As the days become shorter and colder, and the impending snow and ice begin to freeze your motivation for staying fit and active, melt away those chilly thoughts by planning ahead and winter-proofing your fitness regime and waistline. Everyone has a unique set of individual and environmental factors that play a role in wellness, known as bio-individuality. Studies indicate that the average individual will gain two pounds of weight between the months of November and January, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but the issue here is that this weight isn’t lost, and an accumulation begins.
Our days become darker much earlier, and therefore our vitamin D levels are greatly impacted and reduced, which negatively affects the hormone leptin, responsible for proper regulation of metabolism and appetite, inducing a “winter metabolism” or an effect similar to metabolic syndrome. Seasonal Affective Disorder, a mood response similar to depression, is also commonplace during these darker months, which decreases the serotonin, or “feel good” chemical in our body, and increases our appetite for comfort foods that often contain sugary carbohydrates and fat. This can be a powerful response, as food affects the same circuitry in our brain as drugs!
Stress is also common during the winter, holiday months when there are more financial stresses, and family, friends, and work obligations. Studies indicate a rise in cortisol levels during this time of year, and too much cortisol in the body causes increases in belly fat, and stress clouds our focus and energy levels, leading to poor choices regarding sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
Finally, our immune systems can also be greatly impacted during this time of year, and illnesses such as the flu and cold run rampant. Catching an illness such as this not only derails your gym time and keeps you on the sidelines from those great winter activities that you enjoy, but these nasty little bugs increase the glucose receptors that are on your fat cells, increasing the fat cell’s size and number in your body!
Okay, so we have all the bad news here, so let’s create a preventative plan!!
Overwhelming scientific evidence illustrates that a positive mental environment is a primary factor in health and wellness. In those dark winter months, finding your sanctuary for wellness and health in a way that inspires and brings you a sense of happiness and calm is key for lasting weight loss success.
Work on getting your activities in during the brightest hours of the day to maximize energy and vitamin d production, which will also allow you to wind down faster in the evening, get a good’s night sleep, and in turn wake up earlier to maximize the sunlight.
Keep your diet filled with fibrous vegetables and lean protein choices to keep your blood sugar stable, which will also help to keep you from grabbing those comfort foods. Look for recipes that simulate your favorite, winter time meals but that have cleaner, wholesome ingredients. Stews and soups are great ways to stay full while getting all your key macronutrients (think protein, carbohydrates, and fats) in one meal that is warm and savory. Sipping on teas that contain lemon, ginger, and chamomile have both calming and anti-inflammatory benefits, helping you to ward off stress and keep illness at bay.
Keeping your Vitamin C and electrolyte levels replenished this time of year is also important and will keep your immune system humming right along and your body repairing and recovering properly from your sweat sessions.
Keeping an organized planner with all of your obligations, including work and family, slotted out, with time for exercise and relaxation is also important, and saying no to activities or favors that will overwhelm you or take away from your priorities is an important habit to learn this time of year also.
Finally, connect with others and engage in activities and hobbies that make you feel good. It’s easy to feel a bit isolated during, the darker, winter months, so make sure to surround yourself with people that have similar interests and values, and make you feel good about your healthy lifestyle choices.
Yours in health and fitness,