Q: I find that I gain at least a few extra pounds every winter and by the time spring comes, I’m scrambling to lose it again (and it doesn’t always work!) How do you two prevent this?!
A: The cold weather might bring shorter days, holiday fare, and an increasingly tempting couch, but it doesn’t need to bring added pounds. With a few simple daily habit changes, you’ll hit springtime already geared up for swimsuit season. Here are some of our personal tips for keeping winter weight gain at bay.
Get out and about: Your body’s level of serotonin (the feel good hormone) naturally decreases in the winter months due to less sunlight. This can lead to cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods, which temporarily boost serotonin levels. As a result, many people are driven to over do it on carby foods, which tend to be easier to overeat anyway (chips, cookies, pasta, etc.) One way to keep your serotonin levels from plummeting is incorporate more outdoor winter activities into your life. Because of the need for extra clothes and gear, being active outdoors in the winter might take a bit of extra planning.
For instance, map out a winter hike for you and pals, book a skiing or snowboarding trip (or lesson if you’re a novice!), sign up for a snow shoeing excursion, or try your hand (we mean feet) at ice skating. Or, just bundle up and head outside for a walk — which is free and readily available. Even bundling up for a 15-minute walk on your lunch break (especially on those pretty sunny winter days!) can really help. And when you’re inside, be sure to let in as much light as you can.
Use mornings wisely: If the fact that it’s pitch black by 5:30pm makes you feel more like hitting the couch than the gym, consider getting up and at it first thing in the morning. Same goes for food prep — if you want to hit the fridge the minute you walk in the door at night, slice up some fruit and veggies in the morning and leave them front and center in the fridge (along with a bottle of water). Waking up a little earlier to make the most of your morning time can help you have a more productive day, even when the sun sets at 5pm.
Don’t wear super-sized winter clothes: Stick with ﬁtted clothing in the wintertime. Not only will you feel it if you’ve gained a small amount of weight, but wearing something that fits more snugly can help to remind you to not overdo it. We love this as not only a reminder of when we’ve overdone it, but a motivator not to get there in the first place — feeling good in what you’re wearing gives you happy feelings sans food.
Combat comfort food cravings… with comfort foods: There are plenty of healthful ways to eat your favorite comfort foods. In fact, we write a whole article on it each month for SELF magazine. Dishes like chicken and eggplant parmesan, mac n’ cheese, chili, Chinese food, and even French fries can be made healthier and enjoyed. You can check out a few of our SELF-y splurge recipes and healthier ideas for grab and go items here (mac and cheese) and here (pizza). Or, for a great cookbook of healthy comfort food recipes, try Ellie Krieger’s book Comfort Food Fix. We’ve tried at least four recipes from her book and they’ve all been delicious and easy to make!
And, be sure to try our C&J Nutrition turkey chili recipe this winter, which is made in our homes at least a couple times a month and always hits the spot. For a treat, this hot cocoa is delicious and only 117 calories. Between the two of us, we make that one at least once a week!
Carb control: Since carbohydrate cravings are at their high in the winter, it’s important to make sure that the majority of your carb choices come from whole grains, starchy veggies, or beans which are all higher in fiber and more satisfying. In addition, be sure to pair carbs with a balanced meal that also includes protein, healthy fats, and lots of veggies. This helps to balance out the blood sugar effect that carbs have, makes your meal more satisfying so you can eat less, and also makes it easier to practice portion control with carbs, since you’re pairing them with other filling foods.