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
BAN THE BOOZE
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.
LIGHT UP YOUR LIFE
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.”
HAVE A FAKEAWAY
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.”
SWITCH OFF YOUR PHONE
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.”
TIME TO GO GREEN
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.”
BEWARE THE BUFFET
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.
EMBRACE THE BITTER END
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