As the winter months draw in, eating well and getting enough exercise becomes more of a challenge. We shouldn’t blame ourselves for this: there are sound physiological reasons why we have less energy, crave stodgy comfort foods and struggle to stay chipper. It’s cold and dark, and we just want to stay indoors and hibernate until this whole winter thing blows over. At the same time, we all know that it’s essential to stay healthy and not to let our standards slip during the dark end of the year. In fact, it’s even more important to look after ourselves, as colds, the flu and other nasty bugs are generally doing the rounds. Sniffles and coughs are not a good look and should be avoided if at all possible. There’s also the possibility that they could develop into something more serious, particularly for the more mature individuals among us.
In winter, it’s more important than ever to eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables every day. Try fresh fruit as an alternative to sugary snacks or make simple fruit-based desserts in place of processed puddings. Baked apple or poached pear can be delicious on a winter’s evening. Use seasonal vegetables like swedes and turnips for roasts, mash or soup. Boost your immune system with spices like turmeric and ginger and start the day with a bowl of hot porridge, seasoned with berries or fruit. Oats contain essential vitamins and minerals, and are a great source of slow-release energy, meaning they’ll keep you going all morning. If you really need to shed the pounds to get into your smart winter coat, the One to One diet offers personalised weight loss programs that have proven impressively effective. A diet of specially formulated, low-calorie shakes and bars is supervised by a personal mentor who will help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Fighting the hibernation instinct
Cold, wet weather and short days combine to make us less inclined to go outside. Our instincts tell us that we just want to huddle up in a duvet, put on a cheery film and maybe tuck into some chocolate. While this behaviour is okay occasionally, we must not make a habit of it. When you do see sunlight, make the most of it. Open the blinds or curtains wide and let the sun into your home. Opening the windows a crack to let some fresh air in is also a good idea, as germs circulate in enclosed spaces. An even better idea is to get outside in daylight as much as possible. Brisk winter walks and hikes are just the ticket on clear, cold days, and once you’re out, a bit of rain won’t hurt you so long as you’re dressed appropriately. Cycling, ice skating and kickabouts on the park will also get the heart pumping and the blood circulating.
Aim for two and a half hours of moderate exercise a week. That could be just half an hour a day, five days a week, or however you want to break it down. Exercising regularly will make you feel more physically energetic and will also improve your sense of mental wellbeing. If the weather is too grim to be outside, a game of squash or indoor tennis could be on the cards, or a trip to the local swimming pool.
The lack of sunlight can seriously disrupt our sleep patterns, but you can help out your body by sticking to a regular routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and get up at the same hour as well approximately eight hours later. Getting a good but not excessive night’s sleep will help us store up energy and overcome the winter blues. If you’re feeling stressed or having trouble relaxing, try meditation, yoga or tai chi to still the mind and unwind the body, either before bed, first thing in the morning or during the day. Approximately one in five people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) during the winter months. This is a genuine and debilitating condition related to a lack of melatonin from sunlight. An artificial light box can help but staying healthy and getting outdoors are the best ways for any SAD sufferers to battle on through.