It’s cold outside. It’s wet. It’s dark. I just don’t feel like it. I’m too tired. I’ll do it – tomorrow. Yes, tomorrow, I will definitely, possibly, maybe go to the gym tomorrow…sound familiar? Welcome to winter everyone – the time of year where most of us hunker down inside, wrap ourselves in doonas and binge watch popular television series (Game of Thrones marathon, anyone?). Our gym memberships lay dormant, workout gear hangs limply in our closets, bicycles sit propped against walls gathering dust and doubling as clothes drying racks – yes, it’s definitely winter. And, unless you’re a snow sports fiend, you’re probably not welcoming the return of the cold, dark winter months with open arms.
It’s easier to stay fit in summer, what with the nearly endless hours of sunshine and fun warm weather activities available. But, like we said, now it’s winter – who wants to go for a run in the rain? The thing is, it’s important to stay fit and active all year round.
According to celebrity fitness trainer Michelle Bridges “Winter is a pivotal time for weight gain. We exercise less when it is cold and dark, stay indoors more and seek comfort in fast and snack foods and takeaways. We usually don’t notice the weight we’ve gained until September-time and by then it can be pretty difficult to shift for spring and summer.”
Uh oh. Did you know that nearly half of Australian’s can be expected to put on at least two kilos during the winter months? And, according to a Swedish study, winter weight tends to stay put! According to the study’s findings, just one month of overeating and under exercising can have effects that last for years. Yikes.
So, how do we battle the winter bulge to ensure we’re bathing suit ready come Spring time? The answer’s pretty simple: keep active. That’s the big secret – keep exercising. However, as we all know, that’s easier said than done in the dark dank months when our Ugg boots are calling. So, we’ve put together ten additional tips to help you battle the winter bulge.
Let’s face it, we’re a food and drink obsessed culture. We celebrate with food, we commiserate with food and we distract ourselves with food. We eat when we’re stressed, when we’re social, when we’re thirsty and when we’re bored. Boredom’s a big one. You’re counting down the last few hours of the work day and the minutes are ticking by so slowly – wait, a cup of coffee and a biscuit will break up the afternoon a little bit.
How many times a day do you go to the fridge and open it, just to see if something ‘takes your fancy’ when you aren’t even hungry?
Boredom binging is also related to mindless eating – like snacking on chips while watching TV or eating dinner while watching a movie or surfing the net.
Change your habits and cultivate mindful eating; switch off the television and eat your meals with a focus on the food. If you’re paying attention to the process of eating your meal, you’ll also be less likely to over eat.
Listen to body cues instead of watching the clock. We’re all programmed into ‘three meals a day’ with morning and afternoon tea breaks thrown in. You should always eat breakfast but if you’re hungry again at 9am have a snack then, don’t try to wait for ‘morning tea’ time. Equally, if you’re not hungry in the afternoon, don’t have afternoon tea. If you need the break away from your desk, have a cup of herbal tea instead. Eat when you’re hungry but stop when you’re no longer hungry.
If you’re more conscious of how, when and what you’re eating you may find that you are eating purely out of boredom because, after all, it’s something to do. Now that you’re aware of boredom bingeing, choose an alternate activity to distract you (going for a quick walk outside is an excellent option).
When spring rolls around, we tend to break out the bathers in preparation for summer and that’s when the rude shock of our wayward winter exercise routine hits us. Suddenly, we’re deeply committed to our yoga/pilates/cycling routine. Our gym shoes no longer lay neglected by the front door as we desperately kick ourselves in the backside to get into shape for summer.
Save yourself the stress and motivate yourself throughout winter by taking yourself and your bathers for a swim each week. Not only will you enjoy the exercise (remember that big point about staying active?) but you’ll also be more aware of your body and overall fitness if you’re slipping into your bathers once a week.
Notice how you never crave a salad in the middle of winter? That’s ok, you can be just as healthy with a plate of steamed veggies or a hot soup to warm away the winter blues. You can help your body regulate its internal temperature by eating warmer foods, which is why you may crave warm, hearty foods on cold days. Warm and hearty can also be healthy. Stick to whole grains, vegetables and lean proteins and make soups, stews, pies and bakes. Check out these power-packed, nutritious comfort food recipes to keep you warm this winter.
Don’t let the flu derail your winter fitness train! Eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, staying hydrated and getting enough sleep will all help you keep the flu at bay. Also, wash your hands! Winter is the season for germs, so wash your hands often. If you can, carry around antibacterial hand sanitiser for those moments when you can’t wash your hands (e.g. when riding any kind of public transport). Despite popular belief, you can still exercise when you’re sick; in fact, light to moderate activity may actually help you fight off the flu.
A hot latte on a cold winter morning may seem like the perfect pick-me-up but watch those caffeinated calories. The calories in milk can add up quickly; a full cream latte has around 705kJ! Swap whole milk for skim and give that second coffee of the day a miss and opt for an herbal tea instead!
Although there may not be much sun to be had during sinter, take advantage of crisp, sunny days and head outside for a walk. Exposure to sunshine increases our Vitamin D levels which in turn are linked to the production of serotonin, the chemical in our brains responsible for feelings of happiness and contentment. Increased serotonin levels may also calm food cravings, so a walk in the sunshine is a win-win!
Certain herbs and spices help curb appetite, increase metabolism and boost energy levels. Fenugreek is commonly used as an appetite suppressant and is great in soups and curries. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar and is a source of manganese which helps with bone density. Cumin and turmeric are anti-inflammatory, increase focus and decrease depression – throw these into your next curry or batch of home made hummus. Ginger is high in antioxidants and is also a natural anti-inflammatory, so a spicy garlic ginger stir-fry will help you battle that cold. Chillies and capsicum boost your metabolism, so add a few teaspoons to get your body revving.
Eat squash and seasonal winter vegetables. Squash is full of Vitamin C, folate and beta-carotene. It’s packed with antioxidants and it’s anti-inflammatory. Squash is also high in fibre which will keep you feeling fuller for longer and help you keep off those kilos. While you’re slamming back the super squash stew (otherwise known as pumpkin soup), add some other winter super foods to your menu like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, garlic, beetroot, carrots and fennel.
Often, social summer butterflies turn into anti-social hibernators in winter. However, staying social will not only keep you mentally healthy but may have good physical benefits too. Instead of meeting up for coffee, meet up with friends for a walk or a gym class. Pair physical activity with a social outing to make the physical activity more enjoyable and to keep in touch with your pals. According to a study published in the renowned New England Journal of Medicine, people with chubby friends or partners were more likely to put on extra weight, so be a good friend and team up to fight off flabby winter weight gain!
Your trackies and hoodie jumper may be comfortable but they are the enemy of a winter fitness regime. It’s easy to cover up a few extra kilos with an oversized sweater or stretchy waistband. Wearing jeans and fitted items of clothing during winter stimulates a healthy awareness of how your fitness is tracking over the winter months. Don’t obsess over increases or decreases on a scale but weighing in periodically on a home scale will also keep your fitness goals at the forefront of your mind.
Keeping fit over winter is tough but with a little bit of effort, you can maintain a healthy lifestyle through the colder months. Health insurers know how hard it is to stay active and fit and some health insurance providers even contribute towards the costs of healthy lifestyle choices like gym memberships, pilates/yoga classes or personal training. Compare health insurance providers to find one that suits your needs and lifestyle.