Five ways to prevent winter weight gain before it starts

Beat cravings and keep control of the scale with these quick tips and supplement ideas from Natasha Turner

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Woman with red nailpolish drinking a coffee or tea
Photo: Getty Images

As I’m sure you’re aware, with winter often comes some extra padding around the waist. Whether it’s cookies, chocolates or too many turkey dinners, this time of year is overwhelming when it comes to navigating food landmines. We’ve compiled five easy tips to help you make your resolution early, and prevent weight gain before it starts:

1. Beware of warm drinks
There’s nothing like a hot drink to warm you on a cold day, but be careful because these drinks are also a common source of calories – and sugar!

An 8 ounce spiced latte can easily come in at over 200 calories. One or two of these a week can leave you with a few extra pounds come New Years. And can you imagine the damage by summer?

Bottom line: Instead of a high-calorie hot chocolate reach for unsweetened cocoa and simply add hot water, organic cream and stevia for a low calorie treat. Sprinkle in a tablespoon of vanilla whey isolate for an extra dose of protein.

2. Grab some green tea extract for lower BMI
A study published in May 2012 found that green tea reduces lipids, body mass index and glucose in obese participants.

In this placebo-controlled trial, researchers assessed the impact of green tea in 46 participants. The subjects received 379 mg of green tea extract or a placebo daily for three months. What the researchers found after the study duration is that green tea supplementation decreased body mass index, waist circumference and levels of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides.

Green tea supplementation also increased participants’ total antioxidant status and zinc which is important for boosting the immune system in winter.

Bottom line: The typical dosage is 3-4 cups of green tea daily or a 300-400 mg capsule of green tea extract 1 to 3 times daily.

3. Head outside, despite the cold
Moving our activities indoors puts us at greater risk for a few extra pounds, and not just because we’re closer to the fridge. Research published in Diabetes Care found that the combination of obesity and a vitamin D deficiency may put people at even greater risk of insulin resistance than either factor alone.

Seasonal changes in sunlight can also affect circulating levels of vitamin D3, which may alter serotonin levels in the brain. If this occurs, your mood could drop in no time. A vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to mood changes and decline in cognitive performance.

Bottom line: Providing the weather cooperates, I recommend that all my patients get 20-30 minutes of natural UV exposure (even when it’s overcast) on a daily basis, whether they’re outside walking, skiing, snowshoeing or even building a snowman. In addition, I recommend everyone bump up their levels to 4,000-6,000 iu of vitamin D with breakfast daily in the wintertime. Wrapping up and heading outside in the cold can also help you burn more calories.

4. Curb carb cravings with chromium
If the winter has your reaching for higher carb snacks, it’s always good to have a back-up plan to curb cravings when they arise. A daily dose of chromium picolinate may reduce food intake, hunger levels and cravings for fat.

Chromium can also help with food cravings associated with depression. In a 2008 study conducted at the Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center, researchers demonstrated that long-term glucose control, insulin and cholesterol improved in patients following chromium supplementation. Other studies have shown that 600mcg of chromium daily can reduce carb cravings and regulate appetite in depressed patients.

Bottom line: I recommend taking 600 mcg with breakfast daily. If you have blood sugar issues such as insulin resistance (also known as pre-diabetes), you can increase this to 600 mcg twice daily with meals.

5. Keep your belly fat under wraps with CLA
According to a recent study published in the journal Nutrition, conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) supports weight reduction.

In the study, 63 subjects with a BMI of 24-35 received, 1.7 grams of CLA or a placebo of salad oil twice daily for 12 weeks. The researchers evaluated the subjects for body composition including total body weight, BMI, total fat mass, fat percentage, subcutaneous (below the skin) fat mass and waist-to-hip ratio at the beginning of the study and again after the supplementation period. They found that all markers decreased in the CLA group after 12 weeks compared to the measurements at the beginning of the study.

Further analysis of the data revealed that female subjects with a BMI greater than 27 who supplemented with CLA enjoyed a reduction in bodyweight, BMI and waist-to-hip ratio. As an added bonus, it has also been shown to assist with immune modulation and lowering inflammation in patients with Crohn’s disease.

Bottom line: I recommend a CLA dosage of 1,500 mg (or 2 capsules) twice daily with food for at least three months or throughout the winter season.

Natasha Turner, N.D. is a naturopathic doctor, Chatelaine magazine columnist, and author of the bestselling books The Hormone Diet and The Supercharged Hormone Diet. Her newest release, The Carb Sensitivity Program, is available across Canada. She is also the founder of the Toronto-based Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique. For more wellness advice from Natasha Turner, click here.