I recently spent a week in Chicago for a couple of boxing matches where despite my efforts, maintaining a low weight was not easy. I could blame it on amazing Chicago food, but I was actually fortunate enough to have a kitchen and cooked most of my own. It’s actually our bodies’ natural adaptation to gain weight in the winter. A higher body fat percentage gives us insulation from the cold, so when we spend time in the cold, our body tries to “save” us by storing more fat. Because of this we also tend to have lower energy levels and feel even less like working out. Fewer daylight hours makes just want to sleep all the time… Thus the term, winter hibernation.
Though having the excuse of “winter hibernation” doesn’t help us much when we want to look hot (or even just fit into) a sexy pair of jeans or leggings. Or make wearing a bikini any easier when summer finally comes back around. So here are a few hacks to help you keep off the extra pounds:
- Stay warm. It sounds obvious, but it really makes a difference. Especially your hands, feet and head and face! I would wrap a scarf around my face for the 2 minutes I was outdoors between the car and places I was going etc and just that made such a big difference! Trick your body into forgetting its winter. Get a heater for your bathroom. If you’re exercising outdoors, spend 5-10 minutes doing a warm up indoors in the warmth first so that you’re sweating before you even get out. It might be a little uncomfortable at times, but leave those extra layers on, even if you’re sweating.
- Drink water! Your body can only absorb around 500mL per hour though so set alarms and spread out your consumption over the day. In cold climates, we don’t sweat as much and so it’s very easy to forget to drink water. But dehydration causes overeating and tiredness. When you are tired, your body know that the fastest way to get energy is via sugar, and so you start craving sweets. Your body can also mistake thirst for hunger, which could result in eating a LOT of sugar, or more carbs than necessary. Aim for 3-4L (1 gallon) per day. My little secret is drinking hot water… It absorbs faster into your system and also warms you up. People think I’m crazy, but I actually do this even in summer haha.
- Before eating, do some push ups, jump squats, planks etc to warm your body up. It sounds crazy, but being warm from the inside can stop you from your bodys’s winter adaptation of wanting to overeat.
- Exercise. Now I know this is easier said than done. The thought of putting on gym gear, leaving the house, even just the thought of having to move excessively – and God forbid you sweat and have to have a shower – is a punishing thought from the snug warmth of wherever you are. But exercise doesn’t just burn calories, it warms you up from the inside and keeps your metabolism cranking to combat your body’s natural adaptation of slowing down and storing energy as fat. I always tell myself “I really don’t feel like going hard but something is better than nothing so I’m just going to do an easy workout today.” Once I get there and do my easy skipping, stretching and shadow boxing warm up for 5-10 minutes, the energy of the gym, people around me and excitement of learning something new has me going full pace to workout harder than I ever knew I could. But if I went there with the intention of training hard, I might not even make it there. Taking away the pressure of expectation to smash every gym session is sometimes all that is needed. Hey, if you made there and just moved for 45 minutes then that’s great. Anything over that is frickin awesome… Don’t be disappointed in yourself.
- If you’re using the cold weather as an excuse not to exercise, restructure your winter workouts to things you can do indoors. Group classes like boxing and spin are great because they are fun and high energy and get you caught up in the moment before you even realize how hard you’re working. Or if you don’t want to leave the house, hit me up for my BodyBAM workouts you can do at home (or anywhere) while pumping your favourite tunes!
- Drink coffee, or tea. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant, so while you still need to eat of course, it may stop you feeling like you need to eat everything, all the time. And where the cold weather is sucking your energy, it will pick you up and help battle those sugar cravings. Even just having a hot drink will warm you up, but unlike a hot chocolate, a (no sugar, milk etc added) coffee or tea has basically 0 calories. As long as you know your limits so it’s not messing with your sleep and making you even more tired then it’s a win-win-win!
- When we have the shelter of winter coats, we tend to be less self conscious and therefore have less will power. An idea to overcome: Get a group of girlfriends together to support each other where you all take a selfie in your underwear every Monday morning and send it to the group. Just the fact that you know others will be seeing your body can be enough motivation to make healthier choices.
- Eat cooked/warm food. Being cold is uncomfortable, and so we crave “comfort” foods. Rather than trying to force yourself to eat a salad when you really just want a hearty pastry or meat pie, find a healthy compromise like a homemade veggie soup or lean roast dinner. Bake some veggies each week as part of your food prep to warm up and put on wraps and in salads with meats that you also warm up. A warm salad in winter is a game changer.
- If you’re bored, find a hobby, learn a language, or start a new project/side business. If you’re trying not to overeat, boredom must be crushed immediately. Preferably with something that doesn’t involve going out eating and drinking. 😉
A few of these things definitely helped me make weight for my fights over the week I was in freezing cold Chicago! If you have any other tips or tricks, I’d love to know so please comment. And feel free to share this with everyone you know who is crazy enough to live in cold places! Haha… You can find me staying put in Miami! 😉