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How many times have you committed to an exercise regime and healthy eating plan only to arrive at winter and for all of your well intentioned plans to disappear along with more than your fair share of red wine and other warming treats? I know we have had a particularly bad run of miserable weather which might make you feel like you want to hunker down and hibernate for the next 6 weeks and go into denial about how much comfort food and hot chocolate you are eating and drinking and how much exercise you are not doing, but, I am going to convince you otherwise!

During winter we naturally rug up with more layers of clothing. Don’t let the extra layers hide what’s happening underneath. Be honest with yourself. Winter is not an excuse to ‘let everything go’ until you suddenly want to be seen in a bikini again. Healthy eating and keeping active is a lifestyle and not just for the summer season.

I think all of us have succumbed to this at some point, but if you are determined to avoid that this time around, or think you might be heading down that track at the moment then keep reading for my top tips for avoiding winter weight gain.

Start the day as you mean to go on, with a healthy breakfast. A warming bowl of porridge is a good option. Add nuts, seeds, spices (cinnamon, ginger etc) and dried fruit to increase variety and add flavour and sweetness without piling on the added sugar.

chai porridge

Commit to your exercise regime. If early morning starts in the dark and cold just aren’t your thing, look into joining a social indoor team such as netball or soccer. This way you will keep warm indoors, meet some new people (or form a team with existing friends) and have fun all whilst keeping active at the same time.

The middle of winter is also the best time to find a gym that you like and try their group fitness classes. You will find that not only the instructors but also the people around you motivate you to push yourself that much harder. Gyms will often give out free trial passes so you can sample before you commit.

The other thing about winter is that I find it is actually the perfect time of year to get your outdoor run on! It’s nice and cool so you don’t feel like you need to run at the crack of dawn just to avoid expiring in the heat. If you are not used to running, but want to give it a go, there are lots of phone apps to get you off the couch and running your first 5km. Or look at some training plans on the Net.

gym

To ensure you do make time for exercise, do it with a friend. Once you have made a commitment to someone else, it is that much harder to back out of it!

Winter is the perfect time to experiment with some delicious new soup recipes. So long as you aren’t having rich, creamy soups all of the time, but are choosing vege laden ones, soups can be the perfect way to get your vege quota for the day and fill up before your main meal. Studies have shown that people can consume up to 20% less calories if they have a soup before their main.

Evenings in with friends is a great way to spend cold nights, but in doing so we often end up with rich comfort foods on the menu consuming more than we normally would in food and alcohol. Take a look at my ideas for lightening up some of your favourite snacks and foods here.

When drinking alcohol always try to match one glass of alcohol with one non alcoholic, low calorie drink.  Offering to be the ‘sober driver’ is a great way of limiting alcohol consumption.

Winter time can be a long haul with no long weekends, and sometimes days on end with no sun. Seasonality can actually cause mood shifts in some people, especially when we miss out on sun for an extended period of time. S.A.D or seasonal affective disorder is a type of depression or low mood often noticeable in the winter months. As with any other type of depression it affects people in different ways, one often being in their eating habits. Whether people go off food completely, or the opposite, try to avoid SAD by ensuring you get adequate exposure to sunlight throughout the winter months. A quick walk at lunch on nice days is a good place to start.

How often do you reach for a hot drink when you are rugged up at home? All too often we crave something sweet after dinner and end up going for the hot chocolate. Try to avoid the store bought ones which can be jam packed full of artificial flavours and sugar and instead whip up your own for an occasional treat. Try this recipe:

1 cup of milk of choice

2 tbsp good quality cocoa

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

pinch of salt

1/2-1 packet of stevia or sweetener of choice depending on how sweet you want your drink

Mix all together and heat on the stove or in the microwave and enjoy.

healthy hot choc

Ensure you get enough sleep. You want to avoid getting into the habit of sleeping poorly. When we don’t get sufficient sleep we tend to be tired throughout the day with poor energy levels which affects our desire to want to exercise. Without sufficient sleep we also make poor choices in the food department. Having less nutritious foods can mean we lack necessary nutrients to keep energy levels up and again feel tired. It is a vicious circle you do not want to get trapped in.

So we are pretty much half way through winter now, and if you have let your exercise slip, or scoffed down too many hot chocolates and chocolate biccies by the fire recently, then tomorrow is the start of a new week. Let’s re-evaluate our goals, accept what has happened and move forward to a new beginning; call your bestie now and schedule that exercise session! I am off to do some intense skipping – harder than it may sound!

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