Look and feel great this winter without packing on the kilos.
In order for anyone to keep weight gain to a minimum during the winter we must first understand why we gain weight at this time of the year and how we can resolve this unhealthy phenomenon.
As the seasons change, so should your diet. Once the summer heat has melted into colder temperatures, your tongue won’t be calling out for cooling, refreshing foods any longer. Instead, your body will be begging for hearty, comforting meals that are often more calorie dense than our lighter summer meals.
It’s natural in the animal kingdom, to fatten up for the cold winter months ahead in order to survive. Maybe we did years ago when food was less accessible in winter and shivering in the cold caused us to burn our fat stores quickly. But now, with central heating, an abundant access to food 24/7 and a coffee shop at every corner there is really no need to store excess fat in order to survive! Though these old instincts are plausible as a partial cause of winter weight gain, there are more complex – and controllable – causes too. The most important involves a decrease in both sunlight and physical activity. Together, they can contribute to enough of a calorie imbalance to cause weight gain. Here’s how.
Some people are particularly sensitive to light deprivation, caused by the decrease in daylight hours during the winter or not getting enough Vitamin D, particularly if you’re in an office before the sun rises and in an office after it sets which tends to be earlier in winter. A lot of us are affected to some degree, prompting increased food cravings and weight gain. These food cravings may be a result of the seasonal changes in the brain chemical serotonin.
In order to increase the feel good hormone serotonin you’re probably frequently tempted to dig into the likes of all things ‘moreish’ like pasta, rusks and biscuits– only to kick yourself later when the numbers on the scale have crept up. People generally put on 2 – 4kg during the winter months, over five years this is approximately 10kg! No wonder people say as they age they really need to watch what they eat! In my view it isn’t about your age, but an accumulation of bad eating habits!
People also exercise less; they sleep in a little longer, lie on the couch and watch DVDs so in total you move less. In winter we cover up – big jackets, baggy pants, so we feel less conscious about our bodies. Truth is we can stay in shape and healthy all through the year with some simple guidelines!
Weight loss and maintenance is pretty simple: eat less and move more. Most diets are aimed at reducing calorie intake. Ideally, we should lose fat and maintain lean body mass and this requires a different macro-nutrient ratio, coupled with some resistance exercise. We also want to feel good, look good, have a great sex drive, more energy, great skin and hair, a strong immune system, a positive outlook and a zest for life!
The cleaner you eat, the leaner and healthier you’ll be. Here I mean lean proteins, fruit, and an abundance of vegetables, some whole grains and essential fats. At least half of your diet should comprise raw fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds. The rest should comprise lean, hormone-free protein sources, mainly fish. Wholegrains like quinoa are great but stay away from the overly processed and refined whole grains, including bread or anything with wheat!
Here are my ten tips for your winter body!
- Balance blood sugar levels – avoid stimulants and sugar. Make sure you start the day with some protein and a wholesome carb. Think oats with some fat free milk or yogurt, even a boiled egg on rye toast
- Eat natural and whole food – avoid over processed food – always keep food as natural as possible, nothing in a box; don’t eat anything you can’t pronounce. Ditch the comfort food you are used to!
- After 3pm, make veggies your carbs – have oatmeal, rye bread, brown rice, sweet potatoes, fruit, and quinoa early in the day and salads and steamed vegetables later.
- Eat good fat, especially Omega-3-rich food. This helps you stay full and also curbs your cravings for fatty foods. Always use olive oil on your salads and veggies, add some avocado to your meals and sprinkle seeds and nuts on your yogurt or oats!
- Keep your dinner lean – protein and greens. This works wonder, every evening make your last meal of the day very simple, chicken and vegetables, fish and vegetables, ostrich and vegetables.
- Eat balanced snacks and meals. Eating wholesome carbs, protein and fat at every meal keeps blood sugar levels from spiking and crashing. This controls energy levels and keeps cravings at bay.
- Eat and drink food for the soul – in moderation (what would winter be without some hot chocolate)! Use fat free milk, some sugar free hot chocolate now available and I recommend eating a little dark chocolate every day after dinner with some tea as your daily treat!
- Drink water. Stay away from chemical and artificial drinks. Have some hot water with some drops of fresh lemon juice to keep you warm throughout the day instead of coffee with loads of sugar. Green tea is bursting with antioxidants and has been proven to assist with weight loss!
- Sleep for at least 7 – 8 hours every night. It controls stress levels which often lead to emotional eating and high cortisol levels which make you retain water and put on weight. Do not eat heavy or sugary food in the evening as your sleep will be affected and your energy for a morning workout a complete nightmare!
- Exercise! Cold days are coming very quickly, but that’s no excuse not to exercise. Even on rainy days, you can still do a workout. Grab a jacket and go for a brisk walk – the cool winter mornings are beautiful! If it’s really too cold to go out, go to a gym.