4 Emergency Hacks to Stay Healthy in the Winter

“Winter is coming”

– House Stark.

Like the White Walkers of the old stories our Gran used to tell us, winter is descending upon us mere mortals, and we must prepare! This endless onslaught of vicious attacks on our brains and our bellies will leave us ripe for slaughter if we’re not careful:

Cold weather that encourages us to sleep in, avoid the elements, and say “maybe tomorrow.”

A sun that rises too late and sets too soon means we often go days without seeing the damn thing.

Cookies and candies bombarded us from everywhere we look.

Oh, and a f’ing global pandemic that has left us isolated and alone. 

These and more challenges are just begging us to go off the rails. And a built-in excuse called January 1st where we promise to “start over” helps us rationalize us “pausing” until then. Black Friday has come and gone. Cyber Monday is now in the rearview. Thanksgiving is now a distant memory.

And yet…the challenges are just getting started.

Luckily, we have 4 “hacks”  to survive these trying times. If you want, you can try them too!

Here’s what we’ll cover:

  • Winter Hack #1: Don’t Run in the Wrong Direction
  • Winter Hack #2: Never Two in a Row
  • Winter Hack #3: Consider Skipping a Meal
  • Winter Hack #4: Strength Train Before Big Meals

Alright, let’s equip you with some strategies to survive the storm.

Winter Hack #1: Don’t run in the wrong direction

We need you back in the fight, right now.

We all see January 1st as the “reset,” and there’s nothing wrong with a reset to start out the year. The problem is when you compound your issues by digging yourself deeper into a hole that you have to eventually climb out of!

Say “F it” long enough, and the hole will start to resemble Bruce Wayne’s prison in The Dark Knight Rises:

Think of it like you’re on the starting line of a race for a healthy life that starts on Jan 1st. You have two options:

  • A) Hang around the starting line: Hang out and wait for the gun to fire. Then start running.
  • B) Run in the opposite direction. Run farther away from the starting line, so when the gun goes off you have even FARTHER to run in the race.

So, Step 1 is not running in the opposite direction. This means you can’t skip all your workouts and eat like crap and give up til January. This is you going the wrong way, and will make the task of “starting over” on January 1st that much more brutal.

Instead, do what you can to “tread water” and hang out around the starting line. If you CAN, stay on target. One bad meal doesn’t ruin things. One missed workout isn’t the end of the world. If you have an awful day, respawn and get back in the fight. Immediately.

A four-week freefall is a hole you’d rather not be in. You also don’t want to be in THIS hole:

But that’s beside the point…

So forget B. Let’s aim for A.

Winter Hack #2: Never Two in a Row

You’re human. And life happens.

What SHOULD NOT HAPPEN is missing two days in a row. Or eating TWO bad meals in a row. Or having TWO bad days in a row.

Why?

One bad day can feel like a speed bump if you’re trying to get healthy. Get back on track right away and there’s no problem.

However, missing two days in a row is like turning that tiny speed bump into the Misty Mountains. If you miss one day in a row, no problem! Just act like it didn’t happen and get back on track.

But once you miss two days in a row, you are now 67.42% more likely to fall into a multiple-week hole. Okay, I made up that statistic, but two days very easily becomes three, which very easily becomes a week, which easily becomes “I’ll wait til January.”

That’s running in the wrong direction. 

AIM TO NEVER EVER EVER miss two workouts in a row. If you miss a workout on Monday, go on Tuesday and get right back on track. If you eat pie for lunch, because it ain’t gonna eat itself, make your dinner healthy AF. Do that, and you’ll be fine.

So whenever you have a bad day or do something against your plan, I need you to respawn right away (“start over” in video game lingo) and make the next day the best day you possibly can.

Winter Hack #3: Consider Skipping a Meal

Spoiler alert: you’re going to eat lots of decadent food this upcoming month. (Unlike Noel’s delicious Thai Zoodle recipe above)

I know it. You know it. So we can do one of two things.

  • We can pretend like it’s not going to happen, and then be surprised and beat ourselves up when we put ourselves in a carb coma and go on a calorie-induced bender.
  • Or we can be smart about it and negate the impact these days have on our waistlines. Better yet, we can make these additional calories work FOR us.

For starters, our metabolisms aren’t that smart. Our weight will fluctuate based on total calories consumed over many many days, not after ONE power-bomb of a meal.

So, if you know you are going to eat a monster lunch and dinner (I see you, Christmas), eat a stupidly light breakfast, and a light breakfast tomorrow – the calories will average out in the long run.

Or, if you’re willing to dig in and do the research, SKIP breakfast (and maybe lunch) before your monster meal. It’s called “intermittent fasting,” and it’s what I do to stay on track during weeks when I know I’m going to eat poorly.

  • First, I skip breakfast every day (I haven’t eaten breakfast for years now).
  • Second, I might choose to skip lunch as well the day after a monster meal. Again, dig in and do the research (or just read this), and you’ll find that missing a meal isn’t the end of the world. In fact, it can lead to a healthier lifestyle for the right person.

Winter Hack #4: Strength Train Before Big Meals

Whether or not you take advantage of intermittent fasting, you can time your workouts to coincide with your unhealthy meals.

As I mentioned in our article on The 5 Rules of Weight Loss, think of all the calories you eat as first-year wizards at Hogwarts.

They need to be sorted into one of three houses (“Burn as Energy,” Store as Fat,” or “Rebuild Muscle.”)

The extra calories you eat over the holidays always go towards “store as fat” unless you give them a really good reason to head to the “build muscle” common room. Politely asking them won’t help.

You need to give them a reason. And that wonderful reason is STRENGTH TRAINING.

When you strength train before a big meal, the muscles you trained are broken down and need to be rebuilt. So, over the next 48+ hours many of those extra calories will be diverted to rebuilding (stronger) muscles instead of becoming fat.

Yeah, gyms have been hit or miss during the pandemic. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do bodyweight training from our living room.

Try a heavy strength training workout just a few hours before a holiday mean, then proceed to eat with everybody else. While they all lament “I’m so full, I ate too much, wahhhh,” you’ll know your calories are being used to rebuild muscle. So internally, you can start doing an evil villain laugh… Muahahahah, you know the one.

Work smarter (like a nerd)

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