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Come Out of Hibernation: 11 Tips to Actually Lose Weight This Winter

Trying to maintain your healthy weight or lose a few pounds during the winter season? Come out from under those bulky sweaters. Read on to learn what fitness and nutrition experts have to say about preventing winter weight gain.

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The scoop about winter weight gain

‘Tis the season for enjoying delicious food, getting together with family, and—based on a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)—gaining winter weight. According to the research, Americans who participated in a study were found to experience a 0.4 percent weight gain within 10 days of Christmas day. While that may not seem incredibly alarming, consider that the CDC notes that nearly 38 percent of American adults are already obese. Add to this the fact that the NEJM study also found that during Thanksgiving, American participants gained 0.2 percent weight. Here are tips from nutritionists and fitness experts on how you can achieve winter weight loss.

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Make lemon water your friend

Tommy Rickard, owner and personal trainer at Studio 151 Fitness in Laconia, New Hampshire, swears by lemon water. “Drink it as soon as you wake up,” he says. Think of it as a healthy drink that kick-starts your entire body and sets the pace for the rest of your day. Love lemons? Take a look at this list of the many ways you can use lemons around the house.

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Resist the urge to overindulge…

How to lose weight in the winter? Fight the urge to eat thirds and seconds, no matter how tempting that peanut brittle may be. Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, New Jersey, says that it’s important to not lose yourself in the season’s high-calorie treats and fattening meals. “You already know what the foods at holiday gatherings taste like,” she says. To resist the urge to dig in, she recommends having only a few bites (rather than the entire slice of pie or heaping pile of mashed potatoes). Subsequent tastes of something can become boring since they’re not as tasty as that first or second bite. In other words, no need for that fifth chocolate truffle!

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…But make sure you eat

Thinking of eating like a bird all day in order to save room in your belly for holiday meals or that decadent New Year’s cake a co-worker promised to bring in? Do yourself a favor and avoid that “calorie-saving” mentality. “The worst mistake people can make during the holidays is skipping entire meals or eating only celery sticks all day in order to save room for a huge evening meal,” Rickard explains. “This actually slows your metabolism.” Instead, he suggests eating healthy foods throughout the day to give your body the ongoing fuel it needs to function optimally. This is what a perfect day of eating before a holiday party looks like.

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Don’t use all the suggested ingredients in a recipe

You’ve probably heard of those suggestions about what foods to swap out in place of healthier options. The same idea applies during the colder months, too, and will help with winter weight loss. Rickard says it’s best to make smart baking decisions that involve replacing butters and heavy creams with healthier foods like applesauce or almond milk. Cooking in this manner is a win-win. You’ll shave calories and eat healthier foods without sacrificing much on flavor or food texture. Check out this list for more healthy ingredient swap suggestions.

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Double up your cooking

Save time while helping your waistline with Gorin’s suggestion to double up on your cooking. “This is one of the easiest ways to get a healthy, home-cooked lunch ready to go for tomorrow: Just double up your dinner recipe. This could be a salad or a stir-fry with tofu and brown rice,” Gorin suggests. “If you make something like a casserole with bean pasta, that will last several meals. Pair it with a veggie side. If you get tired of it, freeze the extra portions—you’ll want them in a few weeks.”

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Keep an eye on the clock

It’s not uncommon for winter parties that start at noon to linger until 4 pm. Before you know it, 4 becomes 6 p.m. then 6 becomes 8… you see where this is going. Rickard says it’s critical to keep your eye on the time if you want to prevent winter weight gain. Make the decision to cut your eating and drinking habits back after a set hour, ideally around 6 pm. “Switch to lemon water and scale your food intake back as the evening goes on,” he says. “It’s never a good idea to have food sitting in your stomach as you head into the evening hours.”

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Bring a healthy dish to winter gatherings

The winter season is filled with parties galore, but Gorin says that doesn’t mean you have to give in to foods that can wreak havoc on your waistline. Don’t let gatherings be an excuse to sample every food under the sun. “Control what you eat,” she advises. “If you’re going to a holiday party, bring a healthy dessert, like a fruit salad.”

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Scope out the menu or buffet first

Heading to a winter function at a restaurant? If possible, check out the menu beforehand. Most places today list their menu online, so there’s no excuse to get caught up in the moment where you’ll end up choosing sweet glazes over salads. If you’re faced with a buffet setting, Gorin says to scan the food selection first. This way, you’re not tempted to fill your plate only with deep-fried or sugary choices as you walk along the rows of food. While you don’t want to deprive yourself, you still want to make sure you select mostly lower-calorie options like crudité or fruit. Check out these other tips to beat belly bloat during the holidays.

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Exercise at home

Too cold, snowy, or stuffed with Grandma’s apple pie to head to the gym or hit an outdoor walking trail? There’s no reason not to exercise at home. Rickard suggests engaging in about 20 minutes of cardio, ideally after you’ve started your day drinking lemon water. Exercises could include jumping jacks and squats. He says that doing a circuit of three or four rounds of cardio can help you keep winter weight—or weight gain during any time of the year—at bay. Try this 10-minute ab workout you can do every day.

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Keep healthy snacks in your purse

Why reach for another piece of peppermint bark when you can easily grab a figure-friendly option that’s right in your pocketbook? Gorin says that keeping healthy snacks right near you is best, especially when you get “hangry.” She says that 100-calorie pack pistachios are her go-to choice, as are fruit and nut bars that are packed with fiber and protein. Such snacks keep your weight in check while also holding you over until the next meal. Consider this list of 31 healthy snacks for adults.

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Take fitness classes

Think you’re way too stressed, busy, and stuffed to meet with a personal trainer or take fitness classes? Rickard says that’s precisely the reason you should get involved with a fitness routine this season. “Don’t let the stress of winter prevent you from doing that,” he says. “You’ll have more energy when you invest in yourself first. You’ll feel less stressed, happier, and more positive when you start, and stick with, a fitness regimen.” Thinking of hitting the gym? Don’t make these post-exercise mistakes!

Originally Published in Reader's Digest