by Michelle Sutton-Kerchner
Bet you’ve been hitting the carbs. It’s been that kind of winter. Where does that leave your New Year’s Resolutions to eat well and maintain a healthy weight? Probably one donut shy of success. How do you get back on track? Follow these tips so you’re ready to shed that winter coat when we thaw out …
Sunny, warm days may seem far off as we decide on another serving of pasta or some warm cookies fresh from the oven. Spending more time indoors, while snow and ice make the outside world uninviting, is common. The kitchen is also the busy room in the house, where people spend most of their home time. Not surprising, poor winter eating habits can lead to an extra 10 or 15 pounds.
Two factors are at work: the desire to hibernate in the snug warmth of home and the temptation to soothe away winter blues and doldrums with comfort food. Since few of us seek solace with crunchy veggies and tuna on whole wheat crackers, we’re in for a bit of a challenge. But, not an impossibility.
Get Your Emotional Fix
Although most don’t associate comfort food with healthy choices, it doesn’t have to be that way. In actuality, foods that offer comfort are more about the source and less about the sugar and fat. Envision a bowl of homemade soup shared around the family table over conversation and laughter. This scene exudes more warmth than an entire box of chocolates downed in front of the television (even those dark, rich varieties).
Redefine what you consider comfort food. Nourish your body as well as your soul. Choose foods that don’t leave you with empty calories and a void of energy. Your body and mind cannot afford them. Instead, enjoy something like a hearty bowl of vegetable stew shared with friends. The fresh, homemade concoction is prepared with love. No excess sugar or fat is involved, only ingredients that make us feel whole again after a harsh winter day. What is more comforting than that—both for the cook and the diner?
Simply taking time from a hectic day to focus on physical nourishment also offers its share of emotional comfort. Reconnect with yourself. Take note of your sensory experience: the smell wafting through your home, the texture, the flavors. It’s hard to take this kind of inventory with a soda or a sugary cookie. However, try it with a hot cup of tea and whole grain bread topped with fresh preserves. It might take a little extra time to prepare. Make that part of the comfort process as well. It’s February. What’s your rush? Even the clearance sales are winding down.
Enjoy shopping for healthy foods, cooking them, and sharing them. Then, every meal becomes an opportunity for comfort. Stock up on plastic containers though. You’ll suddenly feel a need to dole out generous portions—that is, to friends and family. It’s not always about what’s on your plate that gives you a perk. It’s about how it got there and with whom you enjoy it. Case in point: Grandmother’s homemade soup sent home in an old margarine tub. What could give you—and your body– a better boost on a winter’s day!
Tame the Junk Binge
Occasionally, you’ll indulge in something less than healthy. Sometimes, you’ll blindly plow through a whole day’s worth of indulgences. Here are some suggestions to lessen the impact:
- Timing is everything. If you’re going to splurge, do so before dinner or an active evening.
- Go for the flavor, but make it count. If pizza is your weakness, have a slice but load it with veggies instead of extra cheese and meats.
- Have your flavored latte but use low-fat milk and skip the whipped cream and candy toppings.
- Need chocolate? Replace a candy bar with mini single-sized servings. One chocolate kiss delivers delight with minimum calories.
- Cream cheese topped on bagels indeed has less calories than butter. But, Neufchatel cheese has even less. Substitute it and you probably won’t notice a taste difference.
- Toast the night away with a glass of red wine instead of higher-caloric mixed cocktails and heavy beers.
- You don’t have to go all out. Fast food cravings may hit during your daytime rush. If nothing but a burger will do, skip the double patties. Consider ordering a kids meal. The portions are smaller. Plus, you get a cool toy that could make some kid’s day.
Exercise It Away
With Center membership, there is no need to become inactive even on the coldest days. There may be icicles hanging from your basketball net, but the Center pool is still warm and inviting. With a plethora of exercise options available at every visit, there is no (good) excuse to skip your workout. It’s also a great way to counteract those couch potato moments that happen when you’re snowed in.
Boost your energy level, burn calories, and reduce stress (and stress munchies) with an invigorating workout. Seeing results can keep you on the fitness track, despite a dreary winter mentality.
You may not be able to resist that steaming latte drizzled with caramel or the extra slice of pizza during game night. With a little effort, you can work away these calories at your next exercise session. The amount of calories you can burn per exercise in a certain timeframe varies by individual.
Often, the calories burned during a workout are overestimated. Several factors must be considered, including the type, duration, and intensity of exercise. A personal trainer or fitness instructor can help. Check with them to determine how much treadmill time that piece of pie cost you.
Hopefully, these ideas redefine comfort food and your winter activity. The calendar doesn’t have to dictate the consistency of your exercise commitment and healthy food choices. Now, get going! Hit the Center. Then, stop on the way home for fresh ingredients and make some real comfort food.
“10 Ways to Burn Calories from Guilty Pleasure,” by Madeline Vann at www.everydayhealth.com.
“Comfort Me with Radishes,” by Dorothy Foltz-Gray at www.yogajournal.com.
“Why Is Your Weight Loss Stalled,” by Julie Davis at www.everydayhealth.com.
“Winter Eating,” by Jodi Beck at www.womensforum.com.
Winter weight (introductory photo): www.flickr.com/photos/themardybum/406057009/
Homemade chicken soup: www.flickr.com/photos/allyrose18/1332208937/in/photostream/