It's that time of year again. You know what I mean. You can already feel the air getting colder, the days getting shorter and the pumpkin spiced lattes. It's autumn in the Maritimes.
It is a beautiful time of year, but it ultimately leads to the holiday season and the long winter months. It comes every year, and every year I am sure you say to yourself that you won't put on any weight this winter.
For some, this might be true, but unfortunately for a majority it isn't.
The truth is, a lot of people put on a little extra body fat each winter. A little body fat may not be a big deal, but it adds up if you keep putting on one to five pounds a year for five to 10 years.
So, how do you stop this "snowballing" of weight gain in the winter months? Have a plan. That's it, have a plan. The plan might change because your goals may change. It is better to have a plan that has a bit of flexibility in it, than to have no plan at all.
So the first step is doing it. Sit down and look at the previous years. What did or didn't you do that contributed to you gaining weight or at least to not reaching a goal you may have set? Once you address those issues, you can put steps in place to achieve.
Did you do any exercise? Did you eat as well as you could? Did you get enough sleep? Did you drink enough water? How stressed are you? If you actually look at these questions, they usually, but not always, hold the answer to why you aren't succeeding. I say not always because there are hormonal reasons and other factors that can contribute in your fat loss or gain. If you feel like that is a legitimate concern, then you should see a medical professional.
Most people can improve in these areas. Sleep, hydration and stress are underrated factors in how well your body feels. Aim for six to eight hours of sleep at least most nights of the week. Get a little less screen time and more pillow time.
Try to get two litres of water a day. If you are active, you may need more. Try to consistently sip on water throughout the day. If you wait until you are really thirsty, you end up chugging a bottle of water. That may seem satisfying to you, but it actually doesn't hydrate you well.
Try to reduce stress. This is a tough one. We all have busy lives. We all need to work. We all have issues. If you can't change your situation, change your attitude. I know this sounds like some new world, hipster garbage, but I have seen it work for many. Doing things like a gratitude journal are shown to help reduce stress and make people happier. It's simple. At the start or end off each day, write down one to five things you are grateful for. Look at these things every day. You may just realize that you have it better than a lot of world.
Once you have those things in a balance, diet and exercise become what can really make changes to your body composition.
I always tell people that exercise is the easy part of becoming healthy. Everyone always asks, what is the best exercises they should do. The truth is, not everyone can learn how to do everything. Some people have limitations like injuries, flexibility and lack of co-ordination. Moving becomes more important. Pick a plan, stick with it, and give it some real effort.
We live in a time where we move less and eat more. Our daily lives expend less energy and our food contains more of it. That is why there is an obesity epidemic in the world. If you reverse this equation, you will succeed. Eat more food that is nutrient-dense, which is usually low in calories and eat less food that is calorie-dense, which is usually low in nutrients. An example would be eating a salad that has lots of dark, leafy greens like spinach or kale. Toss in lots of colourful vegetables. Add a healthy salad dressing.
So, here is your plan for the winter months. Start today. Take an honest look at these questions. See where you can improve. If the answers are bad, try to fix those first.
Get more sleep, start a gratitude journal and carry a water bottle at all times.
Get a gym membership, a program off the internet or just move more at home or with your kids. Don't go more than three days without working out.
Google healthy recipes. Find some simple ones that work for your budget and cooking skills. Stick with four to eight simple recipes and make them for two to four weeks. Switch them up after that if you like. Just make your life as simple as possible. Reduce alcohol consumption.
Do this during November and see how you feel.
Ryan Cairns is a certified personal trainer from Charlottetown. He currently lives in Sydney, Australia. You can reach Ryan through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @tattooed_pt.