If you’ve been affected by the rain and cooler temperatures lately, you’ve probably also spent more time indoors. It’s no secret that the colder months ignite our tendency to curl up on the couch and snack, but there are many other reasons why winter makes us pack on the pounds.
So whether you’re still trying to lose the holiday pudge or you find yourself gaining back the weight you lost in warmer weather, here are some tips for success:
1. Fortify your immune system. Even just one short cold or bout with the flu can derail your weight loss efforts. This is usually because your schedule gets thrown off because you’re eating differently, you’re not exercising, etc. One 2009 study in the journal Medical Hypotheses found that catching a cold can triple your weight gain. This winter, you owe it to yourself to get enough rest and to keep your body healthy. Your weight loss may depend on it!
2. Get some sunshine. Did you know that seasonal affective disorder (temporary depression that happens in the winter months) can make you crave mood-boosting carbs? In fact, research has shown that people who have SAD may eat an additional 800 calories per day. So yes – you’re more likely to reach for comfort foods when it’s cold and dreary outside. Getting just a few minutes of sun, however, can lift your spirits and keep you from reaching for food.
3. Turn up your heater. Researchers from Maastricht University in the Netherlands found that women ate less when they were in rooms that had higher temperatures. It could be that being cold triggers automatic, instinctual urges to fortify the body with sustenance. So while you don’t need to make your house a sauna, it wouldn’t hurt to turn up the heat, especially during your peak craving times.
4. Spruce up your salad. There’s a tendency in the winter to get bored with the fresh salads you may love in the summer. But guess what? That’s a good thing! We naturally crave different foods depending on the season, and winter makes us yearn for heartier meals. So instead of trying to eat the same thing year-round (and then overeating because you don’t feel satisfied), learn what fruits and vegetables are in season during the winter (here’s a list), and make those staples in your diet. In general, opt for a heartier, heavier vegetable load, along with enough lean protein to keep you full.
5. Don’t hide under layers. The “out of sight, out of mind” principle is a strong one when it comes to our bodies. Many of us can sit in a place of happy denial about weight gain as long as it’s covered up by lots of clothes. And when do we wear lots of clothes? During the winter, obviously. Do yourself a favor and toss your bulky sweaters and sweats, replacing them with more form-fitting clothing that will still keep you warm. This will keep you from hiding under all those layers, and it can help you stay honest and accountable to yourself.
6. Don’t go home. If you tend to work out in the evenings, make it habit to not go home before you hit the gym. Once you leave work and step into the comfort of your own home, you’re much less likely to want to go back outside, especially when it’s cold, rainy, or snowing. Pack your gym clothes and leave them in the car. You’ll be surprised at how much easier it is to get yourself to that spin class if you’re not tempted to just veg out on the couch instead.
What are your tips for avoiding winter weight gain? Let us know in the comments below.