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Volunteer to do the dishes. Studies show that the energy you burn outside the gym (called "nonexercise activity thermogenesis," or N.E.A.T., for you science buffs out there) can be greater than what you're burning during your regimented exercise routines.  You can raise your N.E.A.T. by simply staying on your feet and doing some sort of activity - like helping out in the kitchen - instead of heading right to the couch.


Another reason to take a stand against weight gain: Sitting shuts down your fat burners. After examining the muscle tissue of people being active and of those kicking back, researchers concluded that parking your butt switches off an enzyme that prevents fat storage. Keep in mind, you burn one more calorie per minute when standing than when you are sitting.


After eating wait 2 hours, then go for a walk or run. It’ll help keep you out of the leftovers. In a recent San Diego State University study, scientists found that that people who exercised after they ate maintained lower hunger levels 5 hours longer than those who exercised before a meal.  Researchers haven’t yet pinned down the mechanism, but speculate that exercise may lower the concentrations of a peptide-YY, a hormone that increases appetite. The study participants worked out 2 to 3 hours after they ate. So plan accordingly. Your relatives will flip when you bust out your running shoes!


Clip on some motivation. Turns out, simply wearing a pedometer can make you more active. British researchers discovered that when study participants wore pedometers and logged their daily steps in a journal, they increased their activity level by 16 percent.  A food diary works in the same way too. Start writing down what you eat. It will freak you out when you step back and see the whole enchilada.


Here’s the best one and something I didn’t know. You need to get a good night’s sleep. Just one night of poor shuteye makes you crave fast food, reports a study from Baruch College, in New York City. The reason: people just don't feel like cooking when they're tired and irritable. This one sounds a bit cray but it could be true. ??  I sleep way too much and fast food grosses me out. Except on a road trip.


Here’s some more grossness: people who regularly consume two fast-food meals weekly gain an extra 10 pounds over 15 years, compared with those who eat more meals at home.


Start lifting weights for the holidays. Women who lift weights shed 5 pounds more fat than women who don’t pump iron. Why? Because you’ll increase the amount of metabolism-boosting muscle on your body.  Remember lifting weights has been shown to raise the rate your body burns fat for up to 39 hours after you work out.


And one final nibble to pass along: when you're out, remember that some of the most calorie-laden items you'll consume during the holidays are drinks.



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