Preparing for Seasonal Changes

Jul 14, 2015 by Heather

     In my field of work, I have discovered that seasonal weight fluctuations are quite common.  For many people the number on the scale goes up and down as fast as the changing of the temperatures.  We often keep fingers crossed for a drop in body weight during the summer months. This motivation might be attributed to swim suit season or approaching class reunions. Regardless, we expect the pounds to drop as the sweat drops during the summer.  On the flip side, as the winter clothes get heavier, so often does the bathroom scale. 

     A logical explanation might be that we simply move more and sit less during the summer months.  (The added daylight hours also give us more time to move)!  Just think of the added daily physical activity when the grass is green compared to brown.  Extra hours are spent mowing grass, golfing, planting flowers, playing tennis, riding bikes, working in the garden, taking hikes, pulling weeds, fishing, and enjoying long walks.  Even adults can be seen splashing in the pool, playing church softball, or actively playing with their kids at the playground.  It’s a stretch to call it exercise, but even a game of corn hole forces us to stand, swing, and bend up and down picking up square bags.  I know, it’s not true make you sweat - make your muscles burn exercise, but it’s more moving than some people get during the winter.

     If you fall into the “It’s winter time – I will hibernate” crowd, chances are you lose energy, curl up in front of a screen, and wait for spring to put on your tennis shoes.  Some people deal with seasonal depression and some turn to comfort food during the cold months causing consumption of additional calories.  Think about it … What else happens as the late October chilly weather hits?  Back-to-back-to-back-to-back holidays.   Buckets of Halloween candy is consumed until it’s gone.  This transitions to Thanksgiving “stuff yourself until you loosen your belt” meals.  This quickly turns into multiple Christmas season parties, meals, programs, and celebrations (all filled with food).  Then we ring in the New year with food (and sometimes too much to drink).  We finally wrap up a chilly, snow-filled February with heart-shaped candy, cupcakes, and chocolate Valentines.  By the time we see the store shelves replace what is left of the chocolate hearts with chocolate bunnies around Easter time, we finally have our motivation to spring into spring.  Spring means we are determined to lose the seven pounds we found over the winter. 

     Moving forward (yes, I want you to move)… How do we avoid this common seasonal winter weight gain?  Preparing now is important.  The calendar is still 12 months, but the summer seems shorter each year.  Before we know it, the pool covers will come on and the lawn mower will get dusty.  Here are a few suggestions to avoid the added winter pounds:

Double the motivation now.
If you envision that you might be less active in the winter, take advantage of all exercise opportunities now.  This might be the perfect time to lose 5 more pounds, or lower your blood pressure before the winter coat is worn.   When you see, feel, and notice the benefits of a healthy lifestyle you might be less likely to “let yourself go” during the colder months.
Keep your passion alive in the winter
                If you love to golf, find an indoor range open in the winter.  Consider starting a strength training routine to build core strength to lower your risk of injury and improve your golf game for next year.
Find an indoor exercise passion. 
If you are not a current gym rat, you could become one.    Temperature controlled settings, trained staff, and safe equipment are all benefits.  Group exercise classes can also be motivating and fun.
Find something comparable.
You might love outdoor running, biking, hiking, or canoeing.   I know it’s not quite the same, but there are these things called treadmills, stationary bikes, Stairmasters, and rowing machines.  Give them a try instead of giving up on exercise in the winter.
Utilize technology. 
This can be as “old school” as a workout DVD during cold winter months or fitness apps that create workouts for you.  Embrace technology.
Replace the calories burned during traditional summer physical activity.
                Since the winter months don’t traditionally include mowing or gardening, you have to find an opportunity to expend calories.  Squeeze in extra trips up/down stairs or power clean the house frequently.  Again, be willing to bundle up for outdoor exercise or find an indoor alternative.
Be willing to sacrifice a few bites.
Of course, don’t skip meals but consider the daily calories your body might not be burning during the winter.  Closely monitoring portion sizes, eliminate beverage calories like soda or sweet tea, save a dessert treat to once a week, or limit holiday candy to 1-piece. 

     Most people are not cold-weather lovers like me.  I would rather jog outdoors when it’s 14 degrees compared to 84 degrees and my seasonal recreational activity of choice is snow skiing.  It’s ok if you prefer lounging by the pool instead of scraping ice off your car window.  Just be prepared to stay active and healthy this winter!

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