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How to avoid weight gain during winter

Hadyn Luke posted this on Tuesday 24th of December 2013 Hadyn Luke 24/12/2013

Tags: Nutrition weight management


Every personal trainer or fitness instructor will have clients who struggle with their weight and even those who are winning the battle will usually find it harder in winter, which is the subject of this blog.

Whether it’s piling on the pounds to cope with the cold weather blues, to insulate ourselves against the wind chill factor, or simply a result of Christmas excess, winter weight gain has a habit of sticking around well into bikini weather. Even a small gain of a pound a year can add up over time – and half a stone can be a big challenge to shift once spring comes around.

Here are our top 10 tips to help you battle the cold weather bulge.

1. Choose comfort food wisely

While we all like to indulge in hearty meals when the cold weather hits, it can make a big difference what you choose to eat as comfort food.

A homemade root vegetable stew or soup will have a lower calorific value than a puff pastry meat pie with chips. Beans, lentils and pulses will help fill you up and make you less likely to need a stodgy pudding.

2. Brave the cold

It may be more tempting to take a stroll in the sunshine, but a brisk winter walk will invigorate you, boost your circulation and help to burn off excess calories.

There’s no reason you should stop outdoor activities just because there’s a nip in the air, as long as you dress and prepare appropriately (see our blog on How to avoid cold weather injuries).  

3. Take it indoors

If you really don’t like exercising in cold weather, add a new indoor activity to your current regime, such as swimming, five-a-side indoor football, netball or circuit training.

Because a lot of people tend to join gyms in January, why not join a sports centre.

4. Limit your alcohol intake

Without wanting to spoil the fun of the season, the more you drink, the more you’re likely to put on weight. As we pointed out in a recent blog (Alcohol: What every personal trainer should know), alcohol has seven calories per gramme (only two fewer than fat), but these are considered ‘empty’ calories, in other words, it has no nutritional value.

Over indulging in alcohol can lead to other additional calorie intake (kebab, anyone?) so best to drink in moderation.

5. Beware of hidden calories

While you may be focusing on eating healthily at meal times, it’s easy to discount everything you consume between meals. Avoid grazing on crisps, nuts and chocolate and don’t forget that a lovely warming mug of hot chocolate or coffee with whipped cream can contain as many calories as a light meal.

6. Don’t forgo the fruit and salad

You may think of fruit and salad as summer foods but both can be adapted for winter fare. Baked fruit, such as banana or apple, with low-fat yoghurt piled on top is a great alternative to calorific puddings with cream. Warm winter salads with healthy ingredients such as butternut squash and roasted Mediterranean vegetables are delicious, filling – and will help towards your five a day.

7. Cupboard Love

A high-calorie takeaway may seem like the easy option on a cold night, especially if the kitchen cupboards are bare. Avoid this scenario by stocking up on healthy but filling winter foods.

If you’re making a healthy homemade soup or stew, make double the amount and freeze some for the days when you’re in too much of a rush to cook from scratch.

8. Eat first, party later

Make sure you eat a healthy but hearty meal before you go out, whether it’s to a party or to meet a friend for coffee. If you already feel full, you won’t be as tempted by the party snacks or slabs of Christmas cake on offer.

9. Get expert advice

Talk to a personal trainer at your local gym and ask them to recommend a fitness programme for you. They will carry out a fitness test and work out the best exercises for your goals and fitness levels, taking into account that you may be tempted to eat more over the winter months.

10. Don’t beat yourself up

If you do have a seasonal slip into overindulgence, don’t give yourself a hard time, after all, it is supposed to be the season of goodwill.

Instead, limit your calorie intake for a few days afterwards or, if you are otherwise fit and healthy, consider the 5:2 diet, where you eat what you like five days a week and eat a low-calorie diet on the other two (see our blog: The 5:2 or Intermittent Fasting Diet).

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