Winter can put your commitment to a healthy lifestyle to the test with various obstacles and temptations that interfere with your good intentions. But you don’t have to sacrifice a healthy lifestyle just because the temperature has plummeted. Here are some tips to get you motivated to shake off the wintertime doldrums and remain focused on your health and wellness.
Don’t give up on outdoor activities
If your regular exercise routine involves being outdoors, frigid temperatures, snow and ice may interrupt your schedule. Safety is the most important consideration. Hypothermia and frostbite become serious threats when your body is exposed to temperatures below zero degrees Fahrenheit and windchill levels below minus 18, according to the Mayo Clinic. But otherwise, don’t be too quick to nix outdoor activity because of wintry weather. In fact, the brisk air and lower humidity may even give you an extra shot of energy and endurance.
When your fitness session does need to move indoors, take the opportunity to partake in a fun, new activity. Work out to a YouTube exercise video (there are so many options and you can choose one that’s right for your health and fitness level) or put on some music and have a family danceathon.
Combat food cravings with creative alternatives
There are lots of theories about why we often eat more and crave high-calorie foods during the winter months. Maybe it’s the cold, the reduced hours of sunlight, cabin fever or the mere presence of so many holiday treats. Whatever the reason, when you feel like bingeing on cookies or mac-and-cheese, help moderate those cravings with a little creativity.
Wake up your palate with some tasty dishes, using ingredients that are especially bountiful in winter, like dark, leafy greens, fennel, winter squash, pomegranates and citrus fruits. Satisfy your hankering for a steaming bowl of soup with healthier recipes. For instance, you can use a low-sodium broth, add potatoes or cornstarch as a thickener instead of cream, and go heavy on the veggies, and light on the meat. Craving sweets? Reach for a crispy apple or fresh, juicy orange to satisfy your sweet tooth with natural fruit sugars.
Beat back the winter blues
Dark, dreary winter days can put a damper on anyone’s mood, but if sadness, social withdrawal or changes in your sleep or appetite last more than a few days, see your doctor. These symptoms could point to winter-onset seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that is serious, but treatable. Extremely low energy and intense cravings for carbohydrates are two other possible indicators of SAD. The main treatment options, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, are anti- depressants, light therapy, psychotherapy and vitamin D.
Even if your winter blues don’t amount to a full-blown case of SAD, getting morning light (through a light box or a walk outside) and enough vitamin D (the National Institute of Health recommends that adults get 600 IUs per day) can help keep your spirits up through the short, cold days of winter. The sooner you beat back the winter blues, the sooner you can get back to eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, enjoying your favorite activities and spending time with family and friends.