Why Winter Equals Weight Gain: How to Outsmart the Season

By Jennifer Nicole Lee,
Fitness Expert & Author
Miss Bikini America 2005, Miss Muscle and Fitness

There is a holiday weight gaining problem, and it needs to be addressed. Just take a look at the shocking statistics: People usually gain anywhere from a whopping 7-12 pounds during the holidays. And usually their New Years resolutions to lose it only last about 2 weeks. This newly gained weight is then brought into the New Year. In order for anyone to not gain weight during the winter is to first understand why we gain it in the first place. We need to fully comprehend why we gain weight at this time of the year and how can we resolve this unhealthy phenomenon. Below we will take a close look at all the numerous factors that play a part.

Cold Weather and its Role In Weight Gain

You heard it hundreds of times in one of the oldest Christmas carols: ?the weather outside is frightful?! As we all know, sometimes it?s just that much more pleasant to stay inside than to face the harsh cold weather outside. We are almost forced to move less during these cold winter months, therefore making it harder to burn off the extra calories. In addition, the weather forces us to also wear big bulky clothes allowing us to cover up our problem areas. And as the old adage says ?out of site, out of mind?. If our clothes don?t force us to take our weight gain seriously, we have a slip in attitude towards making sure we don?t gain weight. I remember a great story about Arnold Schwarzenegger who purposely would walk around in a cut off shirt, exposing his ab area. He used this technique to continually remind himself to eat the right foods and always make working out a priority.  Use this strategy too. Once a week, put on your swimsuit and take a good look. Use this tool to take your own personal inventory of your problem areas, and what you need to work on. No matter what the weather is outside, make sure you get your exercise in, even if it is working out to an exercise DVD inside, or lifting weights in your home gym.

The physiological aspects of cold weather too are phenomenal. For thousands of years, when the temperature dropped, it instantly triggers a survival aspect, thus urging us to want to eat more. It?s a trick that our own minds play on us. When it?s cold, we want to eat due to our survival mechanism which is deep in our human conditioning.  We can combat this by using our food journal, making sure we eat every 2-3 hours, and using portion control. Another helpful tip is to eat when we are at a level 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-10 for our hunger.  This will keep our big food cravings at bay, because if we are not that full and not that hungry, our cravings that are caused from the cold weather wont be that cold.

One study had 10 people in a colder room, and another set of 10 in another that was comfortable. Both sets of people were fed the same meals at lunch. The study showed that the ones in the colder room ate more than the other set.  This illustrates that colder weather does indeed cause people to eat more. By understanding this phenomenon and planning your meals in advance, you will have much more control over your eating habits during the cold winter months. One other solution is to sip on hot herbal tea with a squeeze of lemon instead to keep your body temperature warm.

Food is the focal point of many holiday gatherings.

Lets face it, when the holidays are here, food is the focal point of most social gatherings. Parties, get togethers, and family dinners are all high food affairs with tons of unhealthy choices. Also many people feel forced to eat to fit and blend in to the party. And socially, it?s at times also considered rude to not eat.  We can combat this by making sure we eat before hand, not arriving to the social function on an empty stomach as this will cut the urge to over indulge in high fat and high calorie treats.

Instead of focusing on the food at your next office party, make sure you strike up conversations with your fellow friends.  Concentrate on your networking and connecting at your holiday get togethers rather than the food. If you really want to dig in, just remember the one golden rule of the holidays: ?all things in moderation?.

Holidays are a stressful time

Even with all the cheerful glee, the holidays are a stressful time. We all have tons of ?to do?s? and so little time to get it all done. We are prone to stress, therefore emotional eating soothes our nerves.  Sometimes we get confused and we are triggered by our own emotions to eat even when we are not hungry, therefore packing on the pounds from this mindless eating.  To deter this, try scheduling a ?detox? time where you can go and just deep breathe for at least 10 minutes. It will de-stress you and help you to not resort to food when you get overstressed.

Your workouts also are a great stress releaser. Make sure you treat your workouts as important business meetings that you cannot be late to, or cancel, or ?call in sick? to, with the most important person in the world: YOU! During the holidays, it may seem much easier to forget about exercising all together until the New Year. But hang on! Make sure you schedule your workouts in advance and make them happen. Getting to the gym during the holidays will keep you less stressed and more balanced, therefore making your holiday season just that much more enjoyable!       

Overscheduled Calendars

My solution for all of those who kind find the time to workout is to ?put yourself back on your to do list!? Yes, agreed-there is too much to do during the holidays such as running errands, traveling, and shopping for presents.  We can use the excuse that we don?t have time to exercise. But you can always find the time.   Shift your mind set from ?I have to exercise? to ?I get to exercise? and your body will take action! Look forwards to your workouts as a perfect solution to not having your alone YOU time. Its just as important as getting everything else done. 

As you have seen, there is a problem with winter weight gain. Use these easy guidelines and you will find yourself enjoying a more balanced and healthier holiday season.

Make friends again with your Measuring Cups-Practice Portion control-

If there is one rule to the holiday season, its ?All things in moderation?. If you crave your Aunt Sue?s famous pumpkin pie, than have a small slice that you savor. Make every bite count! I am not here to take all the fun out of the holidays for you. However if you want to maintain your physique you must work smarter not harder. Don?t be like a ?gerbil? on a wheel? going no where fast by eating out of control and them going to the gym. Remember what is true: its about 20% exercise, and 80% nutrition. If you keep this in mind, you wont go and blow your entire food plan by overeating this holiday season.

Be a Smarter Chef

Learn how to make ?concoctions? making sure you tweak all of your favorite recipes, and taking out all the unnecessary fat and calories. I love to take my moms old fashioned Italian recipes, and making them higher in protein and much leaner. You too can do the same with your recipes. Instead of shortening or oil, you can use applesauce for when you bake. Take out all salt when its not needed. And when you are cooking with eggs, take out the yolks. It?s just that simple to be a smarter chef!

Don?t be a Perfectionist, Rather be Persistent

By banishing the ?all or nothing? mentally towards your fitness lifestyle, you will be able to reach your goals and maintain them much easier. Therefore focus on not being perfect, but rather being persistent. If you cant go to the gym for an entire hour and a half, then go for 30 minutes. At least you will be able to squeeze in abs and cardio. And your body will thank you for it!

Stay Active

            Yes, the holidays are about spending it with family and friends, and not locking yourself up in the weight room. Therefore remember to keep moving and to open your mind to other ways to get your workout in with your family. After dinner, go for a brisk walk to get fresh blood and oxygen circulating to all the cells in your body! Or in the morning, pop in an exercise dvd that you can do while your family and friends are getting organized for the day. Make every minute count of your day and utilizing a free moment here or there to pick up a set of dumbbells and pumping out a couple of sets. You will get energized and feel just that much better.

And most importantly, don?t give up! Fitness is not a one time event that you do once and forget about. Weight lifting, exercising, and fitness is a journey to be enjoyed.  Make the process fun and enjoyable and you will stick with it all just that much more-and yes, you too can have a healthy and happy holiday season, without gaining all the weight!

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