Myth: Winter weight gain is unavoidable; better to embrace it than fight the inevitable!
Reality: Not only can you avoid winter weight gain, you might even be able to shed some pounds with the right mindset.
‘Tis the season to be jolly and to get fa-la-la-la-la-la… fluffy. This is the catch-22 of enjoying holidays but hating what it does to our waistline. Thank goodness for leggings and any other stretchy, forgiving fabric. Our dimply demise starts with the Halloween candy, then the unending Thanksgiving leftovers, culminating into a yuletide excess of Christmas sugar cookies.
The struggle is real, especially when Daylight Saving Time goes into effect and mojo is compromised and workout schedules and energy levels take a hit. Expect to gain 5-7 pounds this season, says Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. A most worrisome prediction, no doubt. But have no fear, your guide to avoid winter weight gain is here.
Is Winter Weight Gain All in Your Head?
First, there is something you need to know, it’s not all in your head. Eating habits and inclement weather aside, the time change affects our exposure to sunlight. What does this have to do with gaining weight and losing motivation? Well, the light-dark cycle regulates major weight management functions like sleep, mood regulation, hormone balance, and hunger patterns. Michael Terman, Ph.D., director of the Center for Light Treatment and Biological Rhythms at Columbia University Medical Center, said women are more likely to feel the change in season and are prone to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Symptoms include low energy, cravings for carbs, weight gain, and reduced sex drive. SAD indeed.
However, the extent seasonal changes affect women varies from one woman to the next. However, the three main factors that could turn anyone’s flat abs into a bowl full of jelly are lack of exercise, comfort eating and overindulging at Christmas and (all the other preceding holidays).
“When we look at the simple math of weight gain—more calories in than out—it’s easy to understand why we tend to accumulate weight in the winter months,” says Dr. Lisa Davis, vice president of scientific and clinical affairs at Medifast. “There are the year-end holidays, full of high-calorie foods, then there’s our tendency to cocoon when the days are colder and darker, staying parked in front of the fire or the TV.”
It may seem the weight gain cards are stacked against you, but there is something you can do. Enjoy the season’s’ festivities responsibly (not regretfully) when you follow our holiday survival guide.
Stock Up on the Good Stuff
Find your favorite healthy, quick and easy recipes to cook in bulk then freeze. Soups, chilli, lentils, brown rice pastas and crockpot dishes can be made in large quantities to be eaten during the week and extras can be frozen for emergencies. Having healthy filling meals on hand will keep you from tearing into the basket of fancy meats and cheeses one of your clients gave you.
Load Up on the Good, Not the Bad or the Ugly
To get the most bang for your buck and diet, always buy fruits and veggies in season. Some of the best hardy and healthy veggies can be found during the winter. So much can be said for winter veggies like kale, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts. They have a longer refrigerator life than some other greens and they readily absorb flavors making them excellent for stews.
Exercise Even if You Don’t Want To
Don’t think. Just do. Set your alarm and when it goes off don’t hit snooze or dilly-dally. Put on the workout clothes you set out the night before to avoid wasting precious morning time. Go for a brisk walk or jog. Have a backup plan for when bad weather strikes. Look into workouts DVDs. Most workouts are under an hour and challenging enough to keep your interest, boost endorphins, and keep your weight in check.
Hot Cocoa is a No-No
Stay away from the hot, sugary, syrupy and milky concoctions as much as possible. Treat yourself no more than once a week. Look up the calorie count of your favorite Starbucks mocha whatever and you’ll understand why. Once the shock wears off, find the “skinny” version of your hot beverage and enjoy that instead. While we are on the subject, we might also caution against too many egg nogs or spirits.
You are Human not a Human Garbage Disposal
Do you know why people bring leftover Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies and Christmas cookies to the office? So other people can eat them and worry about the consequences. You don’t have to eat it just because it is there. There is no Jedi mind trick to this. You have a choice to walk away and find alternatives. Bring your lunch, pack healthy snacks and don’t go long periods of time without eating. Avoid areas with tempting food. Instead, strategically plan your eating and workouts around approved holiday parties and events. Having a pre- and post-holiday plan to get back on track, will go a long way to avoiding the winter waddle. Again, this is about enjoying the holidays responsibly and not regretfully.
To add some extra incentive and fun to these tips, turn them into a checklist and reward yourself with something that is not food related every time you accomplish one of them. An example would be for each week you follow 4 of the 5 tips, set aside some money to go towards a massage, new pair of shoes or a smokin’ New Year’s Eve outfit. With these tips and the right mindset you can totally avoid winter weight gain and feel sexy well into 2016.