We are biologically designed to store fat in winter. Historically, when we were cave dwellers, it kept us warm and alive. Come Spring, we had used up our energy store and off we ran into the sunshine, back to balance again. In our current environment, we don’t eat or act according to the seasons. Some of us have put down our fat stores and as we never have a “winter famine” or work up a “summer sweat”, our bodies have become acclimatised to year round temperate living. This is all good for the people that haven’t laid down any food stores. But for those of us that have and want to shed the extra layers of insulation, then weight loss in winter can be a battle. It doesn’t have to be though. A few tweaks here and there, and you can keep losing weight over the winter months.
Let’s start by looking at what you are eating in terms of how much you are moving. The simple equation of energy in=energy out. Can you tell if you are eating the right amount for your goals? Often I see people who are so worried about over eating, when they aren’t even eating enough to sustain their day-to-day functions. Do you know how the body responds to this? It thinks it is in winter famine and holds onto everything you are giving it!! Weight gain instead of weight loss! The flip side is when you ARE actually overeating, and the body has nothing to do with the excess energy you are giving it, but to store it for later. Think of it as a squirrel storing nuts for winter.
Let’s find the middle ground. Let’s trick our bodies into thinking it’s spring! If you aren’t sure how much you are eating for your needs, we can do a diet dairy analysis for you. Using an app, you input what you’ve eaten and how much activity you’ve done, and we can tell you which areas we need to change to make your diet work for you. You may need more protein, or more carbs. Nutritional medicine works because it customises things for you.
So.. Finding the middle ground in winter. When all you want to do is reach for your fave comfort food. Let’s start by tweaking the ingredients. Are there smarter swaps you can make to still have the flavour you want but not the calories? Swapping sugar for coconut sugar is an example. Coconut sugar will give you the sweetness you are after, but it’s a low GI sugar, so it will not spike your blood sugars the same way it would if you used honey or maple syrup.
Let’s check in with your portion sizes. Are you eating for a cave man? A really rough guide to the amount of food you should eat in one sitting is to use the size of your palm to gauge the amount of food. Palm sized portion of protein. Double that of veggies. Half a handful of nuts/seed. If you’re having a bowl of nuts, then you are acting like it’s an autumn feast, and you are storing away for winter!
There’s a number of ways we can trick our bodies into thinking we are in the winter famine and begin to lose some of those stored kilo’s. It’s all to do with 2 things. The timing of when we eat, and the amount of food we consume.
In a nutshell, eat less food in less time. Put yourself back in time, in the cave. It’s winter. There’s very little fresh food to forage. You’ve stored some nuts and seeds away to last you until spring, but you have to be very sparing with it. It’s so cold; all you want to do is stay by the fire. It’s darker outside for longer, so you stay inside and sleep. If you want to eat fresh food, you need to go and find it, hunt it, kill it, prepare it, cook it and share it with the tribe. A massive effort for a nice, albeit small, reward. How did we get from there to where we are now? Alarm wakes us up at 6am, we get up, have a ready-made breakfast. Leave home while its still dark, pick up coffee and pastry on the way to work in a windowless building, were we sit still all day, only moving to get more food for morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea. Drive home in the dark, eat dinner, and then snack in front of TV until bed. You can see how we have ended up in an evolutionary mess!! During winter, think like a cave man. Use some energy before eating. Wait until your body tells you its hungry before eating. For some people it might be the middle of the day before that happens. We’ve been wired to eat routinely every few hours and to what end? We’ve stopped listening to our bodies, have stopped eating seasonally, have stopped eating ancestrally, and the result is not great. Let’s get back to listening to our bodies. Retrain your behaviours around food so you aren’t on autopilot and eat just because it’s a certain time of day.
A lot of people are raving about the results they are getting from Intermittent fasting, or I.F. There’s a few different ways you can eat this way, and you need to find what works best for you. Remember, we are all different, and diet is not one-sized fits all. Choose either 5:2 or 16:8, or something in between, this style of fasting is easy to fit into your lifestyle.
5:2 cycles between a fast and a normal eating pattern. On 5 days you eat very little, it’s recommended to eat just 500 calories, and on the other 2 days, you go back to eating a normal amount, which for the average adult is 2000 calories. The pros to this are you save money on food; you may lose weight and reduce the risk of chronic disease. The cons to this are you may find it restrictive, and some people splurge on the 2 “normal days’, and these become “blow out” days instead!
16:8 on the other hand means for every 24hour day, you don’t eat for 16 hours, and use the other 8 hours as your window to eat. The pros for this way of fasting is that it is less restrictive, it is said to support weight loss and promote health benefits such as improved blood sugar control. The cons are that you may be tempted to eat more during this 8-hour window to “make up” for the non-eating time.
I.F. is an opportunity to reduce our caloric deficit. What does that mean in non-nutrition speak? It means if we eat a little bit less than we should, then weight loss is encouraged. However, we need to not drop it too much, or the dreaded winter famine phenomenon will occur and we won’t lose anything!
It’s not all that complicated. If you are reading about a new concept of eating though, it can be confusing at first. I was super dubious the first time I read about I.F, however the results and the research have me supporting it as a way to promote weight loss and increase health benefits!
Go on, give it a try! What have you got to lose except what you want to lose!!
If you want to really give losing weight in winter a go, then download the FREE MEAL PLAN below.