Have you noticed that most people tend to gain weight in winter? Winter brings with it the holiday season, lots of comfort foods, and very little physical activity. In the end, the cold weather makes winter weight loss a bit daunting for many.
While the cozy atmosphere creates the perfect excuse to relax and enjoy delicious food, winter is actually the best time to lose weight.
How to lose weight effectively in winter
You can achieve winter weight loss by eating healthy and staying physically active.
The key to losing weight effectively in winter is to focus on making small lifestyle changes that you can stick to, even with a hectic schedule.
For example, instead of wrapping your fingers around an ultra-rich hot cup of caramel latte, you could make yourself a cup of hot chocolate with unsweetened cocoa powder or a nice cup of green tea with a bit of honey.
You could also set a goal to walk 10 000 steps or find other creative ways to increase your physical activity throughout the day.
Winter weight gain does not happen overnight.
It is usually small things that eventually add up, like drinking too many hot drinks with added sugar or eating more comfort food with fewer exercises to increase energy expenditure.
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Why it is difficult to lose weight in winter
Several reasons make it very tempting to slack off on healthy habits in winter.
For starters, reduced daylight during the winter negatively affects a person’s energy levels and motivation to exercise.
Winter also makes it less appealing to make healthier food choices. Eating fruits and vegetables or drinking water slows down, while cravings for high-calorie comfort foods are through the roof.
Another thing that makes it challenging to lose weight in winter is the holiday season. The Holidays bring lots of activities such as travel and socials, which may disrupt your daily routine for a healthy life.All these things can make it difficult to lose weight in winter and ultimately create the perfect recipe for winter weight gain.
While it can be okay to gain extra pounds in winter and shed it off in spring, it is generally advisable to maintain a healthy weight throughout the year.
This way, you will avoid falling into the yo-yo dieting trap.
9 Winter Weight Loss Tips
In this blog post, you will learn how to lose weight in winter while enjoying the pleasures of the season.
1. Stock up on healthy snacks
It is a scientific fact that cold weather affects hunger hormones and how our body uses energy.
Research shows that as a response to cold weather, cravings, and hunger increase, as the body’s organs work together to maintain a stable temperature .
This makes us crave sugar, high-calorie foods, and refined carbs. If you do not have the willpower to stay away from unhealthy food cravings, your best bet is to keep your pantry stocked with healthy and energizing snacks.
Healthy snack options should include snacks that are low in calories, high in fiber, and provide a feeling of fullness to help keep cravings at bay.
Snacks such as popcorn, beef jerky, dried fruit, and homemade dark chocolate are excellent options to keep on hand all year round.
Other healthy snack options for winter include roasted chickpeas, homemade oatmeal cookies, homemade hot chocolate, and homemade granola bars.
Not only are they delicious and satisfying, but they are also nutritious and a great source of energy to help you power through the day.
You should always have these staples readily available, not just during the winter, to ensure easy access to healthy snacks whenever hunger strikes.
Healthy winter snack ideas
- Roasted Nuts
- Apple slices with nut butter
- Oatmeal with dried cranberries and walnuts
- Celery and hummus
- Roasted chickpeas
- Granola bars
- Yogurt with fresh fruit
- Whole wheat pita chips and salsa
- Mashed sweet potato
- Carrot sticks with hummus
- Trail mix
- Baked apples with cinnamon and honey
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2. Choose your winter drinks wisely
Not many people drink enough water every day, and it gets worse when the temperature drops.
It is common knowledge that most of us find it harder to stay hydrated in winter.
I am one of those who reach for a hot drink in winter to keep warm rather than drink water. I always try to find a balance between hydrating my body and drinking something that will warm me up.
Here is a breakdown of what I generally drink water in winter.
I start my day with a nice hot cup of green tea, breakfast, and two glasses of lukewarm water (it does not always taste great, by the way).
I usually have a mid-morning snack with a glass of lemon or cucumber-infused water.
Around 30 minutes before lunch, I drink one glass of water, usually cold this time because I know that a yummy hot meal will soon follow.
After lunch, I will have another glass or two of lukewarm water and try to reach the recommended eight glasses of water before 7 pm.
I usually treat myself after dinner and drink homemade hot chocolate with marshmallows or something else that assures me that I am not being too strict with myself.
I have shared all this to say that you should not be afraid to indulge a little in winter.
The healthiest way to lose or maintain weight in winter, as far as hot beverages go, is to find a balance between enjoying your favorite drink and hydrating your body.
3. Be more active
Most people don’t exercise enough in winter. It’s easy to go from running road races to indulging in TV marathons on the couch.
Winter weight loss can be difficult if you neglect your fitness routine.
Yes, exercising when the temperatures drop can be challenging but, when it’s dark and cold all around you, that is the best time to remind yourself ‘WHY’ you are doing it.
You can read more about finding your ultimate why in this article, discussing how to motivate yourself to workout.
By now it is probably clear that the secret to winter weight loss is eating healthy and being more active.
Set a goal for yourself to exercise at least three times a week, for no less than 20 minutes, either at home or the gym.
You can do this by taking a brisk walk for 20 minutes a day and building momentum as you get stronger.
Remember to dress for winter exercise, such as wearing layers that you can take off or add on as your body temperature rises or falls.
