Almost everything about winter encourages weight gain. Lower temperatures and shortened days signal us to move indoors and don our cold weather wardrobes. Bundling up in layers of clothing in order to keep warm also tempts us to abandon our healthy eating habits.

Snuggling up in front of the television or reading a good book by the fire are activities designed to foster mindless snacking, as we embrace our less active indoor lifestyles.

Our impetus to exercise decreases, caloric intake increases with holiday cooking and celebrations. Less exposure to sunlight often brings on a case of winter blues, which we attempt to assuage with more comfort foods.

Here are some tips to insure our scales will not tip out of balance this winter:

Move exercise indoors

Instead of bringing exercise to a halt during the winter, plan to walk for at least 20 minutes a day at a mall or around the court of an indoor gym. Join an indoor swimming class, or play racquet ball at the local recreation center. There are a myriad of opportunities for indoor exercise. If your home has stairs, walk up and down multiple times. Take the stairs at work in lieu of the elevator. If possible, sign up for a daily or bi-weekly session at a local health spa or exercise class. Acquire a weight control buddy; commitment to exercise is greatly increased with a companion to cheer you on.

Establish goals

If you have a winter vacation to a warm location scheduled after the holidays, use it to reinforce your determination to keep current weight levels intact. A special holiday dress will also serve as inspiration to shed weight or keep additional pounds at bay. Take a picture of yourself in the party dress or vacation bathing suit and post it on the refrigerator or the bathroom mirror as a reminder of the anticipated good time.

Keep appropriate snacks and drinks on hand

Dedicate one area in the refrigerator to sugar-free puddings and gelatins, yogurt, precut vegetables and any other low-calorie items for easy access when hunger pangs strike between meals. Keep a pantry shelf reserved for pretzels, crackers and preferred low-calorie snacks. Substitute hot tea or bullion for cocoa, Starbucks and other high-calorie drinks. Continue the good habit of drinking adequate water. A heated home enhances potential dehydration.

Avoid “deprivation” eating

Nothing makes us want to overeat like feeling deprived. During holiday celebrations, have a little of everything. Cut back on eating the day before and the day after a special occasion to compensate for the indulgence. You are likely to have more fun, feel less deprived and keep determination about weight control over the long haul.

Reach for the sun

Less sunlight in the winter months makes us feel down in the dumps and depressed. We are often tempted to snack ourselves into a better frame of mind. We can elevate our mood with exposure to sunlight. In spite of the cold, take a brisk walk and soak up those winter rays. Even opening a window, throwing back the curtains and enjoying some fresh air for a few minutes will do wonders in lifting your spirits.
It does not have to be inevitable that we pack on the pounds during our winter hibernation. With raised awareness and some behavior modification, we can weather the season with our eating under control, and avoid the annual springtime frenzy to shed winter weight in time for the next bathing suit season.