Tips to avoid winter weight gain

As the seasons turn and the days grow shorter and colder, you might find yourself battling the dreaded winter weight gain. You’re not alone! In the cold months I sometimes also find myself turning to the allure of comfort food and staying in bed longer than I should, which is not great for the figure. So here I have compiled some top tips to help you (and me) avoid that wobbly winter weight gain.

Exercise! Even if it’s only 20 minutes a day

Having at least 20 minutes of exercise each day is possibly the most important thing you can do for your health and longevity. If I do nothing else for my physical and mental health during the day, I do this. But what happens when it’s freezing first thing in the morning and your bed is feeling comfier than usual? When your early morning run or evening walk is no longer appealing, consider moving your exercise to another time of the day. Take a break and go for a walk at lunch. If you usually exercise outside but don’t like the cold, then move your exercise indoors. 

Don’t forget that exercise is the fastest way to get warm! I also try to put together a fun outfit that will inspire me to stay warm while exercising (plus it’s a great excuse to go shopping). I like to lay my clothes out at night so that I see them when I get up. This reminds me that exercising in cold weather is not at all unpleasant when you have proper clothes on. 

Stay regular with routine meal times

When the sun goes down earlier it’s easy to eat earlier than you normally do which ends up with you feeling snackish later at night. Try to keep to your eating routine and eat at regular times that are not too far apart. This will help you learn to recognise that if you have the urge to eat between these times, it’s probably psychological hunger rather than physical hunger. Don’t keep too many snacks around. It’s asking too much of your willpower. Find some light (low-ish calorie) winter lunches, dinners and desserts that you like. 

Things like soups are great for warming up and keeping winter weight gain at bay. The best sign you’re on the right track is waking up hungry, and feeling hungry before meals. This is the clearest indication that your body is burning food throughout the day.

Splurge on soups and stews

Speaking of soups… this is one of my favourite winter hacks. Soups are both easy to make and nutritious. With the right ingredients they can be a healthy and satisfying lunch or dinner option to replace high fat takeaway meals. Pack them with vegetables along with legumes and wholegrains. 

Casseroles, stews and curries are also great winter warmers and you can easily make extra to freeze for another night or to take for lunch the next day. Make sure to use lean cuts of meat or poultry and add in plenty of vegetables and legumes for fibre. Use canned tomatoes and fresh or dried herbs and spices for flavour, rather than pre-made sauces, which can be loaded with unwanted bad fat. Break out the slow cooker and fire up that soup pot!

Never forget fruit

While exercise is great for your health, diet is also crucial for avoiding winter weight gain. Snacking on a piece of fruit or that fresh fruit salad for dessert may be less appealing on a cold day but don’t leave fruit to the summer months. A balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables not only helps you prevent or reduce weight gain but also has immense health benefits. Eating fibre-rich foods and fruits can help boost digestive health and keep water weight and bloating away in the long run. 

Most winter produce is high in nutrients and fibre, which helps slow down digestion to keep you fuller for longer – a bonus if you’re on a weight loss spree. Take advantage of seasonal winter fruits and try baked apples or pear for dessert. Oranges are in season in South Africa in winter and are a great source of vitamin C, which is crucial for boosting your immunity and keeping you healthy. This is a winter fruit that is extremely low in calories and has zero fat, making it one of the best winter fruits to keep you satiated and away from other unhealthy foods and fruits.

Find a balance on your fluid intake

Hot drinks are comforting on a cold winter’s day but too many cappuccinos, hot chocolates and milky coffees can pile on the weight. A small hot chocolate can contain as much as five teaspoons of sugar. These extra calories can cause weight gain and if it’s been made with full-fat milk or topped with whipped cream, this will add even more calories and be high in saturated fat. Instead, try some warming herbal teas such as ginger, peppermint or green tea which are a much healthier alternative and are still flavourful and warming. If you do like milk-based drinks, consider going for low fat or skim milk and avoid the added sugar and opt for a “skinny” version with low-fat milk instead. 

Avoid flavoured coffees at all costs! Flavoured lattes such as vanilla or hazelnut are usually made with sugary syrup which is a major no-no for when you’re fighting the bulge. Want a little extra flavour? Sprinkle ground cinnamon on your cappuccino for sweetness without the extra calories. Be careful with cappuccinos though – they’re made with full fat milk to get it to froth nicely so try not to have too many. When all else fails go with the good old faithful – lovely lemon water. Squeeze fresh lemon juice into a mug, add an extra slice of lemon, and top up with boiling water. It’s tasty and has zero calorific gain so it’s a win-win drink for the season.

We all need some comfort during the winter, so don’t feel too bad if you do go off track. It’s alright if you take a break, but just don’t give up entirely and you can get back on track when you’re feeling stronger. What are your winter weight maintenance tips? 

Please tell us in the comments and let’s support each other’s goals during the cold months. 

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