7 years ago when I moved from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Chicago in the middle of winter, I gained about 10 pounds. Winter is depressing and it calls for comfort food, not salad. The cold weather begs you to stay home under the covers and the last thing you want to do is walk outside. However, there are ways to feel better and make yourself feel comforted without piling on the pounds. Over the past 7 years I had to learn how to make the harsh Chicago winters work for me and nowadays I am happy to report that I love winters! I found out how to control my weight gain and on top of that I get to wear sexy boots and Burberry jackets.... It doesn't get any better than that. Anyway, without further ado, here are my 6 winter weight hacks (Want more tips like these? Sign up for my 4 weeks of exclusive tips of fitness and nutrition here):
1) Drink lots of tea! Tea is warming and comforting. It fills you up and fools you into thinking you are having a dessert... I have two all time favorite winter teas: Rare Tea Cellar's Gingerbread tea dream Rooibos (buy here), and Republic of tea Peppermint Chocolate Rooibos (buy here). Both are caffeine free Rooibos blends which contain polyphenols that have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. This will help shed any water retention you may be experiencing. I usually add some agave and steamed hemp seed milk. It gives the tea a creamy and decadent taste - even my picky eaters love it! It is a warming and amazing ritual that will substitute the need for comfort foods in the winter.
2) Too cold for a green smoothie, but would like to have the same benefits? Eat an amazing green oatmeal instead! I love green smoothies, but it is hard having a cold morning meal in 20 degree weather. I need to wake up with something warm and invigorating in the morning. So, I eat oatmeal when it is too cold, but I add greens and other goodies. I make my oatmeal overnight in a slow cooker, it is super easy and it allows you to have steel cut oatmeal which is the one that will give you the most benefits. I blend 1 cup of packed spinach with a banana and a little bit of cashew milk and then mix it in with my oatmeal. This creates a full meal that is warming and has similar benefits to a green smoothie.
3) Buy a UV lamp! Did you know Vitamin D is not really a vitamin? It is rather a hormone that your body produces when exposed to sunlight. If you live in the northern climates you know that there is not a lot of sun around here to help you produce this valuable nutrient. In fact, many autoimmune diseases are linked to a deficiency of vitamin D... No wonder these kids of diseases are more prevalent in colder climates. As the benefits of vitamin D supplements are still debatable, I recommend you get a UV lamp. Just turn it on while you are getting on with your morning routine. Or maybe use it while you are working. You will see drastic improvement in your mood and you will produce vitamin D as a result.
4) Drink lots of warming foods, like soup, and add lots of warming seasonings to your foods like ginger. Traditional Chinese medicine recommends we avoid raw foods during the winter because they cool the body and compromise our digestion and ability to assimilate nutrients. This means we should focus on lots of soups and stews using root vegetables, dark leafy greens, beans, whole grains and seaweeds. Ayurveda also recommends warming foods and suggests the use of warming spices - this means lots of ginger, cumin, turmeric, and nutmeg. The beauty of soups and stews is that you can set a slow cooker before you leave for work with all of the ingredients, and come back home after work to an amazing meal. Try it!
5) This is the time for a Sauna! It is no wonder the Finnish are known for their Saunas... Finland is freaking cold! There is evidence suggesting that individuals that engage in sauna bathing are less likely to get colds. Also, when your body is exposed to heat, it produces more white blood cells... Seriously people! A study found that sauna bathing stimulated the immune system - specially those of athletes. Being in a sauna also makes you feel good and warm and it is a great ritual to partake in a cold afternoon.
6) Move your body. Exorcise the winter blues and burn a few extra calories by adopting a running regimen. Can't run, then do whatever exercises suits your fancy. But, make sure you exercise regularly. Exercise increases blood flow and warms the body. The rise in temperature has a soothing and calming effect. Research has also shown that a regular exercise regimen strengthens your immunity helping you fight those winter bugs. Talking about winter bugs, regular exercise keeps the winter blues at bay by releasing serotonin and dopamin within 10 minutes . These feel-good chemicals boost well-being and make us feel happier.
That's it! Those are my hacks. I hope it helps you get through this winter!