With the cold weather and tempting comfort food, it’s no surprise we each put on an average of 4lb in October. We ask the experts for their tips on staying healthy and keeping the weight off this winter.
1. Forward plan
“Prep your meals. As the days start getting colder, we rely more and more on warm, comforting foods, which can be very calorie dense. Your body’s extremely good at regulating its temperature, so next time you think you need a takeaway curry to ‘warm up’, think again. Stock up on seasonal veg and have your meals in place for each day to keep you on track.”
Jordan Shelley, Virgin Active Personal Trainer
2. Try an app
“So many people turn to eating when they’re stressed, bored or anxious – and all those extra calories can add up,” says health psychology expert Dr Jacqueline Blisset.
If you’re craving for comfort foods gets out of hand during the colder months, the Comfort Eater Beater app might help. Designed with Dr Blisset, the app asks you to first complete a mood questionnaire to help identify the reason for craving certain foods, then gives you targeted tips. Every time you crave something unhealthy, you can check in for motivating advice.
“We’ve designed this app to get people thinking about how they’re using food to deal with their emotions and to try to suggest simple alternatives that may get people through those moments when a chocolate biscuit seems irresistible.”
3. Take responsibility
“The barrage of delicious yet unhealthy options in the run-up to Christmas is hard to avoid, but if you take responsibility you’ll be amazed what a difference it makes.
“Don’t really want another mince pie? Don’t feel obliged to take one. Not in the mood for midweek drinks? Don’t give in to the pressure. Be vigilant and use a calorie counting app to log everything you eat and drink – it will be an eye-opener and ensure you only eat the treats you genuinely want.”
4. Embrace the great outdoors
“As the days get shorter and darker, our serotonin levels fall. Serotonin regulates mood and appetite, so not only do we tend to feel a bit low, but we also crave carbohydrates and stodgier foods. Getting out into as much winter sunshine as possible helps serotonin levels to rise and can help to stop those cravings.”
5. Try fasting
“I recommend trying a form of intermittent fasting called 16:8. This means widening the gap between meals to allow your body to tap into fat reserves more easily (16 and 8 refer to the hours of fasting and non-fasting within a day).
“For example, finish dinner at 8pm and don’t eat again until 12 noon the next day. As is always the case, there’s still a degree of common sense required. Simply cramming as many calories as possible into those eight hours won’t work.
“In my clinic I recommend following 16/8 for six days a week, then taking a break on a Sunday. I find the average fat loss is around 2lb a week, often more.
“Ideally keep any performance workouts until after you’ve eaten. Training when you’ve fasted is great for fat loss but ensure workouts are shorter.”
6. Head for the sun
“Book a beach holiday. Knowing you’ll be on a beach in your swimwear in the next few months will definitely give you the motivation to stay in shape over the winter. You’ll be more likely to keep up your gym routine and avoid the Yorkshire puddings when you have a holiday as your incentive.
“If a holiday’s not in budget, don’t turn the heating up too high at home. If it’s as hot as the Caribbean, you’ll be more inclined to flop on the sofa and watch back-to-back Netflix.
“If it’s a little chillier, you’ll need to move around more to keep warm. Plus, our metabolism works harder when we’re colder, so you’ll burn more calories at rest. You’ll also save on the heating bill. Win-win!”
7. Eat mindfully
“Try to eat only when you’re hungry, not by the clock. Give yourself a mental stop sign, which you can use anytime you’re tempted to overeat – this might be imagining yourself at a healthy weight and focusing on how happy this will make you feel.”
Need help to kickstart your healthier regime? Here are five comforting dishes under 500 calories to cook this week.