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4. Try out a fitness class or join a boot camp
If you have never tried boot camp workouts before, winter is the best time to join.
Other than torching an insane amount of calories in a short space of time, boot camp fitness is a source of accountability and motivation.
You are bound to work harder in a group fitness setting than you if you were alone.
Most boot camps offer amazing specials in winter- look up boot camps in your area and sign up.
If the intensity of a boot camp terrifies the daylights out of you, you can sign up at your local gym for the extra push to workout in winter.
As they say, there’s fun in numbers.
If joining group exercise classes is not an option for you, you can find creative ways of being more active.
You could walk through the snow, do a bit of yard work outside, or go grocery shopping instead of ordering online.
5. Evaluate your relationship with food
Your relationship with food in winter will either make you gain, maintain or lose weight.
According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIH), some people experience mood changes in fall or winter when days start getting shorter.
During this period, those who suffer from what is known as seasonal affective disorder tend to overeat and have a high craving for carbs .
If you are an emotional eater that turns to food when angry, happy, sad, or stressed, you can seek one of the several treatment and support options recommended by the NIH.
6. Eat nutrient-dense foods
You can avoid winter weight gain by eating healthy foods that will keep you satisfied longer and help you to reduce snacking and overeating.
Nutrient-dense foods are low in empty calories, meaning they contain more nutrients per calorie than processed foods such as donuts, fruits in syrup, and deli meats.
Switching to a nutrient-dense diet may take some getting used to, which is why you should start with one meal at a time.
You stand a better chance at succeeding with winter weight loss if you transition slowly and introduce just a few healthy, nutrient-dense options into your existing meals.
For example, you can replace sugary breakfast cereal with old-fashioned rolled oats and a handful of berries for a week or so.
After you have got used to eating nutrient-dense breakfast, you can move to lunch and find suitable substitutes such as healthy homemade stews and casseroles.
7. Wear a fitness tracker for motivation
One of the simplest ways to succeed at winter weight loss is to find creative ways to stay active that do not necessarily involve strict workout routines.
Wearing a fitness tracker will motivate you to move more and achieve fitness goals.
You can lose weight in winter without exercise by tracking the number of steps through a daily steps challenge.
You could set a daily goal of 10 000 steps a day or aim to burn a set amount of calories.
Once you start reaching your daily steps or burning calories, you will find yourself setting new challenges.
Before you know it, you will be pushing yourself to do 15 000 steps. Ultimately, you will lose weight or avoid winter weight gain.
You can also track your meals and write down healthy winter foods using a meal planner. You can get creative with a health and fitness planner by doing a winter weight loss challenge.
8. Track your weight loss
Make sure to keep track of your progress on a weekly or monthly basis. I prefer using a measuring tape, but if you want to jump on the scale, you can totally do that.
Keeping tabs on your weight will give you an idea of how quickly or slowly your weight is changing over time.
You can also use a fitness journal to log your exercise and dietary habits, which can provide insight into why your weight is changing.
By writing down how much you exercise, what you eat, and how many calories you consume each day, you can get an idea of what is affecting your weight and adjust your habits accordingly.
9. Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is essential for healthy weight loss and optimal health.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body will produce more hormones that make you crave unhealthy foods and make it harder for you to feel full after meals .
Not getting enough quality sleep also increases stress, which can lead to an increase in cortisol, a hormone that can slow down your metabolism and make it harder to lose weight .
Additionally, not getting enough sleep can make it harder to focus and stay motivated, which can make it more difficult to stick to your winter weight loss plan. You should aim for 7-9 hours per night to keep your metabolism functioning and your hunger hormones in balance.
Winter weight loss tips- final thoughts
You may struggle at first to eat healthy or exercise in winter but remember that fall and winter seasons do not last forever.
Your actions, or thereof during this period, will determine how your clothes fit you in spring or summer.
Sorting out your relationship with food, eating lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins will help you avoid winter weight gain.
Reducing the intake of sugary winter drinks, processed comfort foods, sugar, and saturated fats will help you lose weight easily during the winter months.
Regular exercise will help to burn fat, increase metabolism and help you lose weight in winter.
 Nasim Habibzadeh (2018) Why Physiologically Cold weather can Increase Obesity Rates?. International Physiology Journal – 2(1):11-13. https://doi.org/10.14302/issn.2578-8590.ipj-18-2548
 National Institute of Mental Health. Seasonal Affective Disorder. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/seasonal-affective-disorder
Papatriantafyllou, E., Efthymiou, D., Zoumbaneas, E., Popescu, C. A., & Vassilopoulou, E. (2022). Sleep Deprivation: Effects on Weight Loss and Weight Loss Maintenance. Nutrients, 14(8), 1549. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14081549
 Alotaibi, A. D., Alosaimi, F. M., Alajlan, A. A., & Bin Abdulrahman, K. A. (2020). The relationship between sleep quality, stress, and academic performance among medical students. Journal of family & community medicine, 27(1), 23–28. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_132_19
Susan Chanda is a professional content writer/journalist with over 20 years’ experience. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing management from University of South Africa and a diploma in Journalism and Public relations.
Susan has been writing evidence based fitness and health articles since 2016 for Fitness Chat, and is a certified fitness trainer, and diet and nutrition coach.
Fitness Chat is one of the several other websites that Susan owns, or co-owns with her children.
You can read more about Susan here.