As the days are getting shorter and the nights longer and colder, our bellies seem to grow larger and softer. We all have had the luxury to experience this very unwelcome phenomenon of gaining unsightly weight during those colder winter months at some stage throughout our lives. But does it really have to be like this or is there a way around those extra kilos scaring us off our scales in the darker months of the year?
Hell yes. Of course, there is. Food is no longer scarce as it might have been for our ancestors when winter strikes, it is plentiful available everywhere all year round – I would even argue too plentiful -, so there is definitely no need for us to accumulate some extra fat around the middle which gets us through the winter famine.
Here are my 4 easy steps you too can easily take to get through those dreaded months without putting some extra flab on:
I believe one of our biggest obstacles we must overcome in winter is our tendency to be more inactive. When it is dark and freezing outside, it seems so much harder to convince yourself that this morning run, walking to work or taking the bike for quick errands, was actually such a good idea. Instead we fall in love with the snooze buttons on our alarm clocks, our TVs have never glanced at us more invitingly and our sofa becomes the most comforting place on earth. However, going into this hibernating state of not moving your precious body comes at the high price: Low energy levels, a massive decline in happy vibes, increased moodiness and loss of some of your gorgeous muscle tone, you had worked so hard for during those cheerfully active summer months.
Since we do not like feeling unhappy and low, in a desperate attempt to make those endorphins surge again, we then take to comforting foods full of refined sugar, salt and unhealthy fats to fill the happy gap. When we choose to nurture our beautiful physical selves with movement however, we are more inclined to also nourish our bodies with more wholesome foods and our beaming, joyful hormones make us more resilient against those less than optimal food choices.
So instead of cuddling up with your favourite blanket and continuously pressing the snooze button, simply do it anyway: equip yourself with the right winter clothing, get a gym membership, or try out hot yoga…your options are endless…but whatever you do, make sure you keep moving.
2.Get outside and eat more fatty fish
Some research suggests that low Vitamin D levels are linked to an increase in fat storage and a reduction of fat metabolism. Yuk. Unfortunately, often in winter our levels of the sunshine vitamin drop. With the sun rising later and sinking earlier, and our bodies being wrapped up in warm clothing from head to toe, it seems harder to fit your healthy shot of sunshine exposure into your busy day. As mentioned before, often this is also due to our own choices since we tend to mutate into all too lazy home bodies.
So, to avoid this fat trap, be sure you plan at least 20-minute of adequate and healthful sun exposure into your day. How about a power walk in your lunch break to fill up your Vitamin D levels, boost your immunity, and raise some sexy, happy hormones – all of this for free.
Another way to give your low running Vitamin D levels a gentle notch is to up your fatty fish consumption; mackerel, salmon and sardines are all fabulous sources of this bone strengthening and fat metabolising vitamin. Other foods to include on your delicious, Vitamin D-rich winter shopping-list are free-range eggs and hearty mushrooms.
3.Stick with nourishing wholefoods
It seems that when the cold of winter strikes, many people feel at a loss of how to keep eating well. Nurturing your gorgeous self with lots of rejuvenating greens, beautifying fruits and other wholesome foods, seems so much easier with summery healthful salads and delicious rainbow smoothies. So how can you keep your healthy up when those temperatures drop and you no longer feel like eating cold foods? How about cooking up a delicious green storm and fitting as many vegetables as possible into your warm soups, stews or making warm salads with oven-roasted goodness. Replace your cold bowls and smoothies with heart- warming porridges, spicy refined sugar-and grain-free hot cakes or soul-nurturing sourdough bread with avocado, egg and spinach.
Another big fatty winter downfall we all too often succumb to are our cravings for comfort foods. As mentioned above these are often linked with increased inactivity but also are also due to the fact that our bodies want to be nurtured with rich foods that warm up our cold bodies. There is nothing wrong with wanting foods that make us feel good and supply us with heat…but there is everything wrong with misinterpreting our bodies wants and needs: feeding our bodies foods that are low in nutrients and high in toxins, sugar, calories, unhealthy fats, and preservatives is definitely not going to help make yourself feel truly good.
So, next time you feel the urge to give in to one of your favourite, not so healthy winter-foods, why don’t you re-create your desired hot-chocolate, winter pudding or stew with healthful wholefoods? Your body will love and exactly know what to do with raw cacao powder, warming spices, roasted vegetables, beautifully-coloured curries and creamy soups that are filled with greens. Chances are your body will not store any of those as fat on your belly or thighs but rather use all those gorgeous nutrients to support your processes of rejuvenation and recovery.
4.Nurture healthy sleep cycles
Unfortunately, those darker, frostier mornings and evenings can impact on our natural biological clock to which we often adapt by feeling more tired and less energetic. More melatonin is released into our bloodstreams and we might feel like we are needing extra sleep now or as though we are not getting enough, which then might interfere with our sleep rhythms. Messed up sleep cycles however, often mean that our appetite hormones are triggered and our chemicals that signal satiety are reduced. Not very helpful when you are trying not to eat more than you would do in summer.
To avoid a winter with an overly stimulated appetite, be extra mindful of fostering a healthy sleep hygiene. Try going to bed and rising always around the same time and aim for 8 hours of good quality sleep. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet and remember that electronics are banned from your peaceful haven of rest and relaxation. Practice some breathing exercises or mindfulness just before you are ready to drift off into your favourite dream-world.
If you are getting your eight hours of sound sleep but are still feeling tired, your body is probably wanting movement to feel more energised and not additional sleep. So, set your alarm to when you would usually rise and give the delayed sun some shine-support by putting on your exercise spark as you go for an early power walk, gentle run or are doing your favourite morning yoga asanas on your veranda.
So, this winter surprise yourself and everyone around you with a slim waist line, great energy, and lots of positive vibes! After all, nurturing your body with copious amounts of green seasonal goodness, energising-feel-good movement and sound healing deep sleep that re-balances you inside and out, should be something we smother ourselves with all year round – not only in summer. Gloomy, chilly weather or not…you now have totally got this: give your gorgeous physical, mental and emotional self exactly what it deserves to feel at its total winter best!