When the weather is nice, I kayak several times a week and ride my bike as often as I can. Dogs go on long canine walks with the next lake as the destination for the watering midpoint, there are skate queues nearby at Hudson Mills Metro Park for Saturday or Sunday morning skating. Now that the lake is frozen, only a couple of kayak paddles down the Huron River will be done on sections that aren’t frozen, biking and rollerblading just don’t do well in the cold, not to mention snow. I’ll see die-hard bikers out there, but the wind chill on my face isn’t fun. So what happens to most people’s weight during the winter?
It is officially winter in December and there are two or three big food consumption holidays together. So most people are adding a few pounds each holiday if they haven’t kept up their physical activity. This happens when we stay inside watching more stuff on TV while stuffing our faces. The present is the time to do something about it and not wait until the clothes don’t fit or wait until spring when the downsizing job is a bigger task. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or have a PhD in nutrition (I’m not either) to figure out the simple input versus output equation. If there is more food input and less exercise output, what is not used is stored. This storage accumulates around your media.
According to James O. Hill, who has a MD from the University of Colorado, most of us gain weight by eating just an extra 100 to 200 hundred calories a day. More than two-thirds of all adults in the US are overweight or obese. Why do I care and why do I write about it? Well, being overweight has negative health effects and it increases the cost of my health insurance and my taxes. Not to mention it’s embarrassing to be from a country full of out of shape fat people. As we get older it becomes more difficult to lose weight as most people do less. For some, getting older means stopping exercising and stopping doing fun, active activities. People forget how good it feels physically to carry less weight.
People go on fancy diets that for many are difficult, they want you to give up everything, sugar, bread, all carbs or massive reductions in food. These are changes that most people cannot sustain. Therefore, the changes should be easy and easy to maintain. Just change the equation, reduce your food intake a bit, just a few hundred calories per day, and exercise more. Find something you enjoy doing that burns calories, or find a new activity you may not have considered.
It’s winter, so most of the fun, calorie-burning activities will take place outside. I find working out in a health club boring and not fun. Indoors there is volleyball and basketball, racquetball, hockey and maybe a few others, however these involve getting other people together and setting aside little time. These can be fun and good activities, but again they are not easy to maintain on your own. Find something you can do yourself, preferably several times a week. For winter sports that burn calories there are many activities such as cross country skiing (one of my favorites), there is hiking, there is snowshoeing. None of these require a lot of skill, and they’re not that expensive if you don’t have equipment. For hiking you only need good boots and the right clothing.
Yes, it can be cold outside, but with the right activity and the right winter clothing, being outside in winter can be very enjoyable. Technology has brought warmer and lighter clothing to better enjoy the cold. The secret to staying warm is not to overdress when you’re going to have vigorous activity in the cold, if you’re just a little chilly at first, that’s a good sign. The other secret is to wear the correct base layer, usually made of polypropylene, so that sweat is separated from the skin and keeps you warm. Dry clothes are warmer than wet clothes. If you’re not sure about the right clothing, go to an outdoor activity store and ask for help. I found REI sales people to be knowledgeable as one source example, there are many others. Find a store that has experienced staff. This is not likely in big box stores. Internet research is another good way to learn about outdoor gear.
Another way to stay warm in winter when you exercise is to stay out of open areas if it’s windy. Go hiking, cross-country skiing, hiking or snowshoeing in the woods. The winter wind does not enter the forest so much. Forests can be very serene and beautiful under a blanket of snow; An added benefit of exercising in the woods is that it can be an attitude adjuster. On a calm sunny day, being outside can be nice and warm – soaking up the sun and getting your winter vitamin D.
Experts say don’t weigh yourself every day, however for me if I see the pounds creep up and stay on the scale for a few days then I know I need to cut back or exercise more. It takes self-control to reduce intake, but it doesn’t take much, just remember the 100-200 calories per day. If your clothes are too tight and you need the next larger size. Hello, you are eating too much; don’t buy the next size up, do something about it. If you’re already overweight start to change the equation, it doesn’t have to be drastic just consistent. The easiest way to lose weight is to find fun things to do that don’t feel like exercise, don’t make it hard to cut back on food, but are mindful of cutting calories. Do it for yourself, do it for your health, and do it to keep health care costs and taxes down. Above all, get off the couch and do something fun and active.