It is that time of the year again, when you just want to stay in and cuddle up; a great time to enjoy the holidays with yummy delicacies. But with the festivities, during winter, maintaining an ideal and healthy body weight is quite cumbersome.
Most people, despite their best efforts, struggle to lose weight or avoid gaining more in this season. So if you’ve noticed the scale going up, don’t fret! You’re not alone. According to research, most people gain 5–10 pounds just between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.1 So you can adopt some simple weight-loss strategies to avoid the extra pounds:
How To Lose Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight requires a different set of pre-planning with specific diet and exercise strategies. So here are some practical ways to help you stay motivated in your “weight-loss journey.”
1. Win The Mind Game
Following a strict diet and exercise schedule on a regular basis is a daunting task. Most people start their fitness regimen with enthusiasm only to discontinue with a lack of dedication after a short period. It really is a “mind game.”
As the surroundings are not so favorable during winter, motivating yourself to eat healthy and exercise regularly is the first and basic step.
Author Lori Phillips explained clearly that you cannot be a healthy person until your mind resists healthy habits. She emphasized that what’s important is to have a feel-good factor in completing a weight-loss process.
2. Plan Ahead
The more thoughts you put into your diet plan in advance, the more likely you will adhere to it throughout the season. Constantly re-organize and pre-plan your schedule. Research and explore new, innovative ways to keep your interest in exercising. You can also alter your lifestyle in simple ways to stay active indoors.2
3. Explore New Ways To Exercise
As mentioned earlier, try different activities that can keep you active. You can create a home gym, find an indoor pool. or checkout online video blogs. Think about learning yoga, kickboxing, spinning, or other exercises that will make you sweat and give you a great workout.
4. Modify Recipes
Winter is the perfect time to enjoy delicious winter delicacies and indulge in your favorite foods. But these rich creamy dishes may cause a calorie disaster.
Now you don’t have to eat something boring and tasteless. You just need to use few techniques and tweak your recipes for a healthy diet. Limit the intake of sugar, fat, and salt. Eliminate these by altering the method of cooking and using alternatives.
5. Focus On Moderation And A Healthy Balance
It is alright if you’re a “fitness freak,” you love to have a well-toned body, and you do your best to maintain it that way. But this lifestyle should be executed in a positive and relaxed manner. It is okay to miss a workout on weekends or eat just a piece of cake at a friend’s birthday party.
Forcefully restricting your favorite food may be too much for you, making you susceptible to eating disorders.
Also, persistent thought and over consciousness about physical appearance may increase the stress hormones (cortisol) in your body, which is not good for your physical or mental health.
6. Use Specific Strategies For The Holidays
During holidays, it is challenging to always eat healthy. Overindulgence in foods that are mostly high in calories is the major cause of those extra pounds. So use some strategies:
- Never go to a party on an empty stomach. Always try to have a small portion of healthy foods before leaving. It is more likely that you’ll overindulge if you are hungry.
- Exercising portion control is very important in maintaining a balance. Instead of overeating, have just a small amount to satisfy your taste buds.
- Start your meal with a platter of salad or a bowl of soup to fill yourself. Focus on enjoying the event and meeting the people rather than just the food.
- Limit alcohol and other high-calorie drinks. Have a healthy drink (like fruit juice) instead.3
7. Deal With The Psychological Factors
If you feel that you’ve severe symptoms of SAD, then do not hesitate to take professional help. If the big clothes demotivate you from exercising, at least once a week, wear summer clothes and take a good look. This will give you a clear picture of your problem areas and motivate you to get back on track.
Do not consider maintaining an ideal weight as a one-time event. Make it a part of your everyday life. Try to make the whole process fun and enjoyable and always keep a positive outlook.
What Causes Weight Gain During Winter?
Before adopting any of these strategies, it is good to understand why we tend to pack on the pounds during these cooler months. In most holiday seasons, especially during winter, more appetite + less physical activity = more weight gain.
