There was a time when popular culture presented a very linear view of body weight. Thin was good and fat was bad. Today, we know that body weight is a much more nuanced topic. Losing weight isn’t always healthy, and a few extra pounds aren’t always bad. What’s more, the number on the scale doesn’t always present a very accurate picture of your overall health.
That’s important to keep in mind as you think about seasonal fluctuations in body weight. As the snow sets in, you might find yourself thinking more about calories than you do in the summer. In part, that’s probably due to the plethora of delicious holiday meals, coupled with the understandable tendency to stay inside when it’s cold outside.
As a result, people tend to be quite conscious of their weight during the winter months. But there are healthy and unhealthy ways to think about your weight around the holidays and the winter months.
Avoid Fad Diets
Maybe it’s in the moments after the big holiday feast that you’re feeling a little gluttonous–and you think, “I need to go on a diet.” So you start calculating the best way to shed those extra holiday calories. And there are plenty of “easy” diets you can choose from to accomplish just that goal.
Unfortunately, most diets are going to do more harm than good–whether you’re talking about your wellness or your waistline. There are a couple of reasons for this:
- Dramatically cutting down on your intake of calories can put your body into starvation mode. Your metabolism slows down and your body becomes hesitant to shed fat, making it even more difficult for you to gain the shape you want.
- Many diets that favor specific types of food (for example, the paleo diet or the Atkins diet) may ignore possible health hazards that those foods can present (for example, high cholesterol associated with red meats).
- Restricting your food intake encourages a binge and purge mentality. Rather than maintaining a healthy weight, you’ll yo-yo between higher and lower weights. And that up-and-down action isn’t great for your health.
Around the holidays, and especially in winter, you’ll want to avoid these fad diets that offer quick–but fleeting–results achieved in an unhealthy way. Depending on your overall health, you may want to talk to your family doctor before deciding to lose a significant amount of weight.
A Word About Body Weight
In general, it’s more challenging for women to lose weight and keep it off. This can be frustrating if weight loss is your goal. But it’s important to remember that your weight–and even your Body Mass Index (or BMI)–is only one part of your health and wellness story. As a result, this one factor will not present on its own a complete picture of whether you are in good health.
That’s why your physician may suggest other criteria to work on instead of achieving a more healthful lifestyle is your goal.
How to Eat Healthy in the Winter
The solution to staying healthy isn’t necessarily to avoid those big holiday meals. They’re part of being alive! (To be sure, you should not eat to the point where you feel unwell.) Instead, the trick is to make sure you’re maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout the winter. Consider some of the following:
- Eat breakfast every day: This helps get your body revved up and ready every morning. It’s important to keep your metabolism even throughout the day (and having a healthful breakfast can help do just that). Try eating whole grain cereals, oatmeal, whole grain toast, the occasional egg, and so on.
- Avoid juice and soda: These days, the only difference between juice and soda is carbonation. That’s because most juice you purchase from the store is infused with gargantuan amounts of sugar. By avoiding juice (and the sugar contained within) you can do your body a huge favor over the winter. Instead of drinking fruit juices, try going right to the source and incorporating more fruits directly. Check out this blog for more information on avoiding soda.
- Eat complex carbohydrates: You don’t need to avoid carbs to stay healthy. But it will be to your benefit to favor complex carbohydrates. This means eating a lot of whole grains and multigrains. (So, instead of regular pasta, eat whole-grain pasta.)
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables (and vary up your proteins): If you’re eating a lot of red meat, that’s not going to be great for your health, no matter how much you might weigh. Your YMC primary care doctor will instead likely recommend a varied selection of proteins: fish, chicken, and other lean meats. And then, of course, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet that you enjoy eating is absolutely essential to maintaining your long-term health, especially in winter. One extra cookie on New Year’s Eve won’t hurt (I mean, try to avoid eating a dozen).
The other side of the fitness puzzle here is that people tend to become less active in the winter. Admittedly, getting outside can be a bit challenging in the dead of winter. But there are some ways you can succeed in keeping your body moving even in sub-zero temps:
- Get proper winter gear: Wear layers of the proper gear and you’ll find it much easier to stay warm when you’re outdoors. Gear that keeps you warm will make a long hike or a quick walk around the block much more inviting.
- Sign up for indoor classes: It’s easy to stay home and avoid the gym when you have to exercise on your own. It’s a little bit harder when you’ve committed to going to a class. So sign up for some fun group classes or activities! The built-in accountability will help you stay active, no matter the weather.
- Incorporate activities into family time: It’s the holidays, so you want to spend time with your family–but you can still get a little activity in. Plan for a family winter hike or a trip to the ice arena for a little informal skating!
Staying Healthy in Winter
Winter can present some challenges to your overall health. There are plenty of sweets around during the holidays. And the temptation towards sedentary days is ever-present. But eat with an eye towards a healthy lifestyle and find creative ways to encourage activity–and you’ll be able to keep those extra winter pounds away.
If you have concerns about your weight–or your ability to lose weight–talk to your primary care physician about what might or might not be healthy for you on an individual basis.