Avoid Winter Weight Gain

Winter doesn't have to be a perennial weight trap if you keep these health tips in mind

Along with snow-covered trees (lovely) and deep chill (not so much), winter is, for many, associated with unwelcome weight gain.

When faced with several more weeks of sub-zero weather, it's easy to surrender to the siren song of the sofa and put off thoughts of shedding pounds until the ground thaws.

However, say the experts at the Rush Nutrition and Wellness Center, winter does not have to be a perennial weight trap. This year, show Jack Frost who's boss by keeping these tips in mind:

1. Find your 'spirit sport.'

There's no question that exercise is challenging in winter months.

It's hard to be physically active when a five-minute walk outdoors feels like a trek in the tundra. That's why it's so important to discover an activity that you genuinely enjoy in order to stay motivated and keep moving.

If you're not a treadmill person in June, then you're probably not a treadmill person in January either. Take your personality and mood into account when exploring exercise options:

  • Maybe you're an extrovert, which means a dance or step class may be a good fit for you.
  • If you're competitive, joining an intramural league may be motivating.
  • Is sweating out stress more your style? Try something on the aggressive side, like kickboxing.
  • If you appreciate exercise more as quiet "me time," a peaceful activity like yoga or walking may be just what you need.

Any goal you set for yourself should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

2. Diversify your produce.

While fresh fruits and vegetables are great in-season, you're left with mainly over-priced and bland-tasting options in the dead of winter.

You certainly shouldn't forego plants altogether — they're important not only for weight management, but for your overall health and wellness.

Just remember that frozen versions are just as good as the fresh stuff. Frozen produce shouldn't have added sugar, salt or scary chemicals. And frozen produce is typically even more nutrient-rich than fresh winter produce. That's because fruits and vegetables are frozen when they're at peak ripeness, which is when their vitamin and mineral content is highest.

Even canned vegetables, though often maligned, offer a fine alternative. Just look for cans labeled as "reduced sodium," and rinse off excess salt before you eat them.

3. Make SMART goals.

That is, any goal you set for yourself should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Your goal may be to "exercise more," but an objective like that doesn't help you get going and can make you feel overwhelmed from the start.

Instead, think of a goal that serves as a realistic action plan and a yardstick by which to measure your success. For example, a more helpful SMART goal might be, "For the next month, I will go to Zumba class at least once a week."

Use a journal, a calendar, a mobile app — anything to track your progress against your goal, since this typically helps people stay focused and motivated. Once you've crushed your first goal, build on it with a new SMART goal to keep up your momentum.

If you're looking for more guidance, call the Rush Nutrition and Wellness Center at (312) 942-3438, and ask about working with a registered dietitian to make healthy lifestyle changes and stick with them.

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