There are easy ways to combat winter weight gain, says Patricia Flokis. There’s a chill in the air. Suddenly, you’re skipping your morning workout and your carb cravings are growing. It’s tempting just to throw on your stretchy pants and accept that a few extra winter kilos are coming your way – again. But weight gain doesn’t always need to accompany cold weather. Here’s what you need to know to keep your weight stable this winter.
Is winter weight gain fact or fiction?
“Most people do put on around one or two kilos during winter,” confirms Julie Gilbert, an accredited practising dietitian. “It usually comes down to a general lack of activity during the colder months and a tendency to eat more comfort food. But we also do store a bit more fat because it’s trying to keep our bodies warm.”
The problem with any winter weight gain, however small, is that excess kilos don’t magically disappear when the weather warms up. In fact, they can accrue into larger long-term gains. For instance, Swedish researchers asked participants to up their fast-food intake and limit their exercise over a four-week period, and found they were still more than three kilos heavier two-and-a-half years later.
Don’t let the idea of winter influence you
It’s important not to permit yourself to put on weight every winter, says Gilbert. “We need to change the mindset that ‘it’s winter, so it’s OK to eat all comforting food because I can cover myself in layers of clothes and hide away” she says. “If you maintain your weight, you’ll be ahead of everyone else when summer comes.”
Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan recommends regularly wearing a pair of fitted pants, or another tight piece of clothing that “keeps you on track”, during the colder months, as well as providing a measure of how your body might be changing.
Watch your tv snacking
Winter often equals a lot of time rugged up on the lounge watching your favourite TV shows, but kicking back this way is also linked to an increased intake of unhealthy snacks and drinks, say experts at the UK’s Loughborough University.
They reviewed 53 worldwide studies on diet and sedentary behaviour and concluded that TV acts as a distraction, resulting in a lack of awareness of actual food consumption”.
“Understand that eating is not a multi-tasking event,” says Gilbert. “Set yourself some guidelines or have rules like ‘no food when I watch TV” Otherwise, watch portion sizes and choose snacks wisely. Vegetable-based soups, a few cups of air-popped popcorn or a slice of fruit toast are all warm and satisfying TV snacks. Eat healthy to combat winter weight gain.
Winter-proof your workout to combat winter weight gain
Often, shorter days and cold weather can make early morning or outdoor workouts a trial, but keeping up a regular exercise routine is vital. “Look for indoor activities to do.” advises Gilbert. Join a gym, swim in an indoor pool or invest in a treadmill. “If you can’t get to a gym, grab a Pilates DVD or a skipping rope.”
If the cold doesn’t bother you, keep exercising outside – it’s good for beating winter blues. A recent US study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that those who exercised outdoors rather than indoors reported greater feelings of revitalisation and increased energy, along with decreased tension and anger.
Read part 2 of “How to stop winter weight gain” here.