4 Ways to Fight Winter Weight Gain

Here's how to satisfy your natural warming instincts and stay slim during the winter.

4 Ways to Fight Winter Weight Gain

Picking up a few extra pounds in cold weather -- that dreaded "winter weight gain" -- is maddening. Even though your metabolism speeds up a bit to keep you warm, you can't eat much more than you did in summer without gaining weight. But those oh-so-chilly temperatures make steamy comfort foods and creamy hot drinks more tempting than ever. Here's how to satisfy your natural warming instincts and stay slim.

1. Know what really keeps you full and warm.
In a word: protein. Your body creates more heat when digesting protein than it does when digesting fats or carbohydrates. Chow down on lean chicken and turkey breast, canned tuna, fish, and shellfish. Not a meat eater? Add black beans, kidney beans, chickpeas, or lentils to your meals. This multi-bean chili is just as filling as chili con carne and has less fat and fewer calories.

2. Say no to foods that make you say "brrr."
Follow your instincts . . . they're right. Swap cold cereal for hot oatmeal at breakfast. Have a hearty soup instead of a sandwich at lunch. Even cook your salad ingredients: At the last minute, stir "winter greens" -- spinach, kale, swiss chard, collards -- into stews, soups, casseroles, and scrambled eggs. Why heat before you eat? Warm foods keep the shivers away because your body doesn't waste energy heating them up for digestion.

3. Don't count on hot spices -- or hot toddies, either.
Ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, pepper, and cayenne pepper are considered "warming spices" because they tend to draw body heat to the surface of your skin. But when that warmth hits the surface, it quickly dissipates. Ditto for that brandy-splashed hot toddy: Alcohol dilates blood vessels, and as warm blood flows to the skin's surface, its heat quickly escapes, too.

4. Switch to decaf after your first morning cup.
Coffee may feel warm going down, but swilling cup after cup may just make you colder. That's because caffeine has a dehydrating effect, which makes symptoms of a drop in body temperature even worse. Craving something comforting at the coffee shop? Instead of a gingerbread latte topped with whipped cream, order a nonfat chai tea latte. It'll warm you down to your toes, and you'll save 130 calories and some goose bumps. At home, make hot chocolate with nonfat milk, add a drop of vanilla for extra richness, and top it with fat-free Cool Whip. You'll feel like a kid again. A warm one, whose jeans fit.

P.S. -- Staying warm while avoiding winter weight gain won't make you feel better just when swimsuit season rolls around. Maintaining your weight and body mass index at a desirable level can make your RealAge as much as 6 years younger.

Medically reviewed in April 2019.

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