8 sim­ple ways to avoid win­ter weight gain

Sofa snack­ing, cold weather com­fort eat­ing and fes­tive fod­der can all pile on the pounds. HAN­NAH BRITT asks the ex­perts for their tips on stay­ing healthy

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It’s easy to use Christ­mas as an ex­cuse to crack open an­other bot­tle. But al­co­hol is full of calo­ries – es­pe­cially the sweet liqueurs and creams that are pop­u­lar at this time of year.

“Al­co­hol is around seven calo­ries per gram which is al­most as much as fat,” says Lily Sout­ter, nutri­tion­ist at Heath & Heather.

“A large glass of wine is around 214 calo­ries. And Christ­mas cock­tails can be ex­tremely high in sugar – of­ten com­ing in at hun­dreds of calo­ries per drink.”

Lily sug­gests a sin­gle mea­sure of spirit with a sugar-free mixer such as tonic wa­ter or a squeeze of lemon or lime. A vodka, soda and lime con­tains around 108 calo­ries.

“Or ask for tonic wa­ter and add it to your wine to make a spritzer. This will di­lute the al­co­hol con­tent and help you con­sume less,” she says.


Dark win­ter days can knock your body clock out of sync, mak­ing you feel groggy and dis­turb­ing your sleep.

“Nat­u­ral light lev­els are low in win­ter and ar­ti­fi­cial light doesn’t help,” says Dr Sally Nor­ton, health and weight loss con­sul­tant sur­geon (vav­istal­ife.com).

“Poor sleep can make the body pro­duce higher lev­els of the stress hor­mone cor­ti­sol. It can also in­crease ap­petite and crav­ings for high-fat and high-sugar foods.

“Tackle this by getting out­doors when­ever you can and re-set your body clock with nat­u­ral light.”

Dr Meg Ar­roll, psy­chol­o­gist at Healthspan and au­thor of The Shrinkol­ogy So­lu­tion, agrees.

“Lack of nat­u­ral light dur­ing win­ter can lead to symp­toms of sea­sonal af­fec­tive dis­or­der (SAD), in­clud­ing low mood.

“This can make you com­fort eat stodgy food. To pre­vent this, spend time out­doors – even if the weather is a bit grim.”


It’s tempt­ing to avoid cook­ing in favour of a take­away on the sofa. “These can be high in sat­u­rated fat, salt and sugar,” says Vic­to­ria Tay­lor, se­nior di­eti­tian at the British Heart Foun­da­tion (BHF). Some of your fast food favourites are easy to make at home and are quicker to pre­pare than the time it takes for a take­away to ar­rive. The BHF web­site has recipes for some of the na­tion’s favourite meals, whether that’s pizza, curry, burg­ers or Chi­nese. Visit bhf.org.uk/recipefinder “Cook­ing more at home can help you take charge of what you’re eat­ing and mon­i­tor what goes into your food,” adds Dr Soren Carstens, head of clin­i­cal op­er­a­tions at Bupa Global. “You’ll eat fewer calo­ries and avoid chem­i­cal ad­di­tives found in pack­aged and take­away foods.”


Us­ing mo­biles or watch­ing TV when eat­ing is a big con­trib­u­tor to the UK’s obe­sity prob­lem, ac­cord­ing to a lead­ing weight-man­age­ment ex­pert. Dr Aria Campbell-Danesh, a psy­chol­o­gist and mind­ful­ness ex­pert who spe­cialises in weight-re­lated is­sues (dr-aria. com), says that fo­cus­ing on other ac­tiv­i­ties while eat­ing a meal means the brain can’t reg­is­ter how much you’re con­sum­ing.

Now he’s call­ing for peo­ple to turn off their TV, leave their phones alone and con­cen­trate on what’s on their plates.

“It’s easy to fall into the habit of play­ing with your phone while you eat, sit­ting in front of the TV with your din­ner on your lap while you watch your favourite pro­gramme,” he says. “How­ever dis­trac­tions like this di­vert your attention so the brain is un­able to reg­is­ter how much you’ve eaten.”


