Weight loss during the cold winter months, can be challenging for some people. Although there are no scientific evidence that cold temperatures cause weight gain, it certainly influences the eating behaviour of most people. Some studies do show that in general, people gain about 2 tot 3 kg weight during winter. The main reason for this is that we are less active during the winter months and we eat larger portions and comfort foods more often. Some people also feel more depressed in winter and rely on food to lift their mood.
The prevalence of overweight and obesity for South African women is about 69% and 39% for men. According to according to a survey conducted by the South African Medical Research Council (SAMRC), Statistics South Africa and the Department of Health, the Western Cape has the largest amount of overweight and obese population, when compared to the other provinces in South Africa. If this group gains further weight during winter, it increases the risk for non-communicable diseases like type 2 diabetes and hypertension.
To achieve weight loss, the amount of energy you consume, must be less than the amount of energy you use. This formula remains constant no matter what climate or season you find yourself in. The body’s physiological processes is not affected significantly by Winter.
Some people find it easier to exercise when it is cooler outside and uses this time to ensure that they look and feel good when summer arrives. Here are a few tips that may help you to lose weight during winter!
- Stay active or start and exercise program during winter
Exercise in winter is certainly easier than in summer and might be more enjoyable. You don’t necessarily have to exercise outside – especially not if it is already or still dark outside. There are many online exercise videos or programmes which makes it easy to exercise in the comfort of your own home. Exercising for at least 3 tot 4 days a week for at least 30 minutes, can assist you to lose weight in winter.
- Choose low GI carbohydrates
We easily eat more carbohydrates when we are cold or feel tired. Carbohydrates also stimulate the secretion of serotonin – the ‘feel good’ hormone. When choosing a carbohydrate food, choose those with a low glycemic index (GI). This type of carbohydrate is beneficial for satiety and cause a steady supply of energy. Examples include oats, brown rice and low GI breads.
- Watch your portions
It is easy to over eat when you feel cold. But it depends on what you over eat! An easy way to get it right, is to dish up the vegetable component if your plate first, before adding the rest of the meal components. Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables. One quarter should be filled with low GI or whole grain carbohydrates and one quarter should be filled with lean protein.
Vegetables are low in calories and high in fibre and fills your tummy to make you feel fuller after a meal. It also contains vitamins and minerals which supports your immune syste – especially in winter. Without vegetables, you will probably increase the amount of carbohydrates and protein you consume, thereby also increasing the amount of calories you eat.
Choose plain vegetables without creamy sauces. Or add some vegetables to soups and stews. Warm salads are also delicious in winter!
- Avoid refined carbohydrates
Refined carbohydrates like white bread, sugar, hot chips, sweet beverages and biscuits have a high GI and increase insulin secretion, which in turn increase your appetite and the cycle continues.
Most people do enjoy a sweet treat. Including these as a treat from time to time is better than depriving yourself. Having 3 or 4 blocks of dark chocolate occasionally, is okay, and certainly better than overeating because of the psychology behind forbidden foods.
- Plan your meals
Planning can be difficult in winter as days are shorter and we struggle to get up early when it is still dark outside. Being prepared for your day, prevents you from making unhealthy, high calorie choices like take aways or convenience meals, or worse- eating nothing and then raiding the cupboards when you get home! Pack your lunch box the evening before. I love using leftovers, as it requires no extra food prep.
- Reduce alcohol intake
Some might say a glass of red wine on a cold rainy day is a must, but alcohol can have a big effect on the number of calories you consume as it may increase your appetite – especially if you have your drink before a meal. Limit alcohol to 2 or 3 times per week and enjoy a drink with instead of before a meal.