In Practice

Putting social psychology to work for you

Winter Weight Gain: 10 Tips to Avoid It

Practical ideas for how to avoid weight gain during winter.

1. Eat at regular times, that are not too far apart. It will help you learn to recognize that if you have the urge to eat between these times, it’s probably psychological hunger rather than physical hunger.

2. Find some light (low-ish calorie) winter lunches, dinners, and desserts that you like. When salad ingredients are expensive, what do you want to eat instead? Things like soups can work, but you’ll probably want some variety.

3. Find affordable ways to eat fresh foods. Find little tricks that punch up flavor and freshness. Adding fresh coriander/cilantro to a soup can give it an extra sense of freshness. Some herbs freeze well. You can just take some out of the freezer and add it at the end to add a dose of sunshine to your food.

4. Take your breaks at work. Go for a 5 minute walk around the block even though it’s cold. This will refill your willpower tank. If you really don’t want to take a walk, do anything relaxing during your break time, but take that break.

5. Put together a set of clothes that will keep you warm during exercise. I go walking with 3 jerseys on at once, a balaclava & another hat, trackies, socks, & gloves. These things get dumped on a table near the door and I just put them all on each time I go out. Exercising in cold weather is often not actually unpleasant when you have proper clothes on.

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What works for me is going out for a late night walk with my significant other. We get a chance to do our connecting time and moving time simultaneously. We do a shorter walk if we’re not keen for our usual longer walk “Come on let’s just do 20 minutes” is a common phrase on really cold nights at our house. 20 minutes of exercise is the most important thing you can do for your health. If I do nothing else for my physical and mental health in the day, I do this. Most studies on the benefits of exercise are done on walking, just plain walking.

Ideally walk at morning tea or lunchtime so you get some daylight. Leave an old pair of sneakers and some warm clothing at work.

6. Don’t bring junk food to work during winter – it helps no one, even though it might seem like a nice thing to share.

7. Find a winter hobby. Something that gives you pleasure e.g., snow boarding.

8. Don’t have food in close proximity that you don’t want to eat. It’s asking too much of your willpower. Decide your portion size before you’re in the presence of the food, serve your portion, then put the rest away. There are a few foods I actually weigh e.g., I weigh my portion of potato chips in a bowl and put the bag away in the cupboard.

9. Don’t have any forbidden food. It’ll just cause you to binge.

10. Plan some things to look forward to, to keep your mood up.

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Alice Boyes, Ph.D. translates principles from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and social psychology into tips people can use in their everyday lives.

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