There are easy ways to combat kilo creep in the colder months, says Patricia Flokis.
Don’t let the ‘idea’ of winter influence you
It’s important not to permit yourself to put on weight every winter, says Julie Gilbert, an accredited practising dietitian. “We need to change the mindset that ‘it’s winter, so it’s OK to eat all comforting food because I can cover myself in layers of clothes and hide away,” she says. “If you maintain your weight, you’ll be ahead of everyone else when summer comes.”
Nutritionist Dr Joanna McMillan recommends regularly wearing a pair of fitted pants, or another tight piece of clothing that “keeps you on track”, during the colder months, as well as providing a measure of how your body might be changing.
Watch your TV snacking
Winter often equals a lot of time rugged up on the lounge watching your favourite TV shows, but kicking back this way is also linked to an increased intake of unhealthy snacks and drinks, say experts at the UK's Loughborough University.
They reviewed 53 worldwide studies on diet and sedentary behaviour and concluded that TV acts “as a distraction, resulting in a lack of awareness of actual food consumption”.
“Understand that eating is not a multi-tasking event,” says Gilbert. “Set yourself some guidelines or have rules like ‘no food when I watch TV’.” Otherwise, watch portion sizes and choose snacks wisely. Vegetable-based soups, a few cups of air-popped popcorn or a slice of fruit toast are all warm and satisfying TV snacks.
Winter-proof your workout
Often, shorter days and cold weather can make early morning or outdoor workouts a trial, but keeping up a regular exercise routine is vital. “Look for indoor activities to do,” advises Gilbert. Join a gym, swim in an indoor pool or invest in a treadmill. “If you can’t get to a gym, grab a Pilates DVD or a skipping rope.”
If the cold doesn’t bother you, keep exercising outside – it’s good for beating winter blues.
A recent US study published in Environmental Science & Technology found that those who exercised outdoors rather than indoors reported greater feelings of revitalisation and increased energy, along with decreased tension and anger.
Don’t confuse thirst with hunger
Dehydration doesn’t seem a likely winter culprit, but central heating, wearing heavier clothes, and eating more dry or cooked food, rather than fresh fruit and salads, can make it easy for us to think we’re hungry when we’re actually thirsty.
“If nothing you eat seems to satisfy you, or if you’ve eaten and are feeling hungry again an hour later, then it’s more likely you’re thirsty, not hungry,” says Gilbert. “Drink a glass of water, wait 10 minutes, and see if you’re still feeling peckish or not.”
Additionally, if you’re drinking less water because you don’t want a cold drink in winter, increase your fluid intake with herbal teas or low-kilojoule, high-fibre soups and broths. “The best guide to fluid intake is to take a look at your urine,” says McMillan. “If it’s pale-coloured, you’re drinking enough.”
Eat for the cold
“I always tell people to look for warm, comforting food in winter, but don’t throw out healthy eating,” says Gilbert.
The trick is to tweak what you normally eat rather than reach for high-fat, high-GI carbs. For instance, swap cold cereal for porridge made with low-fat milk, salads for steamed vegies, or a piece of fresh fruit for a stewed apple. For dinner, use the same portion and cuts of lean meat you’d usually barbecue in a casserole.
Winter is also the perfect time to use spices to heat up our taste buds. Spices high in antioxidants, such as cinnamon, paprika, turmeric and cumin, are all good choices. Make ground cayenne pepper a pantry staple. Research from the US’s Purdue University found that consuming cayenne red pepper “can help manage appetite and burn more calories after a meal, especially for those who do not consume the spice regularly”, says study leader Richard Mattes.
Find more tips to help avoid putting on winter kilograms in the June issue of Good Health.
You can find more fitness tips in the June issue of Good Health.
Would you like more exercise tips? Pick up the June issue of Good Health magazine or subscribe at magshop.co.nz.