Many people are starting to see the winter creep, where a few extra pounds creep onto our bodies. In children, especially, a few pounds on a small frame can be the difference between normal weight and overweight. Children should only gain 5 pounds a year, except in the first year of life and during adolescence. Anything more is excessive and will be hard to shed as time goes on.
Many parents tell me their children will lose the weight in the summer, but this often doesn't happen. While it's true most kids are more active in the summer, being sedentary in the winter will allow extra poundage to creep on. I know first-hand how tempting it is to sit next to the fireplace drinking cocoa, snuggling in warm blankets in my cozy chair on a cold Elmhurst night rather than dragging myself to Beverly's excellent Zumba class at the YMCA on Thursday nights. It's fine to indulge yourself periodically, but don't make it a daily habit.
Here are some tips to ward off that winter creep.
1. Even when it's cold, get outside. Bundle up the kids, play in the snow and allow them the "privilege" of helping you shovel your driveway. You won't get much accomplished, but it will get them moving.
2. Sign up for activities. The Elmhurst park district has great programs and one or two activities weekly will defuse cabin fever and keep your kids engaged and busy.
3. Head to the Elmhurst Public Library, which is one of the nation's top libraries. Grab some great books for the kids. My daughter likes the craft books, and we will check out books on places to travel, even if it's just in our dreams. Check out puzzles and toys as well.
4. Keep an eye on TV and electronics usage. Limit time, even if you are not going anywhere, as my kids tend to overindulge when they can't go outside. It's pretty challenging to keep kids totally unplugged, but be aware of usage. Especially with TV, it's easy to mindlessly eat and watch simultaneously, which will lead to excess calorie consumption and extra weight gain. On school nights, two hours maximum is what I recommend. My kids will say they are bored if they don't have electronics on. To paraphrase my mother in law, “smart kids don't get bored.” When I tell them this it of course drives them crazy, but motivates them to do something else.”
5. Take advantage of winter fruits and vegetables. Everyone needs 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day. Watch portion sizes. A serving of pasta is a half cup, a serving of meat is the size of an iPod touch. Many of us eat larger portions than we need. This, when coupled with less activity, leads easily to winter weight gain. Be careful of processed foods, as they are more calorie-laden. I tell my patients an apple is better than apple juice which is better than apple pie. The more true to nature a food is, the healthier it is.