As the holiday season looms large, the days get shorter and colder for most of the United States, and the legitimate concern of colds and flu impacts your desire to get outside, most of us start worrying about how to stave off the seemingly-inevitable problem of winter weight gain. But fear not! No matter where you live, the key to managing your weight comes down to these three, surprisingly simple steps.
1. Eat mindfully
More than any other facet of a weight management program, nutrition is key. Getting the right balance of nutrients for your body—including a healthy proportion of carbohydrates, fats and protein—along with a steady of flow of water-based hydration throughout the day, is truly the single best thing you can do for your body. Generally speaking, three balanced meals with two snacks, spread evenly throughout the day, will keep you satisfied but not over-full. But if you are looking for a more vigorous diet, you’re in luck!
Recent studies have indicated that any short-term diet, so long as it is nutritionally sound, will work for you, as long as you are consistent with it. Curious to try Keto? Dreaming of the Mediterranean foods of the South Beach Diet? Debating the DASH protocol? You can’t go wrong, as long as the diet gets you a base level of calories that keeps your energy going strong. (For calorie amounts recommended specifically for your weight, talk with a nutritionist or do a Google search!) The choice is truly yours. So cruise the internet, check out diet books at your local bookstore or library, talk with friends and family and see what’s worked for them, and pick the diet that you think you can manage long term…then stick with it for 4 to 6 weeks. Shorter than that and you may miss out on the true weight-loss benefits most diets offer, longer than that and you may lose steam. At the six-week mark, if need be, change things up! But no matter what, keep a careful eye on what you’re consuming…it’s the single biggest factor to maintaining (or losing!) weight.
2. Move your body
Contrary to popular belief, you can’t lose weight simply by exercising more…but it can definitely help. Combined with a thoughtful nutrition plan, moderate to high-intensity workouts that combine weight training and cardiovascular exercise (like jogging, biking, sports and fitness classes) can help you torch calories and build muscle, both of which contribute to weight loss. Another critical benefit of exercise is that it supports a well-rounded approach to health and fitness by releasing brain chemicals that make you feel better and sleep more deeply.
Not all of your workouts have to be high-intensity, either. Add in long, easy walks to clear your mind, as well as yoga or other stretching to keep your body loose and limber and help you reconnect. Get to know your body and listen to what it’s trying to tell you—and don’t overdo it! Better to go slow and stay healthy than get injured and have to limit what you can do.
3. Be accountable
While nutrition is the #1 success factor of most diets, the second isn’t exercise—it’s accountability. By signing up for a fitness challenge, embarking on a diet with a friend, joining a fitness-minded community on social media that expects you to post regular updates and track your progress, or even logging your progress with an app on your phone, having an accountability practice is like attaching turbo-boosters to your weight-loss rocket. You may be surprised at how much you feel compelled to stay the course, when there are others around you cheering you on (or competing with you, if that’s more your style!) But no matter what, find an accountability app, partner or team to see real results, fast. Before you know it, you’ll be welcoming Spring in the best shape of your life!