Ready or not, the colder and darker months of the season are coming. For some, the upcoming chilly days of diminishing sunlight are sure to have a profound (and negative) impact on our ability to burn off that stubborn, unwanted fat that accumulates around our midsections.
Why is dieting and weight loss seemingly so much more difficult during the winter months?
To get the answers, we took to the fitness centers and gyms around London and came upon an interesting explanation for why our energy levels and moods seem so prone to sinking when the weather turns colder, and the sun sets sooner. One personal trainer shared that more and more of her clients are describing symptoms indicative of a condition the medical community refers to as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or, more appropriately, SAD.
Also referred to as seasonal depression, SAD is a category of depression that is, well, seasonal because it’s brought on by a lack of sunlight during the fall and winter months of the season – a phenomenon that lowers our serotonin levels which impacts our moods. It also increases the levels of melatonin in our body which is a hormone that regulates our sleep patterns. Ultimately, the symptoms of SAD include mood changes, sleeping issues, drowsiness, and a general loss of interest in social activities.
Such symptoms obviously don’t achieve much in terms of stoking our desire to work-out or “break a sweat.” But it’s not just a lack of sunlight that’s the problem. It’s that our lives generally look very different during the fall and winter months. We do less physically and socially, and that can manifest in unwanted and unnecessary girth.
The good news is that we’re going to show you a few of the most effective dieting strategies you can adopt now before we’ve extended too far into the colder months. Before we begin, it’s important to understand that the key making these dieting strategies work is to apply them when you still have the motivation to cultivate these strategies into habits.
Eat More Fiber
One of the best strategies to fight belly fat during the colder, darker months is to try and limit our caloric intake. But that doesn’t mean we have to starve ourselves - a strategy that often backfires because of how it can suppress our metabolism. What we can do is make changes to our dietary habits that can suppress our hunger instead of our metabolism! Studies show that we can achieve this desired effect by including more fiber sources in our daily diets.
When we include more sources of fiber, we have a better chance of curbing our hunger and reducing the number of unnecessary calories we eat. Best of all, fiber can be a powerful weapon against those pesky (albeit powerful) hunger cravings that can upend our dieting efforts.
The secret to fiber is that it’s not digestible, and when we include more fiber sources in our body it slows the speed of our digestive processes, and that’s the secret to maintaining that “full” feeling that can help us in our efforts to consume fewer calories.
And we’re talking more than bran muffins here. There are swaths of easily accessible fiber sources that you can add to your diet:
Green, leafy salad, green beans, and kale
Brown rice, unprocessed wheat, and oatmeal
Apples, strawberries, and bananas
In fact, we spoke to a personal trainer from the Delta Fitness Center in Canary Wharf (London) who told us that her clients have experienced success using fiber supplements on the market that come in capsule form – something that you’re sure to find at your local health store.
Spice Up Your Diet!
If you’re like me, you love spicy food – and that can be a boon if fat loss is your goal. That’s because there is often an active ingredient called capsaicin in certain spicy foods that can increase that desirable feeling of satiety (feeling full) and provide a boost to your metabolism.
The benefits of capsaicin go back nearly 7000 years to Mexico, and it has a multitude of applications to enhance your health. By including bell peppers or cayenne seasoning in your meals, you’re adding a supplement to your diet that not only keeps you feeling full longer, you’re also amping up your metabolism using natural methods. If spiciness sounds like an appealing path toward weight loss, here are several foods that are high in capsaicin.
Avoid Sugary Snacks
Look. There’s a reason they’re called “empty” calories. When the sugar and fat content of your food outweighs the nutritional value, it’s empty calories. Those enticing snacks will only make your fight against fat much more difficult if you consume too many of them. That means we ought to be consuming fewer doughnuts and sugary sodas to elevate our chances of success keeping the fat off during the winter.
Sugary beverages may give you a momentary (as in jittery) boost, but they’ll simply leave you feeling unsatisfied and lethargic. Dieticians suggest that it’s best to avoid them.
Focus on Quality Protein Sources
Studies show that we can have success burning stubborn belly (abdominal) fat by increasing our intake of good protein sources. One recent report in the Medical News Today showed how including more protein in our diets can lead to weight loss in myriad ways, but it was noted as being especially effective when combined with an exercise routine. When we combine a higher intake of protein with exercise, there’s a greater likelihood of building more muscle mass in our bodies. The lean muscle mass in our bodies act as an incinerator to consistently burn more calories throughout our day, even while at rest. Focus on including more lean meats in your diets during the winter months. Skinless chicken, shrimp, pork loin, and turkey are all protein-rich foods that include the healthy fat and lower calories that will keep us fuller longer.
Talk to a Professional
There’s no doubt that our eating choices have a huge impact on our fitness levels. If you've been fighting to shed that belly fat, but can’t seem to get the results you want, a personal trainer and/or dietician might be the logical next step. These are trained professionals who can help you avoid mistakes you might not even be aware that you’re making and can guide you in establishing eating habits that are sustainable within your unique lifestyle, even as it gets a lot darker and colder outside.