September is always a reminder of fresh starts, but also of much busier schedules that bring on many fall weight loss traps.
But there are also many reasons why fall is a great time to lose weight. The cool crisp weather is nature’s invitation to be outside. It seems like you can walk faster and longer when there’s a little nip in the air. It’s also harvest time for fall vegetables and fruits.
Still, autumn certainly does not come without its obstacles.
Here are five fall weight loss traps you might face and the best way to lose weight despite them:
1. Crazy busy schedules.
No more lazy summer days, not to mention vacation days. The kids are back to school—and to music lessons, after-school sports and extra-curricular activities—just to name a few. Mom and dad’s taxi service is officially back up and running. It’s tough to stick to a diet and exercise plan when you have so much to do. Not only does stress set up a cascade of hormones that can make you hungry (one of the sneakiest weight loss traps), logistics undercut you. Who has time to get a healthy dinner on the table when you only have an hour or so between activities? (Moms who feel like human taxis should click here to check out some fall weight loss tips from really busy moms >)
Luckily, there are simple solutions! Your supermarket probably carries prepared rotisserie chickens and pre-cut veggies that are a meal for your family in minutes. Now that you have your family covered, your Nutrisystem entrees are your meal in minutes. Just make sure you also have a bounty of grab-and-go Nutrisystem foods like the On-the-Go bars for when crazy schedules go even more haywire and take some time on the weekend to plan ahead for days that make an air traffic controller’s look tame. Shop and cook ahead. Stock up on grab-and-go snacks and bars to keep in your purse (Click here to discover five delicious lunch bars for easy grabbing-and-going >).
2. Fall food festivities.
Fall weight loss seems like an impossible feat because the season is essentially three months of nearly irresistible temptation; starting with the peanut butter cups of Halloween and ending with the lobster, drawn butter and champagne of New Year’s Eve. Oh and Thanksgiving, the holiday that’s all about the culinary weight loss traps; and Christmas, with its parties, cookie gifts and fruitcake, not to mention cocktails.
Turn a negative into a positive: Use the time before the food flows like wine to do a pre-emptive strike against holiday weight gain. Sit down with a piece of paper or in front of your computer and list all the no-no foods you are going to avoid and can do without. Next, take a look at the list and think of alternatives that might be just as satisfying. Here are some ideas to get you going:
Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas: Would a Nutrisystem Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar substitute for a Reese’s? Okay, you have a plan! It may also help to only buy candy you don’t like to hand out to trick-or-treaters and to vow not to raid your kids’ stash. Anyway, isn’t that stealing? Also, Turkey usually isn’t usually the problem—it’s the “friends” that it brings with it to the table.
Here are some tips if you don’t want to end the day feeling guilty and having to unbutton your pants due to these sneaky fall weight loss traps:
- Stick to one or two foods you don’t have regularly (like stuffing and pumpkin pie) and pass on others than you may have more frequently, like mashed potatoes. Remind yourself that this isn’t your last chance to taste them. They’ll always be there.
- Control the ingredients. If you’re the cook, consider using chicken broth in place of butter to bring more flavor—and less fat—to stuffing and even potatoes. Skim the fat from gravy. Make your pumpkin pie with fat-free condensed milk and at least part artificial sweetener or bake a low-fat pumpkin custard to avoid fattening pie crust. Click here to see the recipe for a healthier Pumpkin Pie that still has all the flavor >
- Eat slowly. A study found that overweight people who ate at a slower pace felt fuller faster and reported less hunger even though there was no change in the hormones that affect appetite—a case of the brain overruling the body.
- Donate the cookies. While homemade food gifts are wonderful to give and receive, they are complete weight loss traps. Your local nursing home, homeless shelter or soup kitchen might appreciate a little re-gifting of sweets. If you’re going to bake for family and friends, consider sweet fruit breads instead of cookies. You can’t take even a little taste of breads, while cookies can disappear before you’ve even started wrapping them. You can also explore the Recipes section on The Leaf for delicious alternative cookie recipes, like these 3-Ingredient Oatmeal Raisin Cookies >
3. No more summer produce.
Goodbye fresh berries, tomatoes and green beans! We’re going to miss you!
The good news is autumn brings with it a new batch of vegetables perfect for fall weight loss. Some of them are highly nutritious but starchy, like potatoes and yams, while others, such as parsnips, rutabagas and turnips, may be unfamiliar to you but are the healthier options.
The berries have disappeared and in their place are shiny apples and pears. It just requires a bit of a change in mindset (and a few good recipes, like this Slow-cooker Applesauce) to help you appreciate fall’s farm bounty. The first bite into a crisp, juicy apple may help you forget the delicious sweetness of the season’s first strawberry crop. Click here to discover five reasons why you should eat more apples >
You may even be surprised by root vegetables like parsnips, a carrot-like veggie that roasts to a candy sweetness and bulbous turnips that, when boiled and mashed with apple, can make you forget potatoes as a side dish.
This isn’t much of a challenge and it’s a tasty win all around.
4. Unpredictable weather.
Those crisp autumn days can suddenly turn cold, wet and blustery which can cancel your outdoor workout plans. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you don’t have a gym membership but have a mall nearby, combine a brisk walk with people-watching and window shopping. You can also find all kinds of fun workout ideas on the Fitness section of The Leaf!
It’s also good to have the gear—weatherproof and wind-resistant jackets, warm layers, hat, waterproof socks and sunglasses—that can help you stay active in any weather. Click here to discover more cold weather exercise essentials >
5. The time change.
In November, most of us “fall back,” that is, we get one extra hour of sleep as we switch the clocks back an hour. Only it doesn’t quite work out that way. A 2013 study in Sleep Medicine Reviews found little evidence that most of us get more sleep. In fact, our sleep can be disturbed for up to a week or more after the time change. We may sleep less, get up earlier, wake up in the middle of the night and even have trouble getting to sleep.
Studies have found that sleep deprivation can lead to weight gain in part by increasing our desire for high-calorie, high-carb foods to give us instant energy to get through the day. Click here to read the 10 ways sleep deprivation affects your health >
To beat these fall weight loss traps, go to bed a little earlier in anticipation of the time change, avoiding alcohol and caffeinated beverages four to six hours before bedtime, keep naps to 20 minutes and maintain a consistent sleep schedule on the weekends.