“Chicago’s high on Saturday was like 48,” my friend told me, dreadfully recalling last winter’s sub-zero temperatures. “And it’s only early October!”
In Palm Desert, where I live, even 48 seems brutal. Wherever you live, shorter days and cooler temperatures suggest fall will soon slip into gray, cold winter. I can’t bring warmth to your city (come to Palm Desert for that!), but I can provide these seven strategies so winter hibernation doesn’t mean an extra 20 pounds come spring.
- Sleep longer. Turn off your TV, stop wasting hours on Facebook, and use darker winter hours to get more zzz’s. A study in the Annals of Internal Medicine compared two groups of overweight, healthy participants on calorie-restricted diets who slept either 8.5 or 5.5 hours each night for two weeks. What a difference those three hours made: the 8.5-hour group burned 400 more calories every night, lost more fat, preserved more muscle, and woke up less hungry than the 5.5-hour group. Aim for seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night, and during winter nights go more towards nine.
- Warm up with soup. Make soup a cold-weather staple and bypass the winter weight gain. A study in Obesity Research showed people who ate two servings of lower-calorie soup lost 50% more weight than people who ate the same amount of calories in higher-calorie snack foods. Soup makes it easy to combine hunger-busting protein, veggies, and fibrous starches like lentils and beans in a chicken or vegetable broth. Hot liquid-based foods like soup also force you to slow down so you eat less and get full faster. I’m a big fan of stoup, a soup/ stew hybrid you can whip up in your crockpot.
- Make green tea your hot drink. Skip the sugar-loaded Starbucks latte for a calming cup of naturally sweet hot green tea. Green tea curbs your appetite so you’re less tempted to order that high-sugar impact cinnamon chip scone. Sipping green tea throughout the day also generates body heat so you stay warm and burn more fat. A study in Physiology & Behavior concluded that green tea helps improve fat burning.
- Burst to blast fat. Even if you’ve got a foot of snow and your gym’s a frozen mile away, you don’t have an excuse not to exercise with my 4 x 4 Workouts, which you can do in your own home. They combine fat-blasting burst training with weight resistance, my two favorite exercises in the planet, and you can knock out a complete 4 x 4 in less time than it takes to shovel the snow from your car.
- De-stress. December brings overcrowded shopping malls, familial tension, and year-end work deadlines. Feeling the pressure? Stress raises cortisol, which makes you store fat. Put down the double-shot candy cane martini and develop some anti-stress tactics. That might mean deep breathing, meditating, yoga, a hot bath, or walking your terrier around the snow-laden block. Figure out what works for you and prioritize it.
- Digest well. Your normally rational aunt becomes a tyrannical carb pusher during the holidays. You’re going to keep my three-bite rule: that’s three polite bites and step away from the dessert. My Digestive Enzymes come in handy here. They help break down protein and fat while slowing or even blocking carbohydrate absorption. They aren’t a free pass, but they could be that extra nudge you need to ditch those last stubborn holiday pounds.
- Stick with a schedule. Hunger lands you in places you’d rather not be. Namely, in the freezer for an 11 p.m. butter pecan raid. I find people who skip breakfast usually more than make up those calories throughout the day, particularly at night. That’s why you start every morning with a protein shake within an hour of waking. Then you’ll eat by the Plate every four to six hours. You stop eating three hours before bed, and if you have bedtime munchies, you’ll evaluate your dinner journal and have a glass of water. One study at the University of Washington found water helped curb cravings for everyone who tried it.
I know how, well, comforting comfort food can become during the winter. That’s why you want every bit of ammunition possible to fight hunger and cravings. What one strategy would you add to my list? Share yours here or on my Facebook fan page.
© 2014 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness Expert JJ Virgin helps clients lose weight fast by breaking free from food intolerances and crush their sugar cravings. She is author of New York Times Bestsellers The Virgin Diet: Drop 7 Foods, Lose 7 Pounds, Just 7 Days, The Virgin Diet Cookbook: 150 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Lose Weight and Feel Better Fast and coming November 4, 2014: The Sugar Impact Diet: Drop 7 Hidden Sugars, Lose up to 10 Pounds, Just 2 Weeks. JJ is also a frequent blogger at Huffington Post, Mind Body Green, and other outlets as well as a popular guest on TV, radio, and in magazines. Learn more at www.jjvirgin.com.