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Published on November 14, 2012

Prevent Winter Weight Gain

By Angie O’Connor
Avera Sacred Heart Hospital Community Wellness Coordinator

Many people tend to gain weight during the winter months. Some people joke that they are eating and sleeping more because they are getting ready to hibernate. But there is not a way to crawl into a warm hiding place and sleep the fat away. Those extra pounds acquired over the winter may stay on year after year, eventually contributing to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease.

People gain weight during the winter months for different reasons. If you have a tendency to gain weight during the winter, it’s important for you to figure out what factors contribute to this tendency and then plan accordingly. Simple changes in behavior can often have enormous health benefits.

  1. Make a holiday survival plan. Holidays can mean less time to exercise, more treats, and extra alcohol and stress. You couldn’t find a better recipe for weight gain.
  2. Make a plan for staying active. Try to come up with some creative solutions to factors that have made exercise during the holidays difficult – travel, busyness, lack of childcare, etc.  Schedule these new solutions into your calendar the same way you schedule your parties, meetings and family gatherings. If you don’t schedule it, you may not get it done.
  3. Think of ways to reduce holiday stress. Exercise is the best stress-reducer around and stress reduction is one of the best reasons to stay active – no matter what the season may be. Make time for exercise and activities that give the holiday meaning and that provide pleasure and opportunities to be with people you enjoy.
  4. Eat defensively. Include occasional small portions of holiday treats that you really love, but balance this by eating more prudently at other meals. Avoid munching and drinking just because “it’s there.” I know that can be difficult, but the average person gains approximately seven pounds during the holiday season. Smaller portions of the “good stuff that’s not so good for you” and larger portions of the actual “good stuff.”
  5. Make friends with winter. Winter can cause a decline in physical activity, as shorter days and inclement weather like we have been experiencing can limit exercise options. Come up with some creative solutions. Check out fitness centers and community recreation programs. Buy some warmer clothes and learn how to dress for cold weather. There are many things you can do in the winter months that are terrific calorie-burners.

And don’t forget that exercise can be an effective treatment for mild to moderate depression.  People who experience winter depression can try combining exercise and light therapy by exercising outdoors when time and weather permit.

Have a healthy and safe holidays.