Bust Out of a Hibernation Rut

Beat the cold-weather, dark-day blues with these energizing tactics.
Published December 21, 2015

It can be all too easy to come up with an excuse not to work out or prepare healthy meals at the best of times. But when we're chilly, and baggy sweaters and thick tights are part of our daily wardrobe, it can be even harder to muster the energy to forge forward.

We've rounded up the experts to ask for their advice on how to overcome some typical cold-weather conundrums. 

The problem: Cold, dark days can make you feel blue, and sap your motivation.

The solution: “Staying motivated when there are long and sometimes dreary days is always a challenge,” says Dr. Suzy Weems, professor and chair of the department of family and consumer sciences at Baylor University. “But when it is dark and cold, exercise really helps. Whether inside or outside ... it will absolutely help to move. Morning exercise is preferable. Using a treadmill, stationary bike or going swimming are all good ways to elevate your attitude and make you more likely to enjoy your day.” Also feel free to treat yourself to non-food treats you enjoy like movies, manicures or anything else that typically cheers you up.

The problem: As the weather cools, warmer layers have become your friend. Now you don’t feel quite as guilty sneaking that brownie since no one’s going to see you in a bikini anytime soon. 
The solution: Winter clothes don't need to be big and bulky. Sleek layers are not only in style, but sexier than your oversized sweatshirt. Make form-fitting fine-knit cardigans, leggings and even knee-high boots your desire to stay on track.

The problem: When you get out of work it’s already dark. During the summer, you used to go walking or jogging; now the lack of sunlight seems like a perfect excuse to sit inside and watch a movie instead of blasting calories. 
The solution: Remember that you still have options. If you feel safe enough, grab a buddy and walk in the dark. Stay on sidewalks, wear reflective gear to protect yourself from traffic, and carry a cell phone. If you can't exercise outside, now's the perfect time to try a new fitness DVD or online video , which also saves you a trip to the gym. Speaking of the gym, maybe try a new class or a different cardio machine. The variety will keep things fresh so you won't get bored. “Exercise also increases the release of endorphins, keeps your mind focused, and gives you a sense of accomplishment,” says Dr. Carole Bernstein, associate professor and vice chair for education at the NYU Medical Center's department of psychiatry — all the more reason to quit making excuses.

The problem: Cookouts are becoming obsolete and you’re eating indoors to escape the chilly nights. This means you might be turning more often towards warm comfort foods like casseroles and less towards grilled lean meats, light veggies and fresh salads. 
The solution: Use your broiler instead of your grill. You'd be surprised how many of your grilled favourites taste comparable from the oven. And if you feel like having a casserole, don't deprive yourself. Try one of our healthier options!

The problem: The short days can make it feel like you have less time for planning, shopping and cooking, so you find yourself turning to more convenience foods, snacks, and even takeout. 
The solution: “From a healthy diet perspective, many times, this change in environment may enhance a person`s desire to eat carbs,” Weems says, “So to deal with the ‘munchies,’ it would certainly be a great idea to plan for balanced, but small meals and work in a couple of snacks to control the urge to nibble due to depression or boredom.” Even though it won't feel like it, remember there are still 24 hours in the day. Plan your day or even your week ahead, so you know exactly when you'll do your normal activities. When it comes to cooking, also try a slow cooker. You can toss in meats, sauce and veggies and forget about it, which will give you more time to do other tasks while you would have normally been cooking.

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