Do yourself a favour next time you reach for the snack cupboard, and ask yourself if you’re really hungry. Extra calories are an issue for many of us during the winter months, thanks to more parties, more snacks and more family meals. Between autumn and winter, the average American gains about a pound, while a study carried out in the UK found that more than a quarter of British women gained half a stone in the winter with the average weight gain being 4.5 pounds.
This isn’t a massive amount of extra weight, but the extra pounds aren’t always lost when spring rolls around, allowing the weight to accumulate year after year. In this article, we want to look at some ways you can break the cycle and have a healthier festive season this year.
Sticking to an exercise plan in the winter months can be quite challenging. Establishing a routine can be hard with so many extra priorities and activities, and on top of that the weather is getting colder and the daylight hours are getting shorter.
Consider Your Beverages
With a mug of hot chocolate costing you almost 300 calories, what you drink is just as important as what you eat around the holidays. Your first choice when you’re out Christmas shopping or at a get together should be a lighter, calorie-free beverage like a cup of tea or a skinny latte – try to avoid that pumpkin spice or gingerbread syrup!
The things we do and the food we eat will always have an impact on the way our bodies look and feel whether we like it or not. Exercise is vital if we want to stay healthy, however difficult it may be in the winter. You can build your endurance by taking up cardiovascular exercise, which is any type that focuses on increasing your heart rate. It can also offer a significant mood boost, as anyone who has ever experienced a ‘runner’s high’ can attest to.
Carry Sober October into November and December
Another major culprit when it comes to winter weight gain is alcohol. You can very quickly find yourself adding a lot of calories from beer, wine, liquor and mixed drinks. Self-control is also reduced when you drink and combined with an increased appetite, that’s asking for trouble. Setting limits is your friend here, as eliminating all alcoholic and sugary beverages at family gatherings and parties can be tricky. Try to stick to one or two drinks.
Embrace the Strain
As life is not yet ready to return to normal, it’s time we all established a healthier relationship with food and our bodies. As well as cardio exercises like running, brisk walks and cycling, it’s a good idea to try and build strength in your muscles through resistive exercise (workouts that use resistance in the form of weights, body weight or bands). You can gain important benefits from both resistive and cardiovascular exercises. Both types should be present in your exercise program. Try to set yourself a realistic goal and work towards it. When you feel your drive to stay in shape and get fitter lag, remind yourself of your goals.
Track Your Progress
No matter how many yoga zoom calls we tell ourselves we’ll join, and no matter how many new online fitness classes we have to choose from, a lot of us are exercising less than before because we simply can’t motivate ourselves with so much uncertainty going on. During the holidays, it can be all too easy to ignore the bathroom scales. Compared with those who weighed themselves less often, however, studies have found that people who weigh themselves daily can lose more weight in a shorter time.
If you want to nip weight gain in the bud, the scales can be a great tool. At this time of year, health trackers can also be a vital source of motivation. One study has found that while participants who were provided with a standard pedometer with no online tracking saw no significant change in activity, those who used a Fitbit and its mobile app significantly increased the time they spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity and increased the average number of steps they took each day.
Do you want to feel more physically independent? Is it a healthier feeling you’re chasing? Do you want to be able to keep up with your kids or grandkids? Even if your only goal is being able to walk the dog further than you can now, a tracker can make a big difference.
Your own cooking can be one of your best weapons to survive the holiday season. Bringing a healthy, wholesome dish to a holiday party or dinner is a great alternative to showing up with a bottle of wine or a tray of supermarket profiteroles. It’s also a great way to make sure the table holds at least one lighter, healthier option. Something like an Apple-Pear Crisp, Brussels Sprouts or Mulled Red Cabbage will go down a treat.
Cut Out the Problem Foods
Reducing temptation before it strikes is a good strategy if you want to avoid overindulging. Keep your house free of pastries, breads and similar seasonal favourites if they’re your weakness. If the foods we love are readily available and in our eyeline, studies have consistently found that we are more likely to eat them. If you want baked goods at your party, ask someone else to bring them and take away any leftovers so you aren’t left with a glut.
Keeping fit is a year-round project and maintaining good habits year-round is much more effective than crash-dieting. For more fitness tips to make part of your daily routine, check out our Fitness Guides!
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- Randomized Trial of a Fitbit-Based Physical Activity Intervention for Women.