Winter is synonymous with less exercise and more food. Consuming more comfort foods, participating in fewer outdoor activities, and generally spending more inactive time indoors are major contributors to winter weight gain.
This combination of factors tends to have a devastating impact on our waistlines, but there is no reason why you can’t maintain a sleek physique throughout the colder months.
We asked some of South Africa’s most respected fitness professionals and influencers for their top tips to avoid the winter gain this season.
Smart food swaps
“We tend to want to eat more in winter and often reach for comfort foods. The key to keeping weight gain in check for me is preparation and better-for-you food swaps mixed with balance!”
Andene recommends following an eating plan that you can trust or working with a professional for expert guidance.
“This way, you understand how much you need to eat and get recipe inspo as well! Whether you are craving pasta, soup, pizza or perhaps something sweet, there are so many amazing better-for-you recipes and products to choose from. Opting for these meals means you can achieve your goals and also satisfy those comfort food cravings!”
“The most important lesson I’ve learnt over the years is how bad sugar, processed foods and manufactured fats are for your body, which are all ingredients commonly used in most cooking and baking recipes.”
Laura replaces these ingredients with good, natural, organic alternatives wherever possible.
“My entire philosophy on healthful eating hinges on the idea that the food you eat should be as close to nature as possible – if you can pick it, chase it down or catch it, then you know how it was made, and it will nourish your body.”
Now, when Laura craves something specific, she makes it but substitutes the less healthy ingredients with better ones.
“I’ve made real disasters along the way – many dishes were completely inedible – but through lots of experimentation and trial and error, I eventually landed up with healthy variants of popular recipes that are just as tasty.”
Count those calories
“It is something that all of us have personally experienced at one point or another. Whatever the reasons behind the phenomenon, I navigate my way through winter by not depriving myself because, nine times out of 10, deprivation leads to binging!”
Katy’s advice is to eat whatever you crave, just not all of it!
“Chances are, if you crave something, nothing will satisfy you but that specific thing. So, instead of eating a meal you don’t want and still end up eating the thing you crave, save yourself the calories and just eat the treat to begin with.”
The key to this approach is working the indulgence into your daily calorie intake.
“When satisfying those winter comfort food cravings, we often pretend we didn’t eat it. We go into denial and eat in secret. In doing so, we often don’t log those calories. It’s okay to eat that chocolate to satisfy your craving, but just make sure to include it in your daily intake.”
If you plan your daily calorie intake correctly, you’ll know how that indulgence impacts your diet and can adjust accordingly.
“This planning lets you include a little treat here and there while keeping within your calorie count for the day.”
READ MORE | The fitness fanatic’s winter survival guide
Find the balance
“Prioritise the meal in front of you. This means eating your protein and vegetables first and carbohydrates last. Applying this advice ensures you fill up on the most important and essential nutrients first, leaving less space for all those carbohydrates. It also allows sufficient time for your stomach to signal your brain that it’s full, which will minimise overeating.”
And the combination of lower activity levels in winter and an overconsumption of calories tends to make this equation even more unbalanced.
“I always aim to prioritise nutrient-dense whole foods and keep the treats to a minimum. Whether I grab lunch with friends or enjoy dinner with family, I fill half my plate with a variety of vegetables and fill the rest remainder with a moderate amount of protein and carbohydrates.”
People also tend to drink less water in winter, and thirst can sometimes feel like hunger pangs.
“Ensure you stay well-hydrated with water, or a suitable drink. I use Evox Alpha Amino Elite to manage my hunger pangs and avoid mistaking thirst for food cravings.”
An exercise boost
The other part of the equation relates to burning sufficient calories.
“When it’s chilly outside, the last thing I want to do is lace up my jogging shoes for some early morning cardio on an empty stomach. But I never let winter stop me from being active!”
Instead, Mickael moves his evening weight session to the morning to get his daily training done.
“If you still struggle for motivation, find a gym buddy who can hold you accountable, and will encourage and motivate you to push through winter.”
Ultimately, though, these principles can help you stick to your weight-loss goals all year long.
READ MORE | Avoid the winter workout rut
“After all, healthy choices aren’t seasonal. They’re habits you build every day, and today is a great day to start,” suggests Mickael.
Armed with these tips, there is no reason why you cannot enjoy an energised and healthy winter season. Remaining disciplined and mindful of your fitness goals and the way you eat will ensure that you step into summer looking sleek and feeling fantastic.