximity's influence on estimated and actual consumption. Wansink, B., Painter, J.E., Lee, Y.K. Cornell Food and Brand Laboratory, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. International Journal of Obesity, 2006 May;30(5):871-5.. A simple fix? Face away from the dessert spread to listen to cues from your gut rather than your eyes.

19. Cave in to Cravings
Finally, a suggestion we can all get behind. It’s smart to acknowledge cravings instead of pushing them away completely (which may lead to bingeing later). Caving into a craving, as long as it’s in moderation, can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store (Try one of these healthier ways to satisfy a sweet tooth). Forbidding a specific food (or food group) during the holiday season may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that apple pie after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite holiday activity, like opening presents, watching Christmas movies, or playing in the snow. Research shows that daydreaming about pleasant activities or scenes can reduce the intensity of food cravings Replacing craving imagery with alternative pleasant imagery reduces craving intensity. Knauper, B., Pillay, R., Lacaille, J. et al. Department of Psychology, McGill University, Montreal, Canada. Appetite, 2011 Aug;57(1):173-8..

20. Beware of Booze
Not only does alcohol add unnecessary calories to your diet (meaning we don't need alcoholic calories to survive), but getting boozy has another effect on us, too. Drinking too much in the presence of champagne, eggnog, wine, and beer can make us lose our inhibitions around food and start eating irresponsibly. Take it easy with the bubbly before you start saying things like, "Eh, what's one more cookie?"

21. Sip Before (and During) Meal Time
Pregaming a meal with a glass of water has been linked with more weight loss than cutting calories alone Water Consumption Reduces Energy Intake at a Breakfast Meal in Obese Older Adults. Davy, B.M., Dennis, E.A., Dengo, L.A., et al. Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008 July; 108(7): 1236-1239.. Put the fork down and guzzle a little water between bites to give the brain time to register fullness Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos, A., le Roux, CW., Alexiadou, K., et al. Athens University Medical School, Athens, Greece. The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 2010 Jan; 95(1):333-7..

22. Choose Tall and Thin
When you’ve got a hankering for some seasonal eggnog, reach for a tall, thin glass, not a short squatty one. While it may sound like you’re discriminating against your glasses, research shows people pour less liquid into tall, narrow glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts. With a taller glass, you’re likely to down less in one sitting (which is especially helpful when drinking alcohol) Shape of glass and amount of alcohol poured: comparative study of effect of practice and concentration. Wansink, B., Dyson, J.S., Van Ittersum, K. Cornell University, Ithaca, NY. BMJ, 2005 December 24; 331(7531): 1512-1514..

Water

23. Gulp H2O
Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result consume fewer calories Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey, J.D., Constant, F., Popkin, B.M., et al. Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Oakland California, USA. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2008 Nov;16(11):2481-8. Water Consumption Increases Weight Loss During a Hypocaloric Diet Intervention in Middle-aged and Older adults. Dennis, E.A., Dengo, A.L., Comber, D.L. Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia, USA. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2010 February; 18(2): 300-307.. And rather than drink calorie- and sugar-laden sodas and juices (associated with increased body fat and blood pressure) treat yourself to a glass of wine with dinner and keep your allegiance to water for the rest of the day Effects on uric acid, body mass index and blood pressure in adolescents of consuming beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Lin, W.T., Huang, H.L., Huang, M.C., et al. Institute of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, National Yang Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, ROC. International Journal of Obesity, 2012 Aug 14..

Tips for Moving and Mindset


24. Set Realistic Goals
Come New Year’s resolution season, it’s easy to set some pretty lofty and unrealistic goals about weight loss (drop three dress sizes by February!) Weight loss goals and treatment outcomes among overweight men and women enrolled in a weight loss trial. Linde, J.A., Jeffery, R.W., Levy, R.L., et al. University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, Minneapolis, MN. International Journal of Obesity, 2005 Aug;29(8): 1002-5.. Since impractical targets can slow down long-term weight-loss, it’s important to address those goals before making any health and fitness changes Unrealistic weight-loss goals among obese patients are associated with age and causal attributions. Wamsteker, E.W., Geenen, R., Zelissen, P.M, et al. University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, the Netherlands. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2009 Nov; 109(11):1903-8.. Write down your goals — keep them specific and attainable — and post them somewhere highly visible, like the refrigerator door. If your goal is “stick to just two cookies at every holiday party” then seeing it periodically may help you commit. 

25. Stay Positive
Many of us demonize certain foods and even punish ourselves for indulgences. Instead, positive messages like “I can control my eating” or “I’m proud that I ate responsibly today” can reframe our relationship with food. Research shows positive expectations are associated with weight loss The effects of outcome expectations and satisfaction on weight loss and maintenance: correlational and experimental analyses--a randomized trial. Finch, E.A., Linde, J.A., Jeffery, R.Q., et al. Division of Epidemiology and Community Health, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities Campus, Minneapolis, MN. Health Psychology, 2005 Nov;24(6):608-16.. Even if it feels a little silly, try telling yourself at least one positive affirmation per day.