It’s easy to as­sume you only get de­hy­drated in the sum­mer but it can be a com­mon prob­lem in win­ter too. “Peo­ple can feel too cold to drink enough wa­ter in the win­ter and cen­tral heat­ing can cre­ate a dry at­mos­phere.

“Of­ten when we are de­hy­drated, we mis­take it for hunger. Rather than reach­ing for a snack, try drink­ing a cup of herbal tea and wait for 20 min­utes,” says Chloe Cun­ning­ham of the Health Is Wealth Group (health­iswealth­group.com).

Go for a steam­ing mug of green tea and it could boost your weight loss fur­ther.

Di­eti­tian Laura Coster says: “Stud­ies show drink­ing green tea can in­crease me­tab­o­lism. This is thought to be due to the com­bi­na­tion of caf­feine and cat­e­chin com­pounds found in green tea that help you to burn calo­ries more quickly.”


It’s easy to over-eat at Christ­mas but this is even more the case when you’re faced with a party buf­fet. Of­ten laden with deep-fried high-fat snacks, it may seem im­pos­si­ble to eat healthily.

Di­eti­tian Juli­ette Kel­low rec­om­mends foods rich in pro­tein, such as fish, eggs, lean meat and nuts. “Pro­tein will make you feel fuller for longer, while snack­ing on al­monds or veg­etable cru­dites re­quires you to chew.

“This is im­por­tant be­cause chew­ing sends mes­sages to the brain that help us recog­nise when we’re start­ing to feel sat­is­fied, so we stop eat­ing,” she says.

Car­ry­ing a bag can also stop you reach­ing for treats. “In­vest in a clutch bag and make sure it’s so bulky you have to hold it in your hand rather than un­der your arm. You will have only one free hand and if it’s hold­ing a drink you can’t pick at food,” says Juli­ette.


Tra­di­tion­ally, bit­ters are used as a tonic to help im­prove di­ges­tion af­ter meals. And some re­search sug­gests they could help reg­u­late hunger and re­duce crav­ings too.

“This is be­cause they not only mod­er­ate hunger but reg­u­late blood sugar as well,” says nutri­tion­ist Rick Hay (rick­hay.co.uk).

“They also aid fat me­tab­o­lism, which makes them a good choice to help with weight-loss.”

Bit­ter foods are es­pe­cially use­ful at this time of year as they help coun­ter­act the sweet foods we con­sume. So try some­thing a lit­tle bit­ter such as dan­de­lion tea, black cof­fee or chicory.


WIN­TER just seems to make you gain weight. From cosy nights in scoff­ing Qual­ity Street to boozy fes­tive par­ties and stodgy com­fort food, it’s easy to see why the av­er­age UK adult puts on 4lb at this time of year.Af­ter all, who wants to eat a salad and go for a run when it’s cold and dark out­side?“It is very easy in win­ter months to eat more than you usu­ally would,” says Ka­jsa Ernes­tam, di­eti­tian at health app Life­sum.“Win­ter means Christ­mas par­ties which can lead to weight gain and dur­ing the colder months we tend not to move as much as the rest of the year.”Thank­fully a few sim­ple changes are all it takes to make sure you stay on track.WAKE UP AND WORK­OUTWhen the evenings are dark and gloomy it can be very hard to mo­ti­vate your­self to ex­er­cise.The an­swer? Get it over and done with in the morn­ing.“Getting up an hour or two ear­lier than usual to ex­er­cise will be hard at first. But make time for it and you’ll be­gin each day buzzing with feel-good en­dor­phins which will boost your pro­duc­tiv­ity and mood,” says Tom Clemin­son, trainer at Core Col­lec­tive and Trans­for­ma­tion.“Start­ing the day with a work­out also helps set your in­ten­tion, re­duc­ing the chance of you mak­ing naughty food choices later in the day.“This will lower your calo­rie in­take, help­ing you lose weight.”

SCALE MODEL: Avoid a fright this win­ter by mod­er­at­ing your food in­take

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