As the weather cools and the nights draw in, it’s natural to start eating more and exercising less and so this is the time of year when you are more likely to start putting on weight.
What’s more, party season will soon be upon us with increased consumption of booze, cocktail sausages and crisps, none of which will keep you in trim.
However, if you take action on your health and lifestyle now, you can get in trim in time for Christmas and may not even have to make any New Year resolutions.
So, to help you out at a time when temptation is all around, we have put together a list of tips to enable you to keep off that winter weight.
Some are easy and some require more effort. Obviously, reducing your caffeine intake is easier than interval training but interval training will, inevitably, have a bigger positive impact on your health.
1. Get stuck in to some interval training
Don’t use cold weather as an excuse to stop exercising. You can quite easily do it at home without any equipment. Running up and down stairs, star jumps, sit ups, burpees and press ups can all be done at home.
Alix Woods, nutritionist at Quest Nutra Pharma says: “Do 30 minutes of interval training 3-4 times a week. If you’re struggling to make it to the gym or you’re just too cold to leave your heated house, there are numerous fitness apps available to download that provide you with an interval workout.
“Interval training allows the body to burn more calories over a shorter time than steady cardiovascular exercise, such as longer distance running. This is due to the alternate periods of high intensity training and low intensity recovery times.”
Remember that it is not easy. If you are not sweating and out of breath, it probably won’t be that effective.
2. Add more protein to your diet
Nutritionist and author of Fat Around the Middle, Dr Marilyn Glenville says: “Protein slows down the rate that stomach processes food and delays the passage of the carbohydrates with it. As soon as you add a protein, be it animal or vegetable, to a carbohydrate, you change it into a slower releasing carbohydrate, that helps to balance your sugar levels.”
Be sensible though. Chicken nuggets and burgers have protein but increasing your chicken nugget or burger intake could be counterproductive.
3. Switch white bread for wholemeal
Dr Marilyn says: “Swap to whole-grain alternatives that release energy slowly. The carbohydrates in wholemeal bread are broken down slowly over several hours and so do not give any sudden flooding of sugars into the bloodstream. Also, this gradual release helps you to feel full for longer, suppressing your appetite and stopping you craving sweet foods because you are not on the blood sugar rollercoaster.”
4. Eat every three hours
Eating regularly helps maintain balance and reduce cravings for sweets or salty snacks.
“Try to keep your blood-sugar levels and energy levels stable by eating regularly. Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner plus a snack mid morning and one mid afternoon, with no longer than three hours between. I’d also suggest that you should try not to eat carbohydrates after 6pm,” says Dr Marilyn.
Diet is important but is not enough on its own if you want to get into shape and stay in shape. This is not rocket science. Running is good for you. Look at people who run a lot. They tend to be leaner and fitter. Get a decent pair of running shoes, build up the mileage steadily and you will increase your endurance, get healthier and lose weight.
Joining a running club is a sound strategy, many cater for all abilities. The Couch to 5k scheme is a good place to start and some running clubs have special sessions for people interested in this NHS-endorsed running plan. Running clubs in Derby include Derwent Runners, Shelton Striders and Mickleover Running Club. The Derby Runner running shop, in Spondon, runs Team Derby Runner, which provides the benefits of being in running club without having to commit to regular club nights.
6. Use spices to boost your metabolism
Martina Della Vedova, Nutritionist at Natures Plus says: “Spices can help boost your metabolism so your summer efforts are prolonged. Adding cinnamon and ginger to hot beverages and foods like porridge, not only gives a warming flavour but also supports a healthy blood sugar level.”
Ok, this might not contribute much to a weight-loss plan but sounds quite tasty and is clearly better than gorging yourself on Pringles in front of the television.
7. Go easy on the caffeine
Ms Woods says: “As caffeine dehydrates, it can rob the body of essential minerals and cause excess glucose, which contributes to fat storage. Cutting out caffeine also avoids that immediate but short-lived rush of energy, which helps to reduce the chances of the infamous ‘fight or flight’ response, allowing you to keep a steadier energy level for the rest of the day.
“If you really need your caffeine fix, have one midmorning without milk or with a dairy free alternative like oat, almond or coconut milk.”
This is going to be tricky for people. Oat, milk or almond milk in tea or coffee sound particularly unpleasant.
8. Get plenty of sleep
“Sleep is a major factor for weight gain,” says Ms Vedova.
“Not sleeping enough or having bad-quality sleep pushes our nervous system into an alarming state and as a response the body will slow the metabolism down and shifting pounds can become very difficult.”
9. Avoid fad diets
“Stop dieting and don’t count calories, otherwise your body will think there’s a famine and will raise your stress levels, which can contribute to fat storage,” suggests Dr Marilyn.
There’s a reason why they’re called ‘fad’ diets. It’s because they come and go when people realise they rarely work in the long term.
10. Stay away from sugar and chocolate, obviously
Nutritionist Cassandra Barns says: “Sugar is quickly broken down into glucose in our blood – the type of sugar that converts directly to energy. Our blood-glucose level goes very high at this point, and this is when we feel energised but because high levels of glucose in our blood are harmful to the body, it releases insulin, which then quickly removes the glucose and stores it as glycogen or fat.
“This can then cause us to put on weight.”
Instead of a chocolate bar, maybe eat a piece of fruit. It really is that simple, people.
11. Have a decent breakfast
“If you miss breakfast your body immediately registers famine and hangs on tight to your ample stores of fat,” explains Dr Marilyn.
“Make sure you choose healthy breakfast options such as eggs on wholemeal bread with avocado or rolled oats with fresh berries.”
How many people eat avocado for breakfast? Be careful of breakfast cereals because many contain high levels of sugar. Naturally, smashing down pastries is a bad idea.
12. Don’t eat on the go
Dr Marilyn says: “It gives your body the message that time is scarce, you are under pressure and stressed. Furthermore, your digestive system will be less efficient. Make a point of sitting down and eating your food as calmly as possible.”
13. Comfort food is a bad idea if you want to lose weight
Ms Vedova says: “Winter is the season in which comfort foods are more present on our tables. Remember to consume a varied and colourful diet and choose foods rich in fibres such as sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, root vegetables, legumes and pulses. These foods can satisfy a sweet tooth, offer comfort during cold days and prevent the scales shifting in the wrong direction.”
Nothing wrong with the occasional roast dinner, tomato soup or beans on toast but try to cook from from fresh, that way you know exactly what you’re eating. It’s not rocket science.
Given you’ve got this far, you might have the guts to slim down and tone up over winter.
Put the work in now and you won’t need to make any New Year resolutions.