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To Beat Holiday Weight Gain, Create a Plan Ahead of Time

November 16th, 2016

Story Contact: Sheena Rice, 573-882-8353,

The views and opinions expressed in this “for expert comment” release are based on research and/or opinions of the researcher(s) and/or faculty member(s) and do not reflect the University’s official stance.

COLUMBIA, Mo. – With the holidays right around the corner, families are planning meals and trips to spend time with loved ones. With the food and travel, it is easy for exercise schedules to become disrupted. Steve Ball, associate professor of nutrition and exercise physiology at the University of Missouri, says that to prevent holiday weight gain, people need to focus on consistency and set realistic goals for exercise.

“The key to exercise is consistency and too often ‘life’ just gets in the way, especially around the holidays,” Ball said. “Exercise is tough enough, but throw in barriers like traveling, weather and lack of facilities, and it becomes quite easy to take a long break or quit altogether.”

Ball provides the following tips to help people stay on track with their exercise and fitness goals during the holidays:

  1. Don’t skip exercise. Ball likes to remind people that when it comes to exercise some always is better than none; more is better than some and too much is difficult to get. Even finding small ways to fit in exercise, including scheduling a walk or finding time in the mornings for a workout, can be helpful in staying on track.
  1. Recognize that barriers exist. Plan exercise in advance. When Ball travels, he scouts the area for local gyms and parks and is sure to know when family obligations are scheduled so that he can schedule exercise around those events.
  1. Understand that you can definitely “out eat” exercise. It is important to recognize and be aware of how much you are consuming. Snacks here and there do add up. For example, a 170-pound person may need to run for approximately 27 minutes to burn off the calories from a slice of pumpkin pie.

“It is absolutely possible to avoid weight gain during the holidays by paying attention to calories in and calories out,” Ball said.  “However, I would rather see people focus on the process, in this case exercise or activity, and not necessarily the product, in this case weight gain or loss. Saying you will exercise a set number of times per week is a better and more achievable goal than losing a target number of pounds.”

Ball also serves as the state fitness specialist for MU Extension and is a nationally recognized expert on fitness, wellness and body composition research. The goal of the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology is to improve the health of Missourians and the larger population through research, teaching and outreach related to nutrition and physical activity.

The Department of Nutrition and Exercise Physiology is jointly administered by the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, the College of Human Environmental Sciences and the School of Medicine.