Beat the Winter Bulge

As the seasons change it’s not just the weather that’s different, we tend to change our diets too. I often see patients who say that managing their WEIGHT is easier during the summer. People tend to gain weight during the winter as our diet and exercise routines grind to a screeching halt. Here are some common weight gain triggers:

We tend to:

  • Eat less SALADS and opt for hearty meals
  • Increase our PORTIONS
  • EXERCISE less – most of us just want to hibernate!
  • Wrap up in cosy LAYERS so the worry about showing our ‘beach bodies’ is long gone!
  • Have endless PARTIES!

Do any of these apply to you? Well, read on!

December is such a sociable month – parties, get togethers, buffets, drinks, and, of course, CHRISTMAS! I see so many people that seem to think that Christmas lasts a month, not a day! Some reside to the fact that they will gain weight over Christmas, so let themselves go OVERBOARD and try to make drastic changes in January. Think of it as DAMAGE CONTROL – Christmas is ONLY a DAY – don’t self-sabotage and use it as an excuse to go on a month long binge. Christmas is a time for celebration, fun and family NOT FOOD so don’t make it you’re focus!

Winter weight gain can become a DANGEROUS habit. If you don’t manage to lose the excess weight over the summer, then the situation will get worse and WORSE as the years pass. Even if you ‘only’ gain 4 pounds over the winter, this mounts up to a stone in just over 3 years. This is a dangerous as it’s a steady weight gain that can easily stay unnoticedbrasder until it’s too late, and, you’ve develop a health problem.

I saay ‘ONLY’ 4 pounds as people don’t seem to think that ‘a FEW POUNDS’ are a problem. 1 pound is roughly 2 packs of butter or a tin of baked beans. Have a look at this ‘fat’ model I’m holding to demonstrate what I mean:

Bigger than you think isn’t it? And this is usually PURE FAT – so imagine that amount of fat surrounding one of your organs – such as your heart – does it seem more important now?

In fact, the average person gains 5-7 pounds over winter!

Some people seem to forget about their 5-a-day mission during the winter months as the summer offers more fruit and salad options. This could be why some gain weight – I am a strong believer in FILLING UP ON VEG OR SALAD at a meal so that we can better control our carbohydrate (starchy food) portions. My GOLDEN RULE for weight loss is simple but effective – half fill your plate with veg / salad/ fruit and divide the other half between carbs and protein.

People often feel like they have no ENERGY – no get up and go, during the winter and that’s a lot to do with our lack of EXERCISE. Believe it or not, exercise wakes us up, as it releases ENDORPHINS in the brain that makes us feel as good on the inside as it does on the outside. As there is less daylight, sometimes we are less motivated to exercise so why not mix it up – try a morning workout instead of an evening one. If we are low in mood we are more likely to SNACK or comfort eat too – this can lead to a VICIOUS CYCLE of weight gain and feeling low.

Making homemade SOUP is a great meal option – you know exactly what’s going in it, it can count towards your five a day and it’s usually a low calorie option.

The key lies in PREVENTION.

Here are my Quirky Top Tips to help you BEAT the winter bulge:

  1. Ditch the ‘all or nothing’ MENTALITY – perfection doesn’t exist, believe me! Don’t let one ‘bad’ thing lead into a ‘oh-I’ve-done-it-now-what’s-the-point-of-carrying-on’ SPLURGE! Sack those sabotaging thoughts.
  2. Have BREAKFAST! Try a lovely warming bowl of porridge – oats can help lower your CHOLESTEROL and keep you fuller for longer so that you don’t SNACK before lunch. Check out my porridge inspiration blog for ideas on how to prevent your porridge getting boring!
  3. Embrace winter VEG – why not try something new like butternut squash or kale and don’t forget the winter favourites – cauliflower, sprouts, cabbage, parsnips, turnips and swede.
  4. Include VEG with every meal – this will prevent you overloading on CARBOHYDRATES. Half fill your plate with veg / salad, then, divide the other half between carbs (starchy foods) and protein (meat, fish, beans, lentils). This will help calorie control your meals as veg / salad are much lower in calories than carbs.
  5. Watch your PLATE SIZE. Out with the large plates and bowls and in with the medium sized. You’ll be surprised at how much of a difference a little change like this can make. Foregoing that extra spoonful can make such a difference over a week, and even a bigger difference over a month. An easy way to MEASURE the size of your plate is to use your HAND – if the area in which you eat from (inside the rim) is about the size of your open hand – your good to go. If it’s bigger, then you need to DOWNSIZE.
  6. Stay ACTIVE! Exercise is just as IMPORTANT, if not more so, during the winter but, we tend to not do as much. If the sub-zero temperatures outside freeze your motivation then, think of activities you can do at home. The whole family could get involved with a tournament on an activity games console, invest in an exercise bike, buy a fitness DVD, put on a CD and have a jig or even walk up and down the stairs a few time. Why not go all out and enter yourself into a race / half marathon for the following year to keep up your motivation. Have a look at my physical activity – what’s the big deal blog for ideas
  7. Don’t COMFORT EAT – it’s ok to have a TREAT now and again but, don’t make it a habit. If you’re desperate for a chocolate fix, I suggest having a low calorie HOT CHOCOLATE drink to curve that craving. Best of all, look for non-food based treats that won’t affect your waistline. For ideas on how to prevent this, have a look at my motivation blog
  8. Lay off the BOOZE – it’s high in calories and does not provide any nutritional value – empty calories. Try to opt for a spirit with a diet mixer, as this tends to be the lowest calories option. A large glass of wine is 180 Kcals and a pint of larger is 250 Kcals – a sprit with diet mixer is 56 Kcals. Remember not to drink on an empty stomach and try to have water / soft drink between alcoholic drinks.
  9. Adapt RECIPES – bulk up winter favourites such as stews with plenty of veg – this will reduce the calorie content, make your meal last longer and reduce cost compared to having more meat. It also means that you can cut down on the amount of carbs you serve with it such as bread and potato.
  10. Homemade SOUP – a great lunch option and an easy way of helping you on your way to your 5-a-day! Homemade soup tends to be lower in SALT, preservatives and you know exactly what goes in them. Some people say that having soup as a starter helps them EAT LESS at their main course which can help you lose weight. Check out my favourite tomato soup recipe it’s so simple!
  11. plannerShrink the STRESS – winter months, especially December can be really busy and stressful so take the stress out of cooking by using a meal planner. Sit yourself down on a Sunday afternoon and write a MEAL PLANNER. It can help you budget, cut down on waste and you can base your shopping list on it. Online shopping is a good option for December as you may be tempted by the unhealthy Christmas goodies in the shops and it can free up more of your time.


  1. Beware the BUFFET – Studies suggest that we may take in 40% more calories when we eat out compared to eating at home. When we eat out, especially when there’s a buffet, our eating isn’t always related to HUNGER – it’s the variety of foods available that TEMPT us into overeating. Try not to fall into the ‘all you can eat’ trap – decide before hand how much you’re going to have and cruse the buffet first to decide what you really want.

Have fun and be slim and trim for spring!