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How to Combat the Winter Weight Blues

Unfortunately, we still have a little bit of winter left to endure, but Sarah Larocque, a registered dietitian at Mount Auburn Weight Management Center, spoke to Boston.com about how to get our bodies through it.

During the past few months of cold, snow, and ice, she has seen more people struggle with weight gain. “I think everyone can relate to feeling beaten down and exhausted by this winter,” she said.

“Even if people are maintaining their weight, or even if they’re up or down a little, their motivation is gone,” she added.

Venturing out in a blizzard is unappealing. We might not make it to the gym, or to the grocery store to even buy healthy food options. But, fear not there will be a warm light at the end of this frozen tundra tunnel.

We Turn to Carbs for Wintertime Relief.

We want comfort when it’s cold, dark, and dreary outside. We tend to go for the macaroni and cheese, which will provide figurative and literal warmth, Larocque said. It might even remind us of the security of cooking with our parents.

“We all have those memories of winter storms and what we used to make with them—you bake cookies with your family, and have the hot chocolate,” she said. “It is what brought us comfort as kids, and a lot of times carbohydrates and higher fat food bring us comfort.”

When we’re hungry, we want energy quickly. In come the carbohydrates, which our bodies can break down fast. But, they’re not the healthiest choice, Larocque said. She suggests turning to protein, such as meats and cheeses, in addition to carbs, to stay full longer.

Eat. More. Soup.

Larocque suggests soup as a carbohydrate alternative. Veggies, protein, pasta, rice—you name it, a soup can have it in balanced amounts. And, it’s warm.

“Soups are nice, because it has everything in there, and you’re getting the warmth that won’t come from just a salad with chicken,” she said. She suggests using a crockpot to make your own soup concoction, if you’re worried about your sodium intake.

Plan Ahead, and Take Your Time.

There’s no need to rush into deciding what you’re going to eat because “cravings are really powerful initially,” Larocque said.

“Sometimes even if you give yourself five or 10 minutes, that’s enough for you to say, ‘OK, I don’t need the mac and cheese,’” she said. “‘Or, you know what, I can have a little bit, but I can have fish or chicken with it, and make a smarter choice.’”

Larocque encourages her clients to plan out their meals ahead of time to make eating during the week healthier and easier.

“Use the weekends and the quieter days to plan and make food in bulk, and have it leftover,” she said.

Be More Active.

“Exercise tends to go down this time of year, which certainly doesn’t help if you’re trying to lose weight,” Larocque said. She encourages her clients to try to determine what they can do during the day to move more.

“Above and beyond helping with weight management, exercise is good for our mind: It helps manage stress really well,” she said.

Technology can help to keep track of your fitness activity and food intake. FitBits or even a simple pedometer keep count of your movements. CookingPlanIt plans meals, and Fooducate helps track and understand the food you are eating in handy app forms. And if you’re looking for a timed workout, download SworkIt, Larocque said.

Do Something Else.

Start a puzzle, clean your kitchen, build a fort, learn guitar… Whatever spirit moves you, do it—instead of eating.

“A lot of times at night, if you’re home, and it’s dark, and there’s nothing to do, it’s easy to grab those snacks, and eat out of boredom and out of comfort,” Larocque said.

She believes a well thought-out to do list of enjoyable, mind-fulfilling tasks will ward off any overeating tendencies. “If we’re feeling beaten down, we have to find something that we enjoy,” she said. “I work with people to focus on what’s manageable right now, what’s realistic for goal setting right now. What feels good for you to work on?”

By Katie Levingston