Winter Weight Gain — Time to Start Losing It

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An airman fills his plate from a salad bar.
U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class Brian Vick, a 35th Communication Squadron client system technician, places a piece of broccoli in his bowl at the Grissom Dining Facility at Misawa Air Base, Japan, July 5, 2018. (Airman 1st Class Collette Brooks/U.S. Air Force photo)

Are the winter months typically a time of the year when you hibernate and gain weight because of eating more and moving less?

The winter months in the United States give us shorter daylight time, colder days and evenings, several holidays, parties and football season. All lead to a perfect storm of weight gain and diet failure.

Most weight-loss goals are obtained by stopping a bad habit and starting a good habit. But today can be the first day of your new dedicated path to getting healthier. After all, summer is coming and will be here before you know it. Here is a list of things to do and quit doing starting today:

Things to Stop Today

Stop spending all day on the couch: Luckily for you, football season is over. The biggest excuse is now gone to spend Saturday and Sunday watching football for multiple hours of the day. Time to get up and move more, and avoid comfort food and concession stands.

Stop eating junk food: No more chicken wings, pizza, nachos, other snacks and beer through the day. Focus on fruits, vegetables, salads and drinking more water. Avoid the sugary drinks and snacks or, if you can, eliminate them. This is a tough habit to break, but it is worth it if you can add some discipline to your diet.

500 calories: Can you eat 500 fewer calories a day? By no means do I mean to starve yourself. Take a look at what you eat in a week. Make a food diary from all meals, snacks and drinks, even the bowl of candy at your office.

Keep track of it all. Here is a chart to help you track the actual calories you consume. You may find the culprit to your mysterious weight gain when you do this. If you eat 2,500-3,000 or more calories in a day and do little to no exercise, you can stand to eat less.

Things to Start Today

Get outside or go to the gym: It's time to get outside and do yardwork, calisthenics workouts at home or to the gym and start a plan. Find a workout and make it a routine. Build some good habits.

500 calories: Can you burn 500 calories in a workout? Or several workouts through the day? Try several different ways. Walking 20 minutes typically burns 100 calories. It may take a while to build up to 500 calories with just walking. Maybe mix in some cardio workouts like rucking, jogging, biking, rowing, elliptical or swimming, if available, as options to you to beef up your calorie output. You typically can burn double or triple your calories with these other options of cardio. Mix in some weight training, calisthenics, TRX exercises or other exercise equipment before your cardio workouts, and you have the perfect combination for 500 calories burned in 30-45 minutes.

What is 100 calories? Learn what it takes to burn 100 calories. For instance, walking stairs for 11 minutes, swimming for 15 minutes, dancing for 15 minutes, lifting weights for 15 minutes and raking leaves for 23 minutes all burn 100 calories (more ways to burn). The good news is that if you are heavier, you burn more calories per hour compared to someone 50 pounds less than you.

Also learn how much work it takes to burn off one cookie, one beer or other foods common to your diet. Most cookies, a bottle of beer or a slice of bread are all in the 100-calorie range. Yes, it takes 10-20 minutes -- depending upon your movement -- to burn off a cookie, beer or slice of bread. One easy tip to cut 50% of your bread intake: take off the top layer of a sandwich or burger. One hundred calories eliminated. 

A year from now, you will wish you had started today.

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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you’re looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to stew@stewsmith.com.

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