Working out in the winter is a bummer. It’s kinda too dark to get exercise in after work. It’s kinda too cold to get to the gym. And the siren call of warm creamy soups, mac ‘n’ cheese and pasta is kinda too loud to ignore.
Studies are mixed, but some experts say we gain five or more pounds over the winter months as we nosh through the holidays. Whereas, others suggest it’s more like a pound — which we don’t take off — and just accumulates year after year. Yikes.
You can, however, be conscientious and avoid that fate. Around the holidays, the goal should be to maintain your weight, not lose it, so you don’t get frustrated and fall off the wagon. We asked a couple experts to share their most effective tips to halt the scale.
1. Do not starve yourself
If you’re hitting a party, make sure you eat prior to arrival. If you don’t, you’ll be reaching for way too much (fatty, sugary) food when you step through the door. “Eat a substantial meal that has proteins and carbs and that way you will have your blood sugars balanced and you won’t get caught overeating,” says Laura Manning, R.D., clinical nutrition coordinator at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
2. Establish a boozy calorie limit
Too much alcohol will break your calorie bank, so be wise when you’re drinking. “A serving of alcohol is about 100 to 150 calories, but can really climb if there are lots of added juices and mixes or a cream base to make it, like Bailey’s,” Manning says. “Stick with clear distilled alcohol like vodka and gin, with a splash of juice.” And have a drink of water or seltzer in between each drink, so you’ll slow yourself down — and not lose your inhibitions and reach for more indulgent food you don’t really need.
3. Apply that limit to non-boozy drinks, too
Even if you don’t drink alcohol, you’re still at risk for gaining weight with sweet or creamy beverages. “Remember that other holiday drinks can be high in calories,” says Manning. “Per serving, apple cider has about 120, and eggnog packs 360.” Keep it to one serving max. Otherwise, stick with water.
4. Just because it’s little doesn’t mean it doesn’t count
Choose your hors d’oeuvres wisely. “Go for the cut up veggies, fruits and proteins like shrimp cocktail, clams and oysters on the half shell,” says Manning. Opt for your host’s healthiest apps, so you can really enjoy the main dish.”
5. Help out your host
At parties and events, lend a helpful hand. “Try to help the host out by asking what you can do to keep the party running smoothly,” Manning says. “This will keep you occupied to avoid eyeing the food.” Bonus: You’re moving, which means you’re burning more calories than if you were seated (and eating).
6. If skip a workout, at least don’t be sedentary
It’s tempting to skip because you’re “busy,” or “cold,” or “tired,” but just simply make moving part of your life — especially on days when you know you may splurge. “Get a workout in the day of an event. Maybe even a little extra,” says Manning. “After dinner, take a walk with the family after dinner. Play a fun game like charades that requires you to move around.” Just, move. No excuses.
7. Find an accountability check
If you’re someone who will easily opt out of a workout if the weather is poor or you’re feeling a little blah, find someone to keep you on track. “Make a pact with a friend — you will join a gym, or run every other day,” says Dr. Johnny Arnouk, sports medicine specialist and orthopedist at Mount Sinai Beth Israel. “Or hire a personal trainer for the winter to keep you motivated.” Get at least three good cardio workouts in a week, says Dr. Arnouk, and you’ll be in great shape for winter weight survival. You can do it!
8. Try indoor sports and cool new fitness options
If it feels fun, you’re more likely to follow through. “There’s so much,” says Dr. Arnouk. “Take a spin class, do biking, try CrossFit or boot camp, join an indoor soccer or basketball league.” Games and challenges are always better than obligations. So, play.
9. Practice portion control
Any expert will tell you: Portion control is the key to keeping your weight in check for life. “Use your hand to know what amounts are enough, and check out a portion chart so you’re aware,” says Manning.
10. Substitute when you can
There’s no shame in making smart swaps for the sake of your health. “If you feel comfortable, bring your own low-fat condiments to parties or dinner, like low-fat salad dressing, or mayo,” says Manning. “Bring a dish or cook with lower-fat or lower-sugar ingredients. If you’re not crazy about it, forgo dessert and have fruit instead.”