With the days getting colder, the nights feeling longer and the winter break fast approaching, it is a particularly difficult time to stay focused on training goals. As we all know so well, seeking comfort and warmth in social activities, meals out and drinking alcohol is very tempting to get you through the winter period in the UK!
So what can we do to prevent this weight gain over the festive holidays?
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study of adults showing that the average holiday weight gain was 0.37 kilograms (just under a pound), and more than half the people in the study stayed within a kilogram of their previous weigh-ins. Over the winter holidays, the types of foods being eaten can contribute to a higher scale weight. However this is more likely to be water weight than body fat in such a short timeframe. Eating more starchy foods (Christmas treats and sweets), and more salt than usual, results in water retention and bloating.
So is this weight gain expectation over the winter break nothing more than an illusion, or even an excuse to put on more weight? Are we really placing the blame on the winter holidays? If this is the case, perhaps it’s the motivation to continue our normal fitness routines that is the biggest threat to the overall amount of weight gain through this period…
So what can we do to tackle this lack of motivation, and what tactics can we deploy to stop any long term weight gain? Here’s a few to help you:
- One of the most important tactics is to keep exercising. More movement = higher daily calorie burn. Aim to keep a step target of 8k-10k minimum a day. This is a good start and there are plenty of apps that provide a sense of achievement and competitiveness amongst friends/family.
- If you are someone who prefers summer sports such as golf, running or cycling outdoors, aim to adapt this habit to a sport suited better to winter such as indoor swimming, indoor treadmill running or yoga etc. This way you can maintain your fitness and keep up sporting activities that are simply avoided and unlikely to happen on a cold winters day.
- Being realistic with your goals is a good start for the winter break. Weight maintenance is a good goal if you have a number of social occasions to plan for and family events that involve meals and drinking. Losing weight is challenging this time of year, but maintaining your weight can be done with the right mindset.
- Prepping for a social occasion is another good strategy. This can be done by monitoring calorie intake days leading up to the occasion. Perhaps saving calories on the day and getting back to your training routine in the days following it also. Many people find they lose control over their weight when they are frequently eating in a calorie surplus/ excess and not exercising after being derailed. This is easily done if you have 2-3 social occasions a week and no focus. If you have a big family dinner for example, have a protein shake for breakfast, a light lunch and save the majority of your calories for that big evening dinner.
- Stay hydrated! This can be especially challenging in the winter months when we are exposed to less vitamin d due to a lack of overall sunlight. It is important to drink plenty of water if you have social occasions that will include drinking alcohol – Remember drink in moderation!! Alcohol dehydrates the body, so fluid intake will help to prevent nasty hangovers, sluggish training sessions whilst also aiding a faster metabolism.
- Remember your new year goals! The winter break often goes fast, and before we know it January is upon us along with the new year resolutions. Try and make it as easy for yourself as possible to achieve your new year goals by being more cautious over the winter.
MOTIVATION TIP– Buy yourself a nice new winter coat to motivate you for outdoor scenic walks with friends/family. After a big meal, an after dinner walk in your new coat is much more appealing. Going for a light walk after a meal stimulates the metabolism and helps in burning calories. It will also help you to hit your step count plus speed up the digestion process, which can prevent problems like bloating.
Wishing you a happy winter and very successful new year!