6 small changes to beat winter weight

Implement these six changes and you won’t gain weight between June and September – in fact you may even lose as much as 20kg before spring, depending on how bad your current habits are.

We know when the temperature drops our weight does the opposite. As we tuck into pies and stews to ward off the winter chill we’re making sure there’s an extra – fatty – layer between us and the cold. And when it’s miserable outside nobody feels like getting up from the couch to exercise.

The slow-down in physical activity and a winter diet of stodgy, fatty food are the main reasons people gain weight in winter. So, how do we avoid becoming as heavy as our favourite winter foods?


Winter fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, naartjies, pawpaw, kiwi fruit and guavas are brimming with protective nutrients such as vitamin C and bioflavonoids to help ward off winter colds and flu, and they’re low in kilojoules.

Try eating one of these fruits at each meal to fill you up and boost your immune system.

The difference

If you eat just five portions of fruit a week (more would be even better) instead of pudding or a 100g bar of chocolate, you won’t gain a gram. If you used to eat puddings, cakes and chocolates at least three times a week your new habit will help you lose up to 5kg in three months.


Winter is the best time to eat soups which can be nutritious without increasing your energy intake. The simplest soups can be made with a variety of vegetables cooked with beef or chicken stock. Use stock cubes that are low in kilojoules or make your own stock from chicken or beef, let it cool in the fridge then remove the fat that has solidified on top.

Use fat-free milk to make cream of vegetable soups and add fat-free yoghurt instead of cream. Prepare your soup or stew the day before, let it cool in the fridge and scoop off the solidified fat before you heat it. For every teaspoon of fat you remove, you save nearly 200kJ. Serve vegetable soups with crusty wholewheat bread for a delicious, wholesome, non-fattening meal that will keep you warm and full for hours.

The difference

Try having a low-kilojoule soup for one of your main meals every day this winter. Remember to skim off the fat from your stews. This way you won’t gain weight; you may in fact lose up to 3kg in three months.


Research shows eating more fat-free or low-fat dairy products can actually help you lose weight. Using fat-free milk for hot drinks such as Milo means you won’t be piling on the kilos this winter.

The difference

If you replace full-cream milk with skimmed (fat-free) or low-fat (2%) milk, use low-fat yoghurt and cottage cheese instead of the full-cream versions and stick to no more than three portions of dairy a day (three glasses of milk or three small yoghurts or three matchbox-sized portions of cottage cheese) you can lose between 2 and 4kg in three months. How much you lose will depend on whether you choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.


Instead of adding two or three teaspoons of sugar to your hot beverages, use artificial or non-nutritive sweeteners. If you have five hot drinks a day, you’ll save between 800 and 1 200kJ.

The difference

You'll lose between 2 and 3kg in three months.


It’s convenient to snack on sausage rolls, samoesas, pastries, chips or deep-fried chicken takeaways when it’s cold outside. Somehow the idea of eating warm food seems comforting.

The difference

If you can steer clear of these foods this winter you have a good chance of not gaining weight. And if you usually eat a pie and packet of hot chips a day your new habit will help you to lose up to 5kg in three months.


Make a deliberate decision to be more active this winter. Go for brisk walks when the sun is out; join a gym; go to dancing, Pilates or yoga classes; or try home workouts. After 10 minutes you’ll feel as warm as toast and glowing with health. Being active will also help keep gloominess at bay.

The difference

If you continue your summer exercise regime you won’t gain weight. If you’ve been a couch potato you’ll lose weight if you start exercising. If you walk briskly for 30 minutes a day, five to six days a week for three months, you’ll lose up to 1.5kg in three months. If you add three 30-minute sessions of muscle exercise to your routine three times a week, you can lose 3kg in three months.

Fast fact: If you feel depressed in winter your body reacts by producing more serotonin, the "happy hormone". One of the ways in which the body tries to boost serotonin production is to increase your craving for carbohydrates. Unfortunately many carbohydrate foods such as chips, cakes, pies, pastries and chocolate also have a high fat content. If you eat a lot of these foods because you feel the urge to stock up on carbohydrates you’ll most probably gain weight.

(Dr IV van Heerden/DietDoc, Health24, updated July 2011)

This article originally appeared in YOU Pulse/Huisgenoot-Pols magazine. The current edition is on sale now.

Any questions? Ask DietDoc

Read more:

Foods that keep the kilos down
Eat right, stay healthy this winter
2 minutes to healthy winter eating

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