If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you would be well aware that winter is most certainly on its way. The days are getting shorter and the sun is disappearing earlier. The nights are frigidly cold, making even sleeping with the window open a scary proposition.
The colder months are dreaded for a number of reasons – rain, snow, dry skin and paleness, to name a few – however the most common one seems to be this: feared winter weight gain. Unless you have access to ski slopes, the majority of us tend to sit on our butts longer, opting to stay huddled up indoors rather than running outside, attending gym classes or simply walking around more and therefore enjoying the benefits of incidental exercise.
Luckily, there are a few bonuses to the cold weather and the first one is this: you actually burn more calories when it is cold. The body is a smart little creature and it knows how to regulate itself to keep you humming along at the optimal temperature. When you are cold, it takes more energy for the body to keep warm, thereby firing up that metabolism to burn energy to create warmth. While this isn’t an excuse to walk around in the freezing air sans jacket in lieu of exercise, it is a good little fact to keep in the back of your mind.
The winter months offer an opportunity to get active in different ways also. Instead of resorting to comfort food and Netflix marathons, try these things to keep that winter weight at bay and maintain your ideal body shape:
Move anyway you can
So maybe you can’t run your daily 5kms outside anymore, but that certainly doesn’t mean you have to become a couch potato. Find constant ways to move throughout your day to ensure you continue to burn calories. Take the stairs more. When outside in the cold, use it to your advantage by walking more briskly. If you’re not a member of a gym, winter is a great time to consider becoming one. There, you can keep your motivation up by joining group fitness classes or just know you have the comfort of a warm, enclosed environment in which to workout.
Winter is also a great time to sign up for a fitness event. Perhaps there is a particular race or half marathon you have always wanted to do. Having a deadline for an event is a sure fire way to ensure you stay on track with your fitness goals – winter, hail or shine.
Be smart about what you eat
The colder weather does bring with it cravings for warm, comfort food. There are ways you can make your favourite winter meals healthier though. Make smart swaps – swap regular potato on your Shepherd’s Pie for sweet potato, switch out carb-heavy pasta for protein-rich quinoa or use spaghetti squash noodles instead. Make vegetable-laden soups ahead of time and freeze the rest, so you always have a healthy meal on hand when the cold weather munchies strike after a long day at work.
The winter months offer some delicious seasonal vegetables – pumpkins, squash, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and onions – to name a few. Roast up a big batch and include them with dinner or smother them in avocado and wrap them in wraps for lunch. Experiment with seasonal produce to create warming and satisfying meals.
Find ways to warm yourself up, without resorting to food
Many of us turn to food as comfort, and never is this more true than in winter. Next time you find yourself reaching for that third hot chocolate, or hot bag of chips, take a moment to consider what it is you are truly craving. Are you feeling lonely? Isolated? Bored? What emotional void are you trying to fill with food? Take a different approach this winter. When hunger strikes, call a friend, paint your nails, read a book, visit your parents. Pick an activity that brings you joy and warmth in a different way. Use it as a time to get creative and start a new hobby, or reach out to someone new. Whatever it is, shift your focus away from food and forge new connections and passions without it.
Cold weather doesn’t have to mean weight gain. Be smart about your choices, set your goals, and follow through. Be consistent in your eating patterns, experiment, but most of all, have fun with it.