26. De-stress
The holiday season is full of cheer, but it can also be pretty stressful keeping up with family get-togethers and paying for all those gifts. Unfortunately, a lot of stress can trigger increased eating and cravings, especially for sugary carbohydrates The selfish brain: stress and eating behavior. Peters, A., Kubera, B., Hubold, C., et al. Medical Clinic 1, University of Luebeck Luebeck, Germany. Frontiers in Neuroscience 2011; 5:74. Relationship between stress, eating behavior, and obesity. Torres, SJ., Nowson, CA. Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition, School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, Deakin University, Burwood, Victoria, Australia. Nutrition 2007 Nov-Dec;23(11-12):887-94.. If family time (or being away from family during the holidays) has you feeling overwhelmed, try out one of these ways to reduce stress before double fisting cookies.  

Meditation

27. Meditate
Emotional eating to make ourselves feel better (often when we’re sad or anxious) can interfere with weight loss goals Does emotional eating interfere with success in attempts at weight control? Blair, A.J., Lewis, V.J., Booth, D.A. et al. School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, U.K. Appetite, 1990 Oct;15(2):151-7.. But meditation — using techniques like muscle relaxation and mindfulness — can help binge eaters become aware of how they turn to food to deal with emotions. This is especially important at parties where there’s a ton of food on display Evidence and potential mechanisms for mindfulness practices and energy psychology for obesity and binge-eating disorder. Sojcher, R., Gould Fogerite, S., Perlman, A. Institute for complementary and Alternative Medicine, School of Health-Related Professions, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark, NJ. Explore, 2012 Sep;8(5):271-6.. Check out ten ways to meditate here.

28. Sleep Smart
Though there’s likely no stopping the urge to wake up early on Christmas morning, getting enough sleep can help shave off some pounds, since sleep loss is linked to changes in appetite Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation. Knutson, K.L. Department of Health Studies, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 2007 Jun;2(2):187-197.. Getting enough sleep has also been associated with less weight gain Relationship between sleep quality and quantity and weight loss in women participating in a weight-loss intervention trial. Thomson CA, Morrow KL, Flatt SW, et al. Obesity (Silver Spring), 2012;20:1419-25. Longer sleep duration associates with lower adiposity gain in adult short sleepers. Chaput JP, Després JP, Bouchard C, et al. International Journal of Obesity (London), 2012;36:752-6.. Take a look at our guide to sleep positions to optimize those hours spent tucked under the sheets while the reindeer are hard at work. And try other solutions for extra Zzs, like turning off electronics in the bedroom and avoiding large meals late at night Etiology of adult insomnia. Dollander, M. Groupe de Recherche en Psychologie de la Sante, Laboratoire de Psychologie. Encephale, 2002 Nov-Dec;28(6 Pt 1): 493-502. Dubious bargain: trading sleep for Leno and Letterman. Basner, M, Dinges, DF. Sleep. 2009 Jun;32(6):747-52..

29. Let Go of Limitations
We’re not talking about unbuttoning your pants at the dinner table. Before hitting up holiday parties, remember that a good workout isn’t limited to a gym or the track. Use your bodyweight or build a home gym to work up a good sweat.

30. Get Functional
Functional exercise has been shown to increase strength and balance and reduce risk of injury, all while working multiple muscle groups at the same time Strength outcomes in fixed versus free-form resistance equipment. Spennewyn, K.C., Health and Exercise Science Department, Minnesota School of Business/Globe University, Shakopee, Minnesota. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 2008 Jan;22(1):75-81.. It also means you can squeeze in an effective mid-Christmas-movie-marathon workout in a shorter amount of time. All that movement promotes muscle gain, over time, which can increase metabolism Exercise improves fat metabolism in muscle but does not increase 24-h fat oxidation. Melanson, E.L., MacLean, P.S., Hill, J.O. Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Diabetes, University of Colorado Denver, Denver, CO. Exercise and Sport Science Reviews, 2009 Apr;37(2):93-101..

31. Partner Up
Research suggests we perform better on aerobic tasks like running and cycling when exercising with a partner Aerobic exercise is promoted when individual performance affects the group: a test of the Kohler motivation gain effect. Irwin, B.C., Scorniaenchi, J., Kerr, N.L. et al. Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Annals of Behavioral Medicine 2012;44(2):151-9. Two-playered partner exergame for obesity prevention: using discrepancy in players’ abilities as a strategy to motivate physical activity. Feltz, D.L., Irwin, B., Kerr, N. Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology 2012; 6(4):820-7.. If you’re home for the holidays, call up a friend or family member for a gym date or a home workout with our favorite partner exercises, including medicine ball lunge-to-chest passes, and reach-and-touch planks.

Snow Hike

32. Move It and Lose It
A simple phrase for losing weight is to move more and eat less. The secret here — like we said before — is that moving doesn’t just mean hitting the track or going to the gym. Make a conscious decision to get more steps into the day by taking the stairs or parking the car far away from the grocery store entrance. Before curling up around the fire, round up family members for a hike or snowshoe session.

(Read More: Why the Real Key to Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain Isn't Exercise)

How do you avoid holiday weight gain? Weigh in in the comment section below or tweet the author @nicmcdermott

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