These nine strategies can help us bypass winter weight gain, stay optimistic in even the gloomiest weather, and keep our eye on the big goals as spring hides around the corner.
1. Sleep longer. Turn off TV, minimize Facebook time, and use darker winter hours to sleep deeper. One study in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared two groups of overweight, healthy participants who slept either 8.5 or 5.5 hours each night for two weeks. Those three hours made a huge difference. The 8.5-hour group burned 400 more calories every night, lost more fat, preserved more muscle, and woke up less hungry than the 5.5-hour group.
2. Warm up with soup. Make soup a cold-weather staple and bypass the winter weight gain. A study in the journal Obesity Research showed people who ate two servings of lower-calorie soup lost 50 percent more weight than people who ate the same amount of calories in higher-calorie snack foods. Soup makes it super easy to combine hunger-busting protein, veggies, and high-fiber starches like lentils, and beans in a chicken or vegetable broth. Hot liquid-based foods like soup also force you to slow down so you eat less and get full faster.
3. Make green tea your coffee shop go-to. Skip the sugar-loaded latte for a calming cup of naturally sweet hot green tea, which curbs your appetite so you’re less tempted to order that high-sugar impact cinnamon chip scone. Sipping green tea throughout the day also generates body heat so you stay warm. One study in Physiology & Behavior concluded green tea also increases calorie burning. Try this Echinacea green tea for energy, clarity and immune system booster: http://astore.amazon.com/thenourinutri-20/detail/B0009F3QKM.
4. Work it out. Frigid temperatures and inclement weather make blowing off exercise way too easy, yet a study published in the journal Psychological Medicine concluded physical exercise combined with exposure to bright light could improve mood and quality of life in wintertime. Take up a winter sport, try a new class, sample some fitness DVDs, or pair up with someone who keeps you motivated. Regardless, find something that works for you and prioritize exercise.
5. De-stress. December brings overcrowded shopping malls, family tension, and year-end work deadlines. Feeling the pressure? Stress raises cortisol, your stress hormone that stores fat and breaks down muscle when it stays elevated past its prime. One meta-analysis with over 300 studies over three decades published in Psychological Bulletin found chronic stress could also dampen immunity, making you susceptible to whatever bug floats around the office. Develop some anti-stress tactics. That might mean deep breathing, meditating, yoga, a hot bath, or walking your terrier around the snow-laden block. Figure out what works for you and prioritize it. I highly recommend this short book, The Power of Now. It changed my life: http://astore.amazon.com/thenourinutri-20/detail/1577314808
6. Digest well. Be mindful during your meals: chew thoroughly, put down your fork between bites, and remember this isn’t a race to see who finishes first. If you struggle with gas, bloating, or other post-meal misery, consider a professional-quality digestive enzyme. While we should drink sufficient water, watch intake during meals: too much liquid can dilute stomach enzymes that break down protein.
7. Stick with a schedule. Hunger lands you in places you’d rather not be. Namely, a late-night butter pecan raid. A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a high-protein breakfast reduces hunger and optimizes satiating hormones better than high-carbohydrate foods, so start every morning with a protein shake within an hour of waking. Then you’ll eat lean protein, healthy fats, leafy and cruciferous veggies, and slow-release high-fiber starches every four to six hours. Midnight munchies? One study at the University of Washington found water helped curb cravings for everyone who tried it.
8. Get your Vitamin D checked. Most people are deficient in vitamin D. The standard test range is above 30 and you’re in the clear. WRONG! 30 is deficient by Functional Medicine Standards. Optimal is 50-80 ng/ml. If you’re low, safely take 4000 IU of vitamin a day for 3 months and get re-tested. If you’re super deficient and have other health concerns, contact a health care professional such as myself: firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Get tested for MTHFR mutation. Occurring in over 50% of people, this gene mutation is becoming a huge problem that is overlooked. You can order yourself via 23andme.com and a third party interprets your results for you over the phone for a small donation or fee. It’s $200 for the complete test and also tests for other genetic markets as well. Your doctor MAY order it, and your Naturopath/Functional Med. Dr. will, but your conventional doctor likely will not unless you have a medical reason (cardiovascular disease runs in your family, your mom has the gene, etc.). MTHFR mutation is a huge cause of depression and a slew of other health conditions and symptoms that I won’t even list here. Let’s just say you don’t properly break down folic acid into useable folate, leading to a folate and B12 deficiency. This is a complicated and new, emerging topic with new science breaking out constantly. If you are depressed, especially, PLEASE do yourself a favor and look into MTHFR mutation. If you find out that you have it, I highly recommend working with a qualified, holistic/functional health care practitioner. The leading resource for updated research and information is Dr. Ben Lynch’s website: http://mthfr.net/.
Please contact me with questions! Thevitalmama@gmail.com
Adapted from JJ Virgin, Celebrity Nutritionist