Protect yourself from packing on the pounds this winter

By Athlete's Care on November 28, 2019

As the cooler weather sets it, it’s so much easier to be at home, cuddled under a blanket on the couch, watching movies, sipping on hot chocolate and snacking our way through easily accessible treats.

Come June, however, these practices – along with the parties and festivities that come with the holidays – can leave you feeling like your trousers have shrunk over the winter.

For so many of us, the colder months mean our appetite soars, as the body is trying to burn more energy to generate heat and we simply have more opportunity to indulge. And it’s the combination of these poorer choices in foods that leads to a higher chance of energy being stored as fat.


How seasons affect our choices

The effect of seasonal changes and their influence on our health has long been studied. Some bodies of research provide evidence to suggest that our brain’s have simply not yet evolved to adjust to the ways of modern-day living, where we don’t have to content with exposure to extremes in temperatures as we sit in climate-controlled offices and homes for a greater part of our lives, and we have all the food we want to eat, right at our fingertips. This portion of the research believes that the brain still continues to send signals that promote energy storage for availability during colder times and scarcity of food, which is why the appetite is stimulated and you feel yourself wanting to eat more.

Yet another school of thought on seasonal eating behaviour simply comes from opportunity. We have office parties, family get togethers, huge cook outs, more alcohol and desserts being served, and an increase in the amount of high calorie leftovers on offer during this time. Added to the fact that there’s less opportunity to exercise outside – even walking and biking as a method of commuting is significantly reduced – coupled with the motivation to exercise when there is less light, there’s little wonder why many people gain weight during this time.

Whichever it is, there’s no reason to be left with extra padding when Spring rolls around!

Here are 5 tips to adjust your winter diet to manage increased hunger:

  1.       Eat foods that satisfy your hunger, not your cravings.

If you’re hungry, eat something that not only nourishes your body, but leaves you feeling satiated. A cookie, pastry or high carbohydrate snack can leave you feeling just as hungry a short time later, while a food that contains protein, fat and a little carbohydrate can increase your feelings of fullness and satisfy that hunger.

If you’re hungry between meals, consider a serving of low-sugar Greek yogurt with one piece of fruit as a snack. As is a tablespoon of nut butter with a few vegetable sticks can also tide you over until your next meal.

  1.        Have more protein or fat with your meals.

Adding a good portion of protein to your meals while slightly reducing the carbohydrate portion and getting just a little fat can be the balance, you’re looking for to satisfy your appetite and reduce your hunger. Lean meat, eggs, cheese and soy products such as tofu can contribute the protein portion of your meal. Halve the amount of carbohydrates you typically serve, using your fist size as an indication of one portion, and add a serving of fat around the size of 2 tablespoons to your meal in the form of nuts, seeds, and/or their oils.

  1.        Leave time between meals

The digestive system works optimally in a 4 to 5-hour window. Constantly snacking can offset the process of digestion and interfere with blood sugar balance and insulin production. After you have eaten a full, balanced meal, leave time for digestion to take place before eating the next meal. Keep food out of sight until then, and busy yourself with activities to distract you from wanting to snack.

  1.        Plate your food in a specific way

Typically, we start plating our food with the starchy carbohydrate component (such as rice, pasta, potatoes), then we move onto the meat or protein portion, and lastly, we add vegetables and/or salad, where there’s often little room left for a decent portion.

Instead, plate a large portion of vegetables and salad first, add the protein on the side, only then should you dish up the starchy carbohydrate component to fit the smallest part left over on the plate.

  1.        When it comes to desserts and treats…

There’s no reason to deny yourself the enjoyment of a few desserts or treats during the holidays. The key is moderation, and one of the biggest problems we face here is portion size.

A dinner plate makes a standard portion of pie look far too small, and so we cut ourselves another slice to satisfy what we see. When we have small side plate with a standard portion of pie, our eyes tell our brain that this proportion is correct, and we are satisfied with that single serving. Always dish out desserts onto the smallest available bowl or plate to stick within the desired portion size.

When it comes to cookies and other treats, place them out of sight to avoid constantly going back to conveniently located containers.

At parties, move away from where the food is laid out where possible. Once you have eaten your portion of food/snacks/treats, seek out groups of people who have finished eating, as people typically mimic what others are doing; if they continue eating, it is likely you will, too.

Small adjustments to your habits and dietary intake can have a significant impact on how you feel, your appetite, and your winter weight gain. Consider these five tips as it continues to get colder, and you take part in more holiday festivities.


Vanessa Phillips
Nutritional Therapy Practitioner


Vanessa consults at our Athlete's Care Yonge & Eglinton location.  Click here to find out more about Vanessa and how she can help you!  Call 416-544-9065 to book an appointment.