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Yeah, it’s getting cold outside. Sigh. Winter is definitely on its way, bringing with it cravings for comfort foods. The winter months are notorious for bringing on weight gain, and most of us acknowledge that we tend to eat more during these months. What factors are at play here? Are we genetically programmed to fatten up during winter months? Does our metabolism actually slow down during winter? What can we do to maintain our weight during this holiday season?
WHY WE EAT MORE DURING WINTER
Research does show that we eat more during the cold winter months. Some experts believe that this is a primitive adaptation to food scarcity – since our ancestors had less food available to them during the winter months, they sought to ‘fatten up.’ Other experts refute this idea, saying that while it is true that we eat more in the winter, it’s not due to ‘chipmunk instincts’ but rather to environmental cues.
Several holidays centered around eating occur during the winter months, and some believe that it’s our memories and positive associations with these foods that cause us to crave them when the cooler weather begins to hit. During the holidays, treat foods also seem to be more ‘in our face’ between sweets at the office, gifts of baked goods from friends, and food-related holiday advertising. All of these factors work together to make food a more constant presence in our subconscious mind during this time of year.
Many folks believe that like bears and other hibernating mammals, our metabolism slows down in winter. But, here’s the good news. Our metabolism does not slow down during the winter months, which makes sense since humans don’t hibernate! In fact, it may actually speed up in order to help us keep our bodies warm.
FIGHTING WINTER WEIGHT GAIN
It’s likely winter weight gain is caused by our eating behavior and decreased exercise during the colder months, rather than a fattening or hibernation instinct. The good news is that by acknowledging these things and making changes to your habits, you can prevent winter weight gain. Here are a few tips to keep you from packing on the pounds during the cold months:
1) Move More
Since we generally spend less time outdoors during winter, we do tend to move less overall during these months. During the winter, make a habit of moving more. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend more hours at the gym. Instead of getting together for drinks or hot chocolate, hit the mall with friends for a brisk walk. If winter temps aren’t too severe, bundle up and walk outdoors during lunch breaks at work, or in the morning or evening with your significant other or pet. You might also consider taking up a winter sport like cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, or snowboarding. Being out in the cold may give your metabolism a boost, and trudging through the snow with all those extra clothes on will burn more calories, too!
2) Watch Sugar Intake
It seems like Halloween through New Year’s Eve is one big 8-week long chocolate fest. Treats are everywhere during the holidays, in your face tempting you. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying a treat here or there, as long as you can keep it to a minimum. Consider planning your treats in advance. A good rule might be one or two treats per week of 200 calories less each. Allowing yourself an occasional treat during the holidays may help prevent a big binge.
3) Enjoy Seasonal Veggies
While there’s somewhat less variety in the fruit section, there are some wonderful winter time veggies that are sweet, filling and good for you. These include yams, squashes, and several tasty tubers. Additionally, most green leafy vegetables including broccoli can be found during the winter months. Get creative with your salads and enjoy the winter bounty.
4) Make Use of Winter Time Spices
Our positive memories of the holidays may be sparked by the smells and tastes of winter time spices like cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice. Get creative and use them in your smoothies and soups to help calm cravings for winter flavors.
5) Make Soup
Soup is the ultimate warm comfort food. It’s nutritious and fills you up while generally being very low in calories. Include some tasty soups in your winter time repertoire.
If you’re looking to get a head start on weight loss before the holidays hit, OR if you’re determined to not to gain weight despite the extra temptations, now is a great time to get started on Athlean-XX for Women. Our nutrition plan is healthy and versatile – no need to count calories…just eat healthy meals and snacks 5 – 6 times a day. Our Athlean-XX for Women workout plan is made up of challenging 30 minute circuit strength workouts that will give you heart-pumping cardio and strength benefits in one shot. Now is a great time to reinforce healthy habits and get started creating the fit, lean, athletic physique you want! Join us on Team Athlean, and see what you can do in just 90 days!
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