1. Increased Appetite
During winter our body works harder and spends more energy to keep us warm, so we adopt an overeating attitude that ends up as an excuse to just eat more.
According to many studies, as there is a drop in temperature, our body temperature also goes down. Since eating helps to generate internal heat and subsequently results in a rise in body temperature, our appetite automatically gets stimulated and we tend to eat more.
2. Decreased Physical Activity
Winter is when our routine physical activities goes for a toss. We don’t really feel like going outside when it is so comfortable to stay inside all warm. After-dinner strolls or outdoor fun activities are highly unlikely. These reduced bodily movements add up, and it gets harder to burn off the extra calories.
According to an article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, seasonal variations showed a profound effect on physical activity, food intake, and body weight in an overweight population, showing an increased calorie intake and reduced physical activity with the decrease in temperature. 4
3. Seasonal Affective Disorder Or Seasonal Depression
As the name suggests, this depression is related to seasonal changes. Usually, it begins and ends at around the same time periods every year.
SAD is characterized by increased anxiety, oversleeping, mood swings, inability to concentrate, extreme fatigue, and depression.
According to Mental Health America, serotonin and melatonin are the hormones interlinked with seasonal depression.5 Winter disrupts the body’s internal clock and leads to depression in two ways:
- The lack of sunlight interferes with the serotonin (a neurotransmitter that affects the mood and feel-good factors) production and may cause seasonal depression.
- Melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland that affects sleep patterns and moods, is produced at a higher rate in the dark. Therefore, when the days are shorter and darker, excess melatonin production can result in seasonal depression.
Also, many who suffer from SAD use comfort food (food that are high in carbs and fats) to feel better. This craving and overindulging naturally leads to weight gain. Lack of sunlight also interferes with vitamin D synthesis. People with a low level of vitamin D store fat more easily; obese people tend to have a low level of vitamin D.
4. Holidays And Festivities
Holidays are when most of us make time for family and friends, for some fun and celebrations. But it is also the time for festival foods such as pies, cookies, etc. In the midst of all the constant celebrations, it is hard to say no to food. And who would want to either?
Besides, the pressure of shopping, family obligations, and changes to our daily routine create a stressful situation for those who are trying to maintain a healthy weight.
Holiday weight gain is a major contributing factor in the rising prevalence of obesity in most countries.
A research by the New England Journal of Medicine found that weight gain was a common phenomenon in three different countries (Germany, Japan, and USA). Weight gain was observed during national holidays, the first 10 days after Christmas witnessing a tremendous increase in weight.
5. The Psychological Factor
During winter, we eat more for our survival mechanism on one side and wear more clothes to keep warm on the other. These bulky clothes help us cover up our problem areas, helping us feel less conscious about our body image. This slip in attitude distracts us from wanting to stay fit and healthy.
Incorporate these tips and enjoy the weather alongside maintaining a healthy and fit body. Have you tried any other strategies to maintain your weight during winter? Do share with us.
|↑1||Yanovski, Jack A., Susan Z. Yanovski, Kara N. Sovik, Tuc T. Nguyen, Patrick M. O’Neil, and Nancy G. Sebring. “A prospective study of holiday weight gain.” New England Journal of Medicine 342, no. 12 (2000): 861-867.|
|↑2||Ways to Stay Fit During Winter, fitness.gov|
|↑3||Holiday Healthy Eating Guide, heart.org|
|↑4||Rossato, S. L., M. T. A. Olinto, R. L. Henn, L. B. Moreira, S. A. Camey, L. A. Anjos, V. Wahrlich, W. Waissmann, F. D. Fuchs, and S. C. Fuchs. “Seasonal variation in food intake and the interaction effects of sex and age among adults in southern Brazil.” European journal of clinical nutrition 69, no. 9 (2015): 1015-1022.|
|↑5||Seasonal Depression, mentalhealthamerica.net|