Most people will admit that it is never easy to get fit. However, there is something about winter that makes changing your diet and exercise seem even harder.
It might be the cold weather keeping you inside, or maybe it’s all the holidays that pack the calendar this time of year. Whatever the reason, you’re not the only one struggling.
There are, thankfully, a few ways that you can beat the winter blues and keep yourself on-track. The most effective tips are those that zero in on your day-to-day diet, rather than ones that tackle holiday meals.
After all, day-to-day tips are the ones you get to practice all winter before you carry them over into the warmer months!
Eat More Fiber
The easiest way to change the way you eat—whether you’re on a temporary diet or trying to make permanent changes—is to control your appetite. And while there are drugs on the market that claim to pull this off, fiber is a much safer alternative.
Unlike caffeine and other appetite-suppressing drugs, fiber is a nutrient your body needs. And, if you’re an American, there’s a good chance you’re not eating enough in your normal diet. As recently as 2016, experts estimated that 95% of Americans don’t eat enough fiber.
Fiber does more than control your appetite, of course. It can also help reduce your risk of diabetes and help you lose weight.
Unfortunately, if you don’t get enough fiber the rest of the year, there’s an even better chance you’re not getting enough over the winter. This is because most of your dietary fiber comes from fruits and vegetables, and many people eat less of both over the winter months.
It’s important to note that you have to eat whole fruits and vegetables to get the fiber. You can cook them, but if you juice them, you will lose the fiber.
And that’s a shame, because fiber helps you stay fuller, longer. It is harder for your stomach to digest, so you can eat less and still feel full.
As an added bonus, most high-fiber fruits and vegetables also pack a ton of nutrients!
Focus on Hydration
Drinking water might not be high on your list of things to do this winter. After all, it seems much easier to down an extra glass of water when it’s hot outside than when it’s snowy and icy.
Drinking enough water, however, should be on your to-do list regardless of whether winter is cold or hot where you live. Without enough water, you will feel your energy levels drop off, your digestion will slow down, and your skin will become dry. The exact reasons depend on the climate, but the outcome is the same.
And this is especially bad news for people who want to change their diet. This is because most people cannot tell the difference between hunger and thirst. So not only will your stomach not process food as effectively as it should without enough water, but you’re also going to end up eating when all your body really needs is some water.
If you’re looking for a way to control and beat hunger, drinking a glass of water when you first start feeling hungry is a great habit. This simple act can beat those hunger pangs—or at least keep them at bay until you’re truly hungry rather than just thirsty.
Of course, it might be tempting to add some “enhancement” to your water. And while you’re still technically getting the same amount of water, it’s now loaded with sugar and probably some artificial flavorings as well.
Unless your enhancement is a slice of cucumber or lemon, you’re actually hurting your health goals if you add flavor to your water.
Keep an Eye on Portion Sizes
Portion sizes seem to grow over the winter. This is especially true in places where winter brings on cold months, days on end of staying indoors, and a general need for comfort.
And while some foods—like this vegetable-rich soup—aren’t so bad to splurge on every now and then, you’ll want to make sure you’re not going overboard when you plate your meals.
It might feel good to dig into a huge serving of warm food when you first serve everything up. But by the time you get around to digesting everything, you’re probably going to regret the extra helpings. Make sure you also find ways to steer clear of alcohol and sweets as this will only end up hurting your efforts.
Of course, the best way to keep your portion sizes down is to plate your fruits and veggies first so that they take up the majority of the plate. This will give you enough fiber, like I mentioned earlier. It also helps to have a glass of water before and with dinner, just to make sure you’re properly hydrated.
If this all sounds a bit repetitive, it’s because fiber and water really should be your go-to’s.
For an added boost, however, make sure that you’re eating quality protein. There’s nothing wrong with sausage, bratwurst, or fatty red meat every now and then, but it shouldn’t be your daily staple.
Unfortunately, a lot of people see lean meat as a warm-season food for some reason—but that doesn’t have to be the case. A dish like this salmon with seasonal winter veggies ought to change your mind. The lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids will keep your fat content down and your protein content up while your veggies and water work their magic.
Over time, your body will become more accustomed to this kind of diet, and you’ll find yourself craving it as much as you crave the less-healthy things in your current diet. It just takes a little practice and patience.
Changing your diet during winter isn’t easy, but it is possible. No matter what you’ve got planned for the next few months, you can greet spring with a healthier body than you did last year.
So long as you pay attention to your portions, use the foods of the season, and stay honest with yourself, you can reach your goals!