When the weather's frigid and portions are hearty, it's easy to feel like the only thing you're burning through these months is your heating bill. But despite reports to the contrary, there are plenty of reasons to suspect that winter is a great time to jumpstart your weight loss plans. To prove it, we found 10 reasons why winter is weight gain isn't inevitable--and why there might not be a better time to start. (Related: Looking to boost your weight loss efforts? Start with these 10 Weight Loss Tricks That Work.)
Need to jumpstart your motivation? Be inspired by these amazing weight loss success stories!
Sure, decadent mac and cheese dishes and creamy pot pies are ticking calorie bombs, but some winter comfort foods are surprisingly healthy. Broth-based soups and stews fill you up for a fraction of the calories of cream-based versions, and a cup of turkey or chicken chili warm your belly while delivering up to 19 grams protein. Another cold-weather superfood: potatoes. A medium-sized spud has just 110 calories--as much as a slice of bread--and about 4 grams of fiber. Letting your potato cool after baking increases the amount of resistant starches, a special type of fiber that has been shown to shut off your hunger hormones and boost fat burn. You can get even more power from your potato by choosing the sweet variety. The orange-colored tuber contains fewer calories than a plain potato, but is packed with more beta-carotene and vitamin C.
Stock up your pantry with these belly-flattening superfoods.
This infamous appetite-suppressing fruit is at its peak during the winter months. While people debate the merits of the grapefruit diet, research suggests that the tart fruit does have some weight loss powers. A study conducted by Scripps Clinic in La Jolla, California found that people who ate half a fresh grapefruit before each meal lost five times as much weight as those in the placebo group. Keep yours on the counter as opposed to hidden away in the fridge--they'll stay juicier and keep for almost as long.
Do you know what a 100-calorie snack pack looks like? Test your smarts with our visual guide.
Believe it or not, striving for Gisele Bundchen's bod or Daniel Craig's pecs isn't discouraging--it can actually increase motivation. Shooting for a super-high weight loss goal can help you drop more weight than if you set a modest target, according to a 2005 study from the International Journal of Obesity.
Get a shot of motivation from these amazing weight loss transformations.
If the prospect of shoveling snow has got you down, here's a thought to warm you up. Research shows that your body can burn up to five times as many calories when you're freezing. While a chill doesn't automatically cause you to burn more calories, you do burn more when you're shivering. Shivering is your body's way of generating more heat. But before you run out into subzero temperatures, consider this: You can also torch a few extra calories by bundling up instead. "Wearing heavy winter clothes and boots burns more calories," says Nancy Clark, RD, author of Nancy Clark's Sports Nutrition Guidebook. "It takes more effort to lug them around and you can raise your energy expenditure by 10 percent." You're probably more likely to move around in them too.
Check out these 10 ways to burn more calories.
It's natural to want to hole up indoors when it's freezing outside, so warm your house and your tummy with healthy meals made at home. When it gets dark early and it's cold out, you're more likely to eat in, notes Jim White, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Centers in Virginia Beach, VA. Fact is, cooking from scratch can help keep your weight in check. Kids eat almost twice as many calories when dining out, and a Lancet study found that people who ate fast food two or more times a week packed on 10 more pounds over 20 years than those who skipped the drive-thru.
Need some inspiration? Whip up your own delicious 400-calorie meals!
Just because there's frost on the ground doesn't mean you're stuck eating vegetables from a can all winter. Sautee some Brussels sprouts in olive oil for a dose of hunger-killing fiber (4 grams per cup) or swap in spaghetti squash for your usual pasta. At 40 calories per half cup, the gourd has a little less than half the calories of noodles. If you're short on time, poke holes in the squash and nuke it in the microwave for 5 to 7 minutes. Cut in a half and add a little marinara and you've got most of a meal.
Learn how to spot the healthiest foods in the supermarket.
Just because temperatures have dropped off doesn't mean that your activity level should follow suit. Whether you hit the slopes or head to the skating rink, there are tons of sports to take up that burn major calories. An hour of downhill skiing blasts 365 calories, while a date night at the ice skating rink can burn through 511 calories. If weathering the elements isn't your thing, try a high-intensity indoor team sport like basketball or indoor soccer.
Crush more calories with this fat-burning workout.
... and still have enough left over for personal training sessions. Fight off winter sloth and cash in on discounted gym memberships around the New Year. (Off-peak months such as August and April are also good times to sign up.) "Two years ago, it was a lot harder to negotiate membership fees, but now we're seeing some flexibility when it comes to pricing," says Frank Pasquale, regional director of sales at Crunch Fitness. For the best bargain, do some online research beforehand on several gyms' fees. Or grab a couple of co-workers or family members and ask if you can get a group discount.
Once you're there, try these twenty ways to stick to your workout.
An American Journal of Clinical Nutrition study found that drinking green tea can boost your metabolism by 4 percent, and Japanese researchers estimate that drinking 3 to 5 cups of the brew can burn off an extra 70 to 80 calories a day. It's hard to choke down that much hot water in August, but this time of year it's only natural. Plus, you can go through an entire pot of tea and still not be even close to racking up as many calories in a 610-calorie Venti Eggnog Latte. For maximum benefit, brew your own cup. You'll save yourself calories and get more of the cancer-fighting antioxidant epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) than if you go with the watered-down sweetened iced teas you'll find in grocery stories.
Check out the best and worst "health" drinks in America.
There's snow on the ground now, but warmer days are just weeks away. If thinking about your January body donning a swimsuit isn't enough motivation, consider this: Taking 2 months off of exercise results in about 35 percent loss of muscle mass and 18 cardiovascular endurance, and it will take you up to 6 weeks to get back in shape. So if you want to hit the ground running in April, hitting the gym now isn't optional.
Start sculpting your beach body now.