4 Reasons It's Harder to Lose Weight in Winter—and What You Need to Do Differently
A health coach serves up tips for dealing with frigid temps, comfort food cravings, and more.
There's no question it's easier to make healthy choices in spring and summer: There's an abundance of produce in season. The sun is shining, the days are long—and you feel naturally motivated to head outdoors and get active! But come the cold, harsh months of winter, eating clean and slimming down can seem a whole lot more challenging. Read on for a few common weight-loss hurdles that pop up when the temperature drops, plus experts tips on how to dodge them.
Temptation is everywhere
Hot chocolate, creamy soups, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese—'tis the season for comfort foods, which can seem so unfair given you're doing your best to stay hyper-focused on what you "should" be eating. These circumstances can put you in a tough spot, says health and lifestyle coach Sheila Viers. If you're not careful, you may slip into the mindset that all indulgences are "bad," she explains—and once you start labeling your food choices as "good" and "bad," every decision becomes a loaded one.
Any time you stray from your rigid eating plan, you might experience guilt or shame, emotions that can trigger the body's stress response, says Viers. And stress only sets you up for more trouble: When you're not feeling your best, it's even harder to stay on track with your goals, she points out.
Instead of sweating over all the dietary "shoulds," try making food choices that are right for you. "Maybe you plan ahead," Viers suggests, so you are deciding in advance when you want to indulge (like at the Friday night potluck, for example). Or maybe you choose one small indulgence per day (say, a few squares of high-quality dark chocolate) to satisfy your sweet tooth. “The important thing is that the decision feels good to you.”
You're fighting the urge to hibernate
Between the snow and ice, and shorter, darker days, winter is enough to tank your motivation to exercise. Who wants to venture out into the freezing weather to go for a run, or to the gym when it's so cozy at home? Luckily, you don't have to leave your living room to get in a killer sweat sesh (promise). There are tons of great workout videos online. "You can put a couple together," says Viers, "or split them up, with 10 minutes before work and 10 minutes in the evening." Keeping up a fitness routine will help with more than weight loss, she adds. “The benefit of working out is that it gets oxygen to the cells,” says Viers. “This keeps your body working optimally, and keeps you energized."
You’re loading up on salt
If you're eating less fresh food in the winter months, you're probably eating more packaged and processed foods, which can be sneaky sources of sodium. Think canned veggies and soups, pasta, bread, chips and crackers—they can all cause you to retain water.
Even if you’re keeping your calorie intake in check, water weight can make you feel bloated and sluggish. Viers' advice: Hydrate as much as you can. "It really is the best way to get rid of that water weight," she says. Adding potassium-rich foods to your diet may help, too, because they regulate sodium levels in your body. Great sources include avocados, bananas, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and coconut water.
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Raw veggies seem so unappealing
Let’s face it: When you’re feeling cold, your belly isn't exactly rumbling for kale. You’re probably more inclined to opt for a savory lunch over a salad, right? Soups and stews are a great way to get vegetables too, you just have to choose wisely, says Viers. “A soup with a cream base is more likely to contain more calories, for example, so you can opt for broth-based soups." And if you're turned off by salad, try eating your veggies warm: Roasted sweet potatoes, peppers, parsnips, carrots, asparagus and Brussels sprouts are great as a side, thrown into soup, or even tossed over greens for a hunger-crushing meal.
Don't forget about warm fruits either. They can be a delicious and healthy winter treat. You can bake or roast peaches, pears, plums, or even cherries, and eat with a little drizzle of honey or cinnamon, or a dollop of whipped cream.