Howling winds makes us want to cosy up at home with a plate of warm… No, today we’ll take a hard look at winter weight gain. Yes, it’s a common problem—people tend to pack on a few extra pounds during those long, cold winter months. And yes, I’m talking the chubby kind of weight gain not the muscular kind. One tends to come easy, the other definitely doesn’t.

The truth is, a combination of Mama’s comfort food and online trawling on your warm sofa tends to be pretty bad for your waistline.
But we want to help you fight back. And we want you to join us. Don’t leave it for the next beach season, which now looks like ages away. Let’s get real this time, not like all the preceding years where promises didn’t last more than a few weeks. In this way, when the time comes, we’ll find it a lot easier to strut down those golden sands of Ramla to hit the waves!

The Good, The Bad…And The Solution

Although winter weight gain varies from person to person, research shows the average gain to be 2-3kg. And I can promise you Maltese people pile on more than that in your typical winter (I’ve been in this game for almost 3 decades now so I have been around the block a few times).

Some people gain this extra weight because they have Seasonal Affective Disorder—a type of winter depression. But before any of you cry wolf, most of us can’t blame winter depression for our tendency to pick up extra weight during the winter months.

So, why does winter weight gain happen? According to Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center, it happens because we eat more and move less during the winter months. This is bad news and good news. It is bad news because it would be kind of nice if we could blame our cold-weather corpulence on something exotic like the jet stream cycle, and waddle off for another espresso. You know, finger pointing which most people are expert at. “Not my fault! It’s the universe plotting against me.” Sure, keep wishing.

The good news is that we can do something about it. We don’t have to greet spring and summer with softer middles and tighter clothes. So let’s celebrate a better year by tackling winter weight gain with our weapon of choice here at The BodyForge: discipline.

Rules Of Engagement

According to Merriam-Webster, discipline is a “rule or system of rules governing conduct or activity.” This is perfect. In order to fight winter weight gain, we have to discipline ourselves to follow some rules.

Here are the three top ones:

Banned language: No, it’s not about the “F” word. It’s about the “O” word. For the next several weeks, do not allow yourself to say, “Only this once.” Things start getting screwed up when you give yourself a little leeway. In my experience, if you allow someone even just a little bit of rope, they will eventually hang themselves with it. If you pay close attention, an ‘only this once’ situation comes up practically every day. You go to a retirement party. You take spouse out for a birthday dinner. Someone brings a meal by your house because you’ve been sick. Your co-worker brings in the leftover pizza from last night’s party. Your child has leftover Valentine’s Day candy. You have to say no every single time. You can’t say yes. Not even once. Otherwise you will never get ahead. Just grit your teeth, resist what others are having and make good food choices. I’m not saying it is easy. I’m saying it is necessary.

Dear pastizzi, no means no!

1. Having said that, unending deprivation never works. If you can’t let go a little every now and then, you would just go nuts, climb up a clock tower, and start shooting people from up there. Plan your occasional splurge, and do not deviate from the plan. The keyword here, however, is “planned”. You have to be intentional about the time, place and food that you let yourself splurge on. Love the hot wings at your favorite restaurant? Want to have a little lasagna in the weekend? That Chuao bar (for those of you who have no clue, this is supposedly the world’s greatest chocolate) in the cupboard talking to you? Then let’s make a deal. Eat clean for six days. No cheating. It the end of those six days, go have the wings. Guilt free. Just enjoy them. No problem at all. Then set the next goal. That would be enough to stop you from screwing up along the way, because you know that a reward is around the corner. This means you are not allowed to deviate from your plan. If you screw up, then no reward. It’s that simple.
Don’t waste your fun calories on something that doesn’t compare to those wings, that lasagna or the Chuao!

2. Keep moving. Let’s get one thing clear. Exercise is NOT an optional activity. Now more than ever you have to get your body in motion. The way our lives are constructed, we do almost no form of exercise at all. Most jobs are now sedentary. Most children don’t like to run around outside, climbing trees and getting rough and dirty anymore. Exercise is very effective at preventing weight gain—and that is what we’re after right now. Don’t even worry so much about losing pounds; just work to keep the winter scale-creep from happening to you. Try to get some form of resistance training at least three days a week. Find a great coach and he/she will keep you on track. And please note, I said coach, not personal trainer. There is a difference.

Let’s Get It On

Following these three simple guidelines will make a huge difference in the weight that you pile on during the winter. They set up a framework of discipline that will keep you focused on your goal and driven to do the right thing.

Remember, it’s not just a question of weight gain. This is not simply something you do to look good in your underwear. It’s a question of keeping disease at bay, which is inevitable when the fat starts to pile up. In an island with one of the highest obesity and diabetic rates in the world, we need all the help we can get to avoid becoming just another statistic.