In the days of our ancestors a winter hibernation may have been a survival today this is no longer the case. You do need to eat differently in winter, and you do need to take the weather into account for any outdoor activities, but this doesn't have to equal weight gain. Follow these six basic rules to avoid winter weight gain.
Don't live in stretchy clothesThey might feel comfortable, but they allow you to bury your head in the sand. There is nothing like feeling that your pants are a little tight to make you do something about it. It's much easier to take action when you've only gained a kilo or two.
The National Weight Loss Registry in the US, which tracks the habits of those who have successfully lost a significant amount of weight and kept it off for at least a year, shows that monitoring your body is important. This doesn't have to mean weighing yourself. The fit of tailored clothing does the job just as well. So dig out your skinny jeans or fitted skirt, and pay attention when things get tight.
Soup upSoup made the right way is perfect winter fuel. It fills you up but is also low on kilojoules, provided you steer away from creamy, buttery versions. There are some good ready-made soups on the market, but why not make your own? You get exactly the ingredients you want, you can keep the salt down and boost the protein to make a complete meal.
It costs less to make and almost always tastes better. You can use a bought stock, but look for one that is reduced salt. Then all you need to do is add a host of vegies, a wholegrain such as barley or a legume (chickpeas, beans or lentils) and, for an added protein boost, chicken or lean meat.
Make a big batch and freeze it in individual portions and then you always have a quick, nourishing meal on hand. The best bought soups are those in Tetra packs or from the chilled section. Look for one with the lowest salt content (less than 120 milligrams of sodium per 100 grams).
Get spicySpices used in curries and many Asian dishes do more than add flavour. They are rich in antioxidants, have anti-bacterial qualities that fight winter bugs and may even boost fat burning. The fiery taste of chilli comes from a natural chemical, capsaicin, that fires up your metabolism, albeit only slightly.
Takeaway curries can be hit and miss nutritionally: ghee floating on top, fatty meats and lots of added cream will add to your waistline. The best choices are those that have lots of vegies, legumes such as chickpeas and tandoori-style preparation. The healthiest curries are homemade. You can use bought paste and control the amount of oil and type of meat or fish you use and add several vegies. When you do have more time, nothing beats a curry made from scratch. Give it a go one rainy Sunday afternoon.
Walk it offStop using the weather as an excuse not to get out and walk. If it's pouring with rain, you're excused. On all other days, get your shoes on and head out the door. Some of us spend as many as eight hours a day sitting and then wonder why we are gaining weight. Back and gut problems are also common from too much sitting. A pedometer helps record how many steps you average per day. Aim to add 30 per cent for the next two weeks. Keep increasing until you hit 10,000 steps a day.
Boost the burnWhile there is still much debate about how much exercise we have to do to control our weight, one thing is certain: most of us are not doing enough. If winter sees you heading home most days for a cosy night in watching TV and eating snacks, you'll inevitably stack on the kilos. Walking is a great start, but if you really want to boost your energy you need to get more serious about exercise. The International Association for the Study of Obesity says our hunter-gatherer ancestors expended about a third of their energy intake on exercise.
On average, today we expend only about a seventh of our kilojoule intake on exercise. To increase this to match that of our ancestors, the average woman would have to burn an extra 1500 kilojoules a day. That's the equivalent of two hours of housework, an hour-and-a-half of gardening, an hour-long aerobics class or half an hour of good-pace running. You might not be able to do this every day, but think about ways you can get more intense exercise into your week. The more you move, the easier weight control will be.
Set a goalWithout goals it's easy to drift along intending to change, but never actually getting around to doing it. Try to set a goal for where you want to be next summer. Set yourself a goal for the end of September. Then set monthly goals to pace yourself and ensure you reach the big goal. Finally, set weekly goals that are not based on weight or measurements, but are about what you are going to do that week to ensure you are on track to meet the monthly goal.