HOW TO AVOID WEIGHT GAIN IN WINTER
Winter has just hit us and one topic that keeps coming up is how to avoid that extra layer of fat during the colder months. I have a few tips that can help you not only manage weight but even lose weight during winter.
Firstly, let’s understand why we tend to gain weight during winter.
1 we tend to eat more and look for more calorie-dense foods during winter. These foods tend to be sweet, rich in fats and warm, triggering junk food cravings. That happens because our body spends more energy when trying to maintain our body temperature within the normal range.
2 we move less. The days are shorter during winter which decreases overall activity levels, but we also tend to move less and it is not just pure laziness! This is a natural response from our body to conserve energy, increase fat storage and keep us warm, similar to hibernating animals.
3 fat tissue is a natural insulation system that protects us from cold temperatures and provides protective padding around our most important organs. So, once again, it is a natural response from our bodies to increase fat storage mechanisms.
So, this weight gain is natural, and you should never feel guilty for getting a little heavier during winter. As a health professional, what I want to avoid is that you wait until just before summer to try losing an unrealistic amount of weight in a short period of time, which will be unhealthy and unsustainable.
What we can do instead is use all these natural mechanisms in our favour to stay healthy all year round.
Keep your body warm
As mentioned above, if you get cold you will require more energy and calories to increase your body temperature. This can lead to increased hunger, cravings and uncontrolled snacking. You can reduce that by maintaining your body warm.
• Start the day with a hot herbal tea
• Wear warm clothes
• Turn the heater on at home
• Have a warm shower in the morning and before bed
• Consume thermogenic foods
Consume thermogenic foods
Thermogenic foods are foods that naturally increase heat and energy production in the body. Have you ever noticed that you tend to sweat or heat up after having a curry for example? That is because some spices such as ginger, turmeric and chilli increase heat production in the body. The real benefit of these foods is that it increases calorie burning and fat metabolism in the body and are often used for weight loss purposes.
Eat well throughout the day
Do not try to overcompensate and starve yourself throughout the day. If you eat fewer calories your body won’t be able to increase your body temperature and you will get cold. From there it will be a snowball effect that will make you lose control over cravings and your body will slow down; so, you will be less likely to exercise and more likely to overeat later in the day. The next day, you will feel guilty and try to eat less… and the cycle continues. Sounds familiar?
So, let’s stop this vicious cycle. Consume your adequate energy requirement (calories) and remember that in winter your body will spend more calories, so it is not the time to try a new very-low-calorie diet. Eat enough veggies and fruits, these will increase vitamin and mineral consumption and send the signal to your brain that your body has been fed. Eat warm foods that will nourish and warm your body up. Swap salads for soups for example. Eat enough carbohydrates, fats and protein, so your body has enough energy and will not crave quick energy sources (such as high fat and sugar foods).
Most importantly, if you end up eating a little bit more or decide to have a hot chocolate and a cake at 3pm, do not overcompensate. If you are eating well and exercising well, one treat meal won’t complete ruin your health goals. Understand your cravings: what they are, what time they tend to surface and why. Embrace and understand your cravings so you can work around it, rather than trying to ignore it. Trust me, they won’t go away that easy.
Increase protein intake
Protein is the best macronutrient to control hunger and improve metabolism. Protein-rich foods will keep you fuller for longer and help control cravings. Protein-rich foods, as mentioned above, are also considered thermogenic foods, which will help increase metabolism and calorie burning mechanisms.
Even though your body will try to slow down to conserve energy during winter, maintaining your activity levels as per usual is crucial. As I always say, food and exercise walk hand in hand, so maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle is definitely the key to weight management all year round.
• Maintain your exercise schedule.
Yes, this will probably mean you will have to get up before the sun and face the early morning frost. Perhaps leaving work after sunset and still managing to do a workout when all you want is to go home and get to the couch with warm blanket.
Back your bag, get ready for the day and have a set schedule.
• Wear appropriate gear… stay warm!
• Turn the lights on at home when you wake up. This will signal your brain that it is daytime and time to rise.
1 Start the day with hot ginger or green tea. This will warm you up and increase thermogenesis.
2 Consume thermogenic supplements during the day. This will help increase heat production, calorie burning and fat metabolism.
3 Consume nourishing foods that are healthy, will keep you warm and will help control cravings. Protein Porridge, Soups (with a lot of vegetables and quality protein), Curries (with natural spices and a lot of vegetables) etc…
4 Make some healthy hot chocolate with cacao and protein powder (and add coffee for a super cappuccino) to help reduce sweet cravings and increase protein intake.