By Black Health Matters
Since the temperature has dropped, it’s also time to drop into those bulky sweaters, some comfort food and those television marathons. If, however, you want to finish the final month of the year with that “get fit” resolution you set last January, then these tips can help you enjoy the changing seasons without changing up your health for the worse.
- Dress to impress. Maybe I have a bra on, maybe I don’t. Maybe I still have my pajamas on under this oversized sweatshirt. No one will ever know. Sound familiar? Well, for many of us, fall and winter are synonymous with oversized clothes, high boots and leggings. The danger in dressing in these camouflage options, however, is that come spring, you may find that the new season also requires a new size.
So if you want to avoid this size surprise, I recommend that you cross-dress this fall and winter. As in, opt to wear nonseasonal pieces and colors from time to time. The way we dress affects the way we feel, so literally brighten the mood with a colorful scarf or vibrant top, or try swapping out that onyx mani for a softer spring color. Dark colors naturally make us want to hibernate, while brighter hues do the opposite, so ward off the winter blues with these simple switches.
1962: The happy quintet smiles for the AFRO camera prior to playing in the citywide tennis tournament at Clifton Park.
- Chase the sun. The way you start your day can make a huge difference in the way you feel, so tell this seasonal slump what’s up and rise with the sun. The lack of sunlight that results from winter’s shorter days disrupts our internal body clocks. But the degree to which this takes place largely stems from some combination of other factors—your geography, genetics and individual brain chemistry. In fact, according to recent studies, the winter blues affect only 1 percent of Florida residents, compared with about half of those living in colder climates in the U.S. So if relocating is not an option, make a point to rise early. Take 30 minutes to get out for a brisk walk or jog and soak up some of that vitamin D.
- Take a step in the right direction. Speaking of that morning workout, don’t let the fact that the clock falls back to get you off track. Shorter days make squeezing in a daily workout challenging, so activate your fit life with a bit of technology. In 2013, 1.6 million fitness trackers were sold; in 2014, 8 million; and an estimated 23 million are expected to be sold by the end of 2015. So either squeeze in a little bit with Fitbit, stay on track (and stylish) with Jawbone or drop the price of your lunch to drop a few pounds with Pivotal Living (its tracker is only $12 and yet works just as well as those of competitors). The key is to aim for 10,000 steps daily, since many people get an average of 3,000 steps per day naturally with daily activity. A little goes a long way, so take a step in the right direction.
- Think healthy comfort food. Baby, it’s cold outside. Comfort foods are named appropriately. They bring back warm memories, tantalize our taste buds and soothe our souls. Since most comfort foods, however, are deep-fried, covered in cheese or packed with sugar, they can also completely throw off our weight loss or maintenance game. But there’s good news: you don’t have to skip this season’s savory and sweet treats.
With a little swap here and there, you can definitely indulge without the bulge. For instance, try a butternut-squash-inspired mac and cheese to slash half the fat, explore a flourless dessert, or try a broth-based stew instead of a heavy cream-based soup. The little changes will make a big difference, I promise.
- Lay off the leggings (sometimes). Key word: “sometimes.” Leggings are too cute nowadays to eliminate entirely, but I do recommend inviting an actual waistband to your wardrobe every once in a while. Not only will this help keep your waistline in check, but your entire style game will get an upgrade, too. So dust off your jeans, pencil skirts and actual trousers this season for sure.
By trying on your best-fitting staples every few weeks, you’ll be able to monitor any sneaky waist expansion taking place. I did this last year, skipped the scale entirely, and come spring I was literally skipping into the new season the same size I was the year before. This is a major winter win, considering that many surveys show that most of us gain an average of 5 to 7 pounds in the winter.
- Get it in while you tune in. You may have been wondering how you’re going to get away with watching much television while keeping your weight in check. Well, you can if you fit in fitness while you tune in. Commercial breaks are a great time to break a sweat. Or take it a step further and vow to reserve watching your favorite hour-long drama for your cardio days at the gym. This will make scheduling your workouts easier and keep your health happy. Need some binge-watching workout ideas? Check out my RAD Couch Potato Workout.
- Stay social. Finally, I know colder temperatures can lead to hibernation, but no matter how many layers you have to throw on, I highly recommend keeping it social this season. Force yourself to go to parties and maintain your favorite social activities. Having a Hulu marathon on your couch feels good in the moment, but in the long run, hanging with your homies will brighten your mood far more.
Speaking of your homies, save up your vacation time for the winter months and take a trip to a warmer climate, like Florida or California. Or, if you like the snow, hit up a cabin and master the slopes with a winter sport like skiing or snowboarding. Bottom line: Just get out of town and get active while you’re there.