Combating Winter Weight Gain

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There are many weight-loss myths that abound in the fitness world.  They range from “Crunches get rid of belly fat” to “I need to focus on cardio to lose weight” to my favorite, “If I’m a girl and lift weights, I’ll get huge muscles.”

But as we dive in to winter, there is something that is absolutely not an urban myth: winter weight gain. In fact, most of us gain between three and four pounds during the winter months!  But just because it’s a reality, that doesn’t mean it’s an excuse to start sipping the eggnog in an attempt to fill out your own Santa Claus suit (even though the kiddies would be thrilled!). With a few helpful rules you can fight through the winter months, and come out just as—or even more!—fit for spring.

Rule #1: Focus on Resistance Training
Staying active in general is key to combating winter weight gain. But resistance training specifically will help build more lean muscle mass, and in turn increase your resting metabolic rate (increasing your metabolism) and burn more fat.

Rule #2: Get Some Sun
When temperatures drop, we tend to stay inside. Less sunlight makes us feel gloomy—a trigger for eating high-calorie carbohydrates and sugary foods. In a recent article in Shape magazine, Raymond W. Lam, M.D., counsels, “Even an hour of direct sunlight a day can help elevate your disposition.” Therefore get outside in the sun for a quick walk or run—anything to keep your heart rate up and keep you away from the holiday cookies!

Rule #3: Save Your Food Splurges for the Holidays
Last I checked, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day were each just one day long. Yet many people start buying the eggnog, pumpkin pie, and holiday cookies on November 1—and don’t stop eating them until January 1 (when most find their New Year’s resolution encouragement enough to put down the treats!). Knowing that those holidays will be filled with all of your favorite goodies means you should be extra vigilant every other day of the month and save the “cheat/treat” meal for the actual holiday itself.

Rule #4: One Holiday = One Dessert
Yes. I said one. (And I’m suddenly glad so few of you know where I live!) No need for a slice of every pie that’s on the table.  And when I say slice, I mean a regular, modest slice.  And if you don’t cut the pie, it doesn’t mean the entire pie is now a slice. (I know your way of thinking because I have considered it myself!) So take one dessert and eat it slower. You’ll enjoy it more.

Rule #5: Don’t Drink Your Calories
Though this is an everyday rule of mine, it appears to be difficult for my clients to lay off the booze, especially during the holidays. Many of you may want to nuzzle the spiked eggnog for the next month or so to come. Don’t! Alcohol contains a lot of empty calories and it slows down your metabolism. However, for those who can’t resist, I compromise by advising that when drinking, you should limit yourself to one drink. So if you must, make it a heart-healthy glass of red wine instead of the calorie-laden eggnog.

By following these rules, my average client continues to lose weight during the holiday season. Don’t let the winter weight gain become a reality for you.  Instead of gaining a few extra pounds…gain a new fitness perspective!

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