Beat Winter Weight Gain
It’s all too easy to gain a little weight over winter. When the weather turns cold it’s enticing to stay snuggled up in the warmth of your home and snack on heavier comfort foods such as rich pastas and hot chocolates. Plus usually our enthusiasm and inspiration to get moving is diminished!
These factors combined make it easy for a few kilos to appear out of nowhere, and we leave winter feeling a little sluggish, heavy, fatigued and congested. But it doesn’t have to be that way! The key lies in prevention and awareness. We can emerge out of winter feeling energetic, light and full of vitality.
According to Ayurveda, winter is the time when the Kapha dosha (the water and earth elements) naturally increase in our body as it increases in our environment. This Kapha intelligence in the body brings stability, strength, protection and lubrication. It has the qualities of being cool, damp, heavy, slow, dull and damp. So as you can see, these are also the qualities of a winter’s day – damp environment, dark skies and a chill in the air. Ayurveda says we are influenced by our environments qualities. This is the founding principle in Ayurveda of like increases like.
When this Kapha nature increases in our mind and body, we start to feel too cold, too heavy, too dull and too slow. This manifests mainly as fatigue and lethargy from the static nature of Kapha. Our mind becomes dull, maybe depressed from this heavy feeling. We get excess mucous production in the body from the quality of dampness, which leads to congestion in our sinuses and chest and may present as a cold or cough.
This heaviness and congestion in the mind and body starts to slow down our body’s processes, especially the metabolism. The metabolism is all the chemical processes that are continuously going on inside your body that allows life and normal functioning. These processes also covert what we eat and drink into fuel and energy. When the metabolism slows down, these processes slow down, fatigue, low moods and weight gain are experienced.
So how can we leave winter feeling light and energised without the extra weight?
1. DECREASE KAPHA
To decrease this heavy quality of Kapha we can use food as medicine. We want to introduce the quality of lightness to our meals to balance the heavy! This means avoiding the heavier foods such as dairy, soy, wheat (breads), refined sugar and processed and oily foods as they increase Kapha nature quite intensely. The best winter foods include, well cooked porridges, soups, stews and dahls served with a light grain such as basmati rice, quinoa, barley and buckwheat. Roast or grilled vegetables and opt for a vegetarian diet, or choose white meat or fish. If you are experiencing a cough, cold or just general sinus congestion, then removing these foods will help greatly.
2. BOOST THE METABOLISM NATURALLY
Certain foods can help spark your metabolism to burn fat naturally.
Spices are amazing for kick starting your metabolism. Choose the hot and pungent spices such as ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, and even a chilli. Chilli contains a plant chemical called Capsaicin that can really boost the metabolism. Add chilli to 1 meal a day, or add a pinch of cayenne to warm water with some apple cider vinegar and take first thing in the morning for a weight loss tonic.
Green tea is also a renowned fat burning and metabolism boosting substance. Green tea contains a range of antioxidant so are great for health overall. But one of these antioxidants called EGCG (Epigallocatechin gallate) a Catechin, is what is responsible for helping you lose fat.
In a randomised placebo controlled trial, moderately overweight adults consumed, 1,900mgs of green tea catechins per day for 90 days. This equates to 2-3 cups of good quality loose leaf green tea. At the end of the study, people in the green tea group lost 1.2kgs and an average of ¾ inch from their waistline and also saw a reduction in BMI. This is a pretty great result considered no dietary or exercise changes were made part of the study (Wang H, et al., 2009)
3. SEARCH FOR THE SUN
During winter the days are short and often dark and gloomy. Since many of us are at work before the sun comes up, and head home after it’s gone down, we are not getting enough of these healing rays. The sun is important for keeping our body function in balance and for regulating our metabolism. When the sun hits our eyes in the morning it tells the brain to make serotonin, our happy brain chemical. When we watch it disappear at night it tells the brain to produce melatonin, our sleep chemical that induces sleep.
If we spend too much time in the dark we make less of these chemicals which make us feel grumpy, lethargic and want to reach for the sugar. If we expose ourselves to sunlight, our body functions harmoniously and weight loss comes automatically through the regulation of our metabolism. Try to get outside on sunny days and expose yourself to 20 minutes of direct sunshine.
For even more of a weight loss kick, try getting sunshine in the morning. Scientists have found that getting up early and enjoying the early morning light helps lower body fat because the ‘blue light’ of the morning kick starts the body’s metabolism. The study from Northwestern Medicine has found that daily exposure to moderately bright light in the morning can bring about a significantly lower BMI as compared to those who had light exposure later in the day. The researchers commented that this finding was independent of physical activity, caloric intake, sleep, age or season. So if you want to lose weight, aim to get sunshine between 8am and midday.
4. BREAK A SWEAT
The most efficient way to break up and removed excess Kapha and weight is to get moving. Movement brings lightness, warmth and energy to the body. It pumps the metabolism and reduces the qualities of cold, heaviness, dampness and dullness in the mind and body. There is no need for intense workouts for weight loss, 30 minutes of exercise daily is all you need to kick start the metabolism and restore energy. Preferably exercise to 80% of your capacity, which means your breath starts to deepen and you break a light sweat. Walking, swimming, power yoga, competitive sports or jogging are ideal.