With the colder weather fast approaching, it’s possible you’re thinking about signing off on your diet until spring.
But while there’s plenty of temptation to indulge in rich and heavy food, doing this could derail your health plans and see you put on unwanted weight.
Speaking to FEMAIL, dietitian Susie Burrell said although weight gain during winter was common, the problem was losing it took a lot more effort.
‘The research shows we don’t lose the weight we gain over this period (autumn/winter). While we might lose a little, we don’t lose it all and this translates into gradual weight gain as we get older.’
Susie shared her tips for planning your meals to avoid weight gain and the wintry foods that won’t stack on the kilos.
Australian dietitian Susie Burrell says weight gain during winter is common, but the main problem is that losing it takes a lot more effort during colder months
1. Don’t think of winter as a free for all
Once it starts to get chilly, the temptation to eat comfort food rises.
In our ancestors’ time, the winter months were associated with famine. One theory is that we’re genetically programmed to increase fat stores to help us survive.
However, the problem is that we no longer need to store fat because we have an abundance of food available all year round.
‘The problem is we give ourselves permission psychologically to eat what we want and gain weight because we’re in hibernation mode,’ she said.
In our ancestors’ time, the winter months were associated with famine. One theory is that we’re genetically programmed to increase fat stores to help us survive (stock image)
Susie said people tend to turn towards ‘fat-heavy and stodgy foods’ during winter for warmth and comfort but too much of it could tip the scales:
‘It’s the daily eating behaviours that cause the problems, she said.
‘People are at home more and allowing themselves extra treats in front of the TV. And on top of that people are ordering in more, using meal delivery services.
‘And once you are doing that, you aren’t making healthy choices and you are giving yourself permission to have foods you wouldn’t normally have and these are double the number of calories of meals you would normally prepare for yourself.’
2. Winter foods that will help rather than hinder
At this time of year, your diet will change and it’s expected you will want to eat soups, roasted foods and even baked desserts, the dietitian said.
The change in season doesn’t mean you need to avoid these foods, instead, Susie said to think about how you can create a focus on food that supports weight control.
She explained the problem was that on top of baked foods, people usually wanted to add extras, and it was this that lead to weight gain.
Her recommendation was to make sure sauces, gravies, cream and custard are kept to a minimum -at most these treats should be limited to only once a week and to keep meals focused around healthy options.
3. Keep up a regular training regime
It can be really difficult to find the motivation to train during winter – there’s little reason given you’re covered in layers of clothing for the most part.
And while this reasoning holds, it’s also worth remembering your metabolism can start to slow in the colder weather which means you may not be burning fat at the same rate as you would during summer.
Your metabolism can start to slow in the colder weather which means you may not be burning fat at the same rate as you would during summer (stock image)
Susie recommends exercising no matter what and trying to do this as regularly as three times a week for at least 45 minutes a time.
‘This is the time of year find an exercise routine you like and commit to doing it.
‘If you need added motivation, join a group and train with others. This will become a social occasion and help keep you on track.’
4. Take some time to properly plan meals
While winter can feel like one of those times you want to wing it, and let yourself choose meals dictated by what you desire, meal planning is proven to help you stay the course, Susie said.
‘Planning is the key to dietary success yet when we are busy it is the planning aspect of our meals that tend to fall by the wayside.’
She said if you start the week knowing what you are going to have for dinner four nights then you’re more likely to stay with a healthy eating plan.
‘If you don’t (plan) you could end up being lured by quick and easy options.’
5. Set some clear goals
The expert said rather than seeing winter as a time where weight loss is inevitable, set yourself the challenge of creating, and achieving, some positive health goals.
‘Experience has shown that it is not knowledge or motivation that determines those who achieve their weight loss goals and those who do not.’
‘Outcomes are significantly more likely when goals are set.
The expert said rather than seeing winter as a time where weight loss is inevitable, set yourself the challenge of creating, and achieving some positive health goals (stock image)
‘You might want to set a goal of preparing four meals a week, or getting to the gym twice a week, or only eating dessert once a week – it’s about finding and developing a habit that makes weight control easier.’
Susie said while winter does pose some limitations, this shouldn’t affect your commitment and ability to work around these.
‘This means no skipping training sessions, or eating more, rather seeing winter as a time to create an opportunity to do more, eat better and take control.’