During winter, the cold, short days often limit our exercise endeavors, and that unused energy is funneled instead into everyone’s favorite holiday pastime: eating. As such, many are resigned to wintertime weight gain. A merry Christmas — and five extra pounds — to all.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. To help ward off winter weight gain, we’re explaining why losing weight in the winter is so challenging, and how to do it anyway.
Why It’s Harder to Lose Weight in the Winter
It may seem like the odds are against you, and the truth is that it really is harder to lose weight in the winter. Here are some of the challenges that make winter weightloss so daunting.
Temptation’s Around Every Corner
You’re determined to eat a healthy diet, but comfort foods, warm sugary drinks, and holiday desserts surround you. This is problematic for multiple reasons: In addition to the fact that it makes you more likely to indulge yourself, it also contributes to a mindset that deems all temptations bad.
So when you stray from your diet, as you inevitably will, you’ll likely feel guilty or shameful — feelings that provoke your body’s stress response. And as you probably already know, stress makes it harder to do and be your best, especially when it comes to sticking to a diet (cue the stress eating).
To avoid this dilemma, focus less on “good” and “bad” foods and more on incorporating healthy foods that you like. You don’t have to cut out temptations completely, either. You might limit yourself to one small temptation a day, or plan ahead if you know you’ll be indulging a lot for a special event.
Your Instincts Tell You to Hibernate
When it’s already dark when you get home from work, finding the motivation to leave your cozy home to go to the gym or on a run is a daily struggle. So why leave? You can get a good workout nearly anywhere, including your living room floor, so deciding not to venture out into the cold doesn’t have to mean skipping your daily exercise. Keep reading for some effective indoor workout ideas.
Raw Fruits and Veggies Just Don’t Sound Good
As you’re deciding what to have for dinner on a cold winter evening, salad probably isn’t what comes to mind. Instead, we tend to gravitate toward warm, filling comfort foods. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, though: The right kinds of stews and soups can make for a healthy meal. Go for broth-based soups, which tend to have less calories than cream bases, and options that are veggie-heavy.
You can also eat your fruits and vegetables warm if you can’t stomach cold produce at this time of year. Roasted peppers, carrots, sweet potatoes, parsnips, brussel sprouts, and asparagus can be delicious when seasoned well, and work well as a side or tossed with greens. Baked or roasted peaches, plums, pears, and cherries topped with a little cinnamon, honey, or whipped cream can make a mouth-watering holiday treat.
[Related: Choosing the Right Foods After Age 50]
Your Diet Is Salt-Heavy
Eating less fresh produce means you’re supplementing your diet with something else, and for most of us, that something comes in the form of packaged and processed foods. Canned soups and vegetables, bread, pasta, crackers, and chips tend to be high in sodium, which makes you retain water (and water weight).
This added weight can make you feel sluggish, bloated, and even less inclined to get up and work out. Luckily, hydrating as much as possible can help you shed the weight. Consuming lots of potassium can help, too, since it regulates your body’s sodium levels. Think bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and coconut water.
How to Stop Wintertime Weight Gain
Your waistline doesn’t have to expand this holiday season: A study found that participants were able to prevent weight gain merely by continuing to move and controlling hunger levels. With these two factors in mind, we’ve compiled the top ways to avoid gaining weight during winter.
Reduce Your Workout Length
This may seem counterintuitive, but trust us. This time of year can be hectic. Rather than skip your workout because of a party or other obligation, just shorten your workout session. Play hooky from the gym and opt for a quick home workout instead.
Take It Indoors
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Snowy weather is a great incentive to try out new indoor workouts, such as yoga, indoor rock climbing, dancing, or even martial arts. If it gets your heart rate up, it counts as exercise!
This means that if you don’t want to leave the house, you don’t have to. Invest in some affordable home exercise equipment and decide which kind of routine best suits you. Find an online video you like and follow along to perform dance cardio, strength training exercises, stretches, or whatever else gets your heart pumping.
Wear Your Fitness Tracker Consistently
We’re especially prone to inactivity in the winter, so this is a prime time to wear your fitness tracker. On days when a workout isn’t feasible, make reaching 10,000 steps your goal.
Celebrate by Moving, Not Eating
Instead of indulging in holiday desserts or sugary drinks, go ice skating or caroling with friends to celebrate the holidays. That way, when you partake in hot chocolate afterward, you’ll have earned it.
[Related: Fall/Winter Workout Motivation for Boomers]
Protein balances blood sugar levels and helps you feel full for longer. Even in your snacks, try to include a minimum of 10 grams of protein.
Hydrate With Tea
According to research, three-fourths of Americans may be chronically dehydrated. Mistaking thirst for hunger is common, so drink lots of fluids to avoid munching unnecessarily. Sipping tea is a great way to stay both hydrated and warm.
Choose Smart Carbs
Many people swear off carbs when dieting, but carbs aren’t all bad. Most of your carbs should come from sources such as vegetables, beans, and dairy. Reserve starchy carbs — pasta, bread, rice, and the like — for after workouts, when your body needs them for recovery.
Don’t Starve Yourself
Skipping meals before a holiday party is always a bad idea. With a growling stomach, you won’t be able to moderate what you eat, and will likely overdo it. Eat normally throughout the day to avoid ravenously consuming more than you planned, and then regretting it just as quickly.
[Related: Healthy Holiday Recipes]
Make Lifestyle Changes, Not Just Resolutions
This is the season when many people resolve to do better in the coming year, but as we all know, such resolutions usually leave us in the same state next winter.
To see a real difference this year, accept that you’ll need to make some lifestyle changes — not just a quick fix.
How do you stay trim during the winter? Share your story with us!
Featured image via TONL