finally here! (did we even get a spring or a summer??) It has definitely been a hell of a lot colder the last few weeks, and I think everyone would agree that it is much more tempting to stay inside by the fire or heater than head outside for a run or go to the gym. With colder temperatures, we are also much more likely to reach for “comfort” foods rather than choose more waistline friendly options. I can’t imagine choosing a greek salad over a slice of homemade chicken pie on a cold winters night, but that’s just me!!!
Unfortunately, with winter affecting our diet and exercise, winter weight gain can be an issue for a lot of people. Next thing we know, summer has arrived and our new years resolutions have us chained to a treadmill trying to shed the winter weight, and sure enough this vicious cycle then repeats itself! Wouldn’t it be nice to not have to worry about getting in shape for summer and just enjoy the sunshine? So how can we avoid winter weight gain, and even better, lose weight this winter? Here are my 5 simple tips:
1. Stay Active
Make a schedule for exercise. Find a time that suits you to go to the gym, go for a walk, or complete a home workout. This could be for 30 minutes just 3 times a week. If you have 30 minutes to watch your favourite tv show at night, you have 30 minutes to do some physical activity. This doesn’t have to be cardio based either. Focus on exercises that target your biggest muscle groups such as your legs. Squats and lunges will burn a a huge amount of calories and furthermore will increase your metabolism. Exercise is the best weapon we have against winter weight gain so make sure you find time in your day to do it!
2. Get Outside
During the winter, we tend to go outside less, and when we are outside we are usually wrapped up in jumpers, scarves, hats and gloves. Our body needs sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, so with little exposure to our skin during the winter months, this can have a huge effect on our mood and weight. Less sunlight can make us feel down in the dumps (not to mention cold), and to make us feel better we usually end up eating high fat or sugary meals to cheer and warm us up.
A small percentage of people are affected by Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) also known as winter depression, which is brought about by winter’s short days. Many people who experience this disorder have a tendancy to oversleep and overeat which ultimately leads to weight gain.
Research has also shown that lower levels of vitamin D reduce fat breakdown and trigger fat storage. Numerous studies furthermore show a correlation with low vitamin D levels and being overweight or obese.
So what can you do?? My advice would be to get outside during the lunch hour. Have your coffee or lunch outside, or even better go for a walk or jog when there is sunlight. Further boost your vitamin D intake with oily fish like Salmon or Tuna and milk fortified with vitamin D.
3. Avoid Liquid Caloires
Beverages like whiskey and mulled wine or a glass of red may warm us up a little, but they are packed with calories and don’t offer much nutrition value. Just 100ml of wine has up to 90 calories. When a standard home pour is usually 150-200ml and if you are consuming just one glass each night with dinner, that’s around 945-1260 calories that could be contributing to your weight gain. That’s 45 minutes of brisk walking or 20 minutes of cycling each day to burn those calories off!
Try choosing hot tea over beverages like hot chocolate or cafe bought coffees. Tea has 0 calories and furthermore has huge health benefits. Hot chocolate even when made at home with trim milk can have up to 100 calories and is packed with sugar. Milky coffees such as lattes, cappucinos and flat white’s are also high in calories even when made with trim milk. A regular sized latte made with trim milk has around 120 calories. So be careful with not only what you eat but what you drink during winter as well!
4. Keep A Food Diary
Keeping a food diary has been proven to help prevent weight gain as well as lose weight. One study in particular published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that the more people recorded their food intake, the more weight they lost. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Just have a notebook or even a piece of paper on hand to write down what, how much, and when you eat and drink. For you more techno-savvy people, there are lots of apps availble for smartphones to record not only what you eat, but how many calories you are having each day!
5. Go Easy on the Comfort Food
Winter weight gain is usually linked with increased cravings for “comfort foods” such as mashed potato, hot chips, mince pies to name a few. These comfort foods are almost always high in saturated fat, carbohydrate and not to mention calories. There is the option of cutting out these types of foods altogether however I would rather recommend decreasing portion sizes and/or making healthier alternatives such as mashed potato using trim milk instead of full fat or cheese.
Soup is a great winter warmer as well as a fantastic way to get in lots of vegetables, protein and fibre. Soups also tend to be low in calories and combined with some crusty wholegrain bread can be a perfect winter’s lunch or dinner. Try having soup twice a week as a main meal and see how it affects your waistline!
CLICK HERE for my Pumpkin, Carrot and Ginger Soup recipe!!!