Do you ever feel like this time of year it’s almost impossible to lose weight? For me, even weight maintenance is a difficulty! I have always struggled with this and I have noticed patterns behind it. Here are some of the reasons why I think it’s harder to lose weight this time of year, and some of my solutions to combat these issues.
Reason 1– Holidays
I know there are holidays all year round that have tempting foods associated with them, but I really feel like the fall and beginning of winter take the cake. Bad pun, sorry. It all starts in September with pumpkin spice season and then moves into October when we get to Halloween candy season. Next, it’s Turkey season and then Christmas rolls around with every single type of unhealthy treat you can possibly imagine.
By the time we make our New Year’s resolutions we’ve gained 10 pounds instead of having lost or maintained like we wanted to over the whole four month time period. It’s a rough time of year for me every year and I always wonder why. I feel like the holidays have a lot to do with it. Part of the temptation is that I know I will have trigger foods around me and that some of them I will only get once a year. If I say no to them, I won’t have another chance to eat them for a full year. So it’s hard to say no.
Set limits and stick to them. This takes discipline. Telling yourself, “This I what I will do.” Saying it out loud gives it more power. And then doing it. It’s not always easy, but it really feels good, and the more you do it the better you become at it.
Something else I’ve learned is that every meal is not my last meal. I know that sounds silly, but I tell myself this a lot. There will always be another turkey. There will always be another pumpkin pie. It’s not the last time I’m ever going to get the chance to eat something, and I need to stop thinking like it is. It’s just food, we should enjoy it, but it’s really not that serious.
Reason 2– Colder Weather
The weather has an effect for sure. We have a lot less outdoor exercise options available to us, and we spend a lot more time at home, indoors. How easy is it in the summertime to throw on a pair of shorts and a tank and go for a walk or jog? There’s also swimming, hiking, and playing in the yard with the kids. The list is endless. In the winter we just want to stay inside cozied up with a movie and some hot cocoa.
But forget the cocoa, and who says we have to stop moving just because it’s cold? If you are a gym person then the weather shouldn’t affect you.
For us walkers and joggers, I do enjoy walking and jogging in the cold too. I bundle up and go for it. If the mailman can do it, why can’t I? Unless it’s dangerously cold, or icy, I think it feels good.
There are plenty of indoor exercise options as well. In fact, we really should be focusing a lot of our time and energy on strength and resistance training, which are indoor exercises anyway. To add in some cardio, try Kettle bell swings or jumping rope. They don’t require a big piece of equipment like a treadmill or an elliptical and they can get your heart rate up without having to brave the outdoors. There are also hundreds of DVD’s to try, or free YouTube videos. All are good ways to get some exercise in. Just be creative.
Reason 3– Biology
In nature, food is more scarce in the winter, so on a genetic level this makes us want to eat more during this time of year. We have been programmed to eat more to pack on pounds for winter to avoid starvation. Squirrels do it! Don’t you see those fat little guys running around in the late fall? Of course, they’re getting ready to hibernate, but whatever. It really is a thing.
It’s also natural to crave the foods that grow in winter like potatoes and starchy vegetables, not lettuce and summer berries and foods that would technically be out of season were we not the food growing geniuses that we are today. Again, this is from millions of years of genetic programming. Natural cravings and tendencies that we may only slightly be aware of, or maybe not even notice at all.
Does this mean we have to gain weight in the winter? No! Food is not scarce in the winter anymore! Neither are berries and lettuce! You are not a squirrel! Being aware of this tendency, this chemical shift in your body, can help you fight against the cravings and do things to prevent mindless eating and weight gain.
Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry or thirsty. That’s when carb cravings kick in. And you likely won’t find yourself gnawing on a white potato. It’ll be a handful of M&M’s from your little dude’s Halloween bag like me.
Reason 4– Shorter days
Shorter days make me sad. Like literally, SAD. It’s a thing. Seasonal affective disorder is brought on by changes in season, and more specifically in winter, shorter days and less sunlight. If you find yourself less motivated or depressed, with a lack of energy, in the late fall and winter months you may be SAD too. SAD is also known to cause weight gain. Yep, it’s a sad sad thing.
Get up earlier and go to bed earlier so that you can make sure you’re getting some sunlight each day. Plan something to look forward to. Stay active, and get some exercise. Get some vitamin D. I would also recommend speaking to your doctor if the feelings are intense. There are quite a few people who suffer from this issue and there are plenty of ways your doctor can help.
Reason 5– Change in Attitude
Remember what I said about the cocoa? It’s true. Winter is a snuggly season. Everything about it makes me want to turn into a couch potato. I have to fight against every urge I have in order to keep myself moving and eating healthy foods.
The Spring makes us feel as though we are starting over. It feels like we have a goal to work towards, like a bathing suit on the beach, whereas in the winter we are so covered up with our sweaters and jeans and baggy clothes we feel farther removed from those goals.
You may not be wearing a bikini anytime soon, but buy a pair of jeans that just fit and make sure they keep fitting. Wear them weekly and don’t let them get too snug. Don’t get into the land of leggings. It’s a trap. This fall I bought several pairs of pants that were snug. Jeans that were just a little bit tight. I wanted to make sure they kept me on my game. I wear them every weekend. If I feel like they’re getting tight, I know I need to watch my food intake and work out a little harder. The goal is for these jeans to start feeling really loose by Spring. So far that prospect is still way out on the horizon, but we are keeping an optimistic view.
If you are like me and find yourself struggling this time of year, don’t beat yourself up! Don’t think that it’s because you are weak willed or lacking in motivation, or that there is something wrong with you. There are multiple factors stacked against you right now! But don’t give up! This is all the more reason why we should push harder to keep ourselves healthy. And give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when we have a rough day or when we fail to do what we set out to do.
Keep your eyes on whatever it is that keeps you motivated! Don’t set unrealistic goals that will discourage you if you don’t attain them. But set goals that will keep you motivated daily, and work towards your goals each day. Focus on the daily behaviors that move you closer to the goal you want to achieve and focus on the positive feelings and sense of pride you’ll have when you reach those goals. Re-affirm your reasons for living a healthy lifestyle each day.
Leave me a comment to let me know how you are doing and how I can help you reach your goals!