Avoid the Dreaded Winter Weight Gain
The average American gains 1-2 pounds during the winter months. While this weight gain doesn’t seem like much, research shows that we don’t typically lose this weight during the spring/summer months and year after year that 1-2 pounds begins to add up.
Why do we gain weight over the winter months?
We usually eat more. Why?
- Body Warmth – Eating increases body temperature. We typically choose comfort foods because they are associated with cozy memories that we want to feel again and again. Unfortunately, most of these comfort foods are loaded in calories, fat and carbs (mac and cheese, casseroles, etc.).
- Boredom – We are usually inside more since the weather is colder. When we’re inside more, we tend to snack more, often out of boredom rather than hunger.
- Sleep Deprivation – Getting less sleep because we’re trying to cram more things in the day for holidays – cooking, cleaning, shopping, parties, etc. Sleep deprivation is linked to carb cravings.
- Holiday Gatherings – We are attending parties for work, family, friends and schools. Eating and drinking is the main component of the majority of these parties. Usually consisting of several baked goods and candy.
Less physical activity. Why?
- Colder and Shorter Days – When it’s cold and dark outside (at the start and end of our days) we tend to spend significantly less time outside doing physical activities like walking, bicycling, mowing the lawn, gardening, etc.
- Seasonal affective disorder – Type of depression that’s triggered by the season’s shorter days and reduced hours of sunlight. Seek help from a mental health professional if you’re having feelings of sadness, emptiness, guilt or loss of interest in things you used to like doing.
Fortunately, most of these reasons for weight gain over the winter months are in our control!
- Find comfort in something other than food. – Throw your clothes in the dryer for 5 minutes before you put them on, take a warm bath or shower, read a book by the fire while snuggled in a warm fuzzy blanket or enjoy a cup of hot tea.
- Make healthier versions of your comfort foods. – You can still have your comfort foods just look for healthier recipes such as Cauliflower Mac and Cheese or stews and soups with a water base and load them with fiber-rich veggies to help you stay full longer.
- Take time to enjoy your food. – Be mindful of your food and of the moment in which you’re enjoying it. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Focus more on the company and conversation.
- Identify reasons why you want to eat. – Often times we’re stressed, anxious, sad, lonely, overwhelmed or just plain bored. Focus your attention on something else such as creating a scrapbook, knitting, joining a book club or organizing your junk drawer.
- Fix your sleep schedule. – Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This will help manage hunger and cravings.
- Say no to food pushers. – During the holidays people are especially bad about pushing food on people. Don’t be afraid to say no. The simplest way is to say “no, thank you” without offering an explanation.
- Stay hydrated. – It’s easier to forget to drink water during the cooler months but it’s just as important. Aim for drinking half your body weight in ounces of water. Staying hydrated helps to prevent eating when we’re not actually hungry.
- Avoid drinking alcohol on an empty stomach. Alcohol stimulates appetite and decreases self-control, therefore, you’re more likely to eat foods high in fats and refined carbs than you might normally pass on.
- Workout indoors. – If you can’t even bare going outside to get to the gym, find ways to workout at home. Search for workouts online, do several laps up and down the stairs, dance with your kids or clean to your favorite upbeat music (vacuum, sweep, mop and wiping windows can really get your heart rate up).
- Accept slipups and move on. – Don’t ditch goals until next year. Start fresh with your next meal and increasing the intensity of your workout that evening.