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Stacey Feintuch

Stacey Feintuch is a Blogger, Freelance Writer, Public Speaker and Young-ish Widow

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Why Many People Gain Weight in the Fall (And How to Avoid It)

Get expert tips and tricks to ensure that your diet doesn't veer off track this fall and to help you adopt healthy behaviors.

Nutrition & Movement

The lazy, hazy and crazy days of summer are a fading memory. You've put away the bathing suits, sun dresses and open-toed shoes. You've taken out and put on the puffy coats, leggings, sweaters and boots.

And sometimes you also put on…pounds. Short days, long nights and colder weather make it easy for us to hibernate. We stay indoors after work and snack in front of the TV, instead of going for a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood.

It may not seem like an issue to gain a pound or two beneath that pair of elastic waist pants and cuddly sweatshirt. But, it's tough to shed that extra weight after New Year's.

We spoke with Caren Boscaino and Lori Sawyer. They're founders of Clean Cut Fitness & Nutrition, a program that will help you balance work, life, nutrition and fitness. They're also authors of Shrink Your Body, Grow Your Mind. They gave us tips and tricks to ensure that your diet doesn't veer off track this fall and to help you adopt healthy behaviors. "We help people shift their minds and not just wish through moments," says Boscaino. "With tips and knowledge and support, people can make real change. It's never easy to make change alone. Find support in the office, home, etc. and it makes you more accountable."

  1. The excuse: Fall treats fill the stores.
    Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie and apple cider donuts have made their return to coffee shops and stores. It's hard to escape and ignore the smells and sounds of this sugar-filled fare. It becomes more tempting because we feel it's a short-lived season and we need to get it all in. But overindulgence comes at a weighty price.
    How to avoid it
    Don't put yourself in an environment that encourages poor eating. "Placing yourself in a situation that doesn't support your goals can lead to temptation," says Boscaino. "It's OK to indulge but make sure you don't go overboard and get right back to clean habits the next meal or the next day." Boscaino says to pick your favorite food or beverage and have one of them once a week or every other week. But, give up something else to even it out, she says. "You can satisfy a craving if you become mindful about it," she says. "Plan it, enjoy it and move on."
  2. The excuse: You just want to sleep in.
    In the summer, you feel like you have to get out of bed when the sun is shining and the air is warm. You go for a run or hit the pool to do some laps. When it's freezing out, sometimes you just want to stay in bed instead of taking the kids to the playground.
    How to avoid it
    Your exercise regimen shouldn't fall off the wagon with the temperatures. "If movement is part of your daily life, you don't look for the excuse," says Boscaino. Invest in gear that's comfortable to wear outside regardless of the elements. Some cute new workout clothing can also help you stay motivated.
  3. Culprit: Fall treats are abound at the office.
    Your boss wants to get rid of her Halloween candy stash so she puts a chocolate-filled bowl on her desk. Your direct report made pumpkin pie that she begs you to try. Colleagues are flooding the break room counters with baked goods that just won't go away.
    How to avoid it
    "There are the moments you can't avoid," says Sawyer. Stock your desk with nonperishable healthy snacks like mixed nuts; organic popcorn; healthy bars; or whole-grain, high-fiber crackers. That way you'll avoid making impulse food choices. "Keep these items on hand when you feel the urge pulling you to the common dumping ground of treats," she says. If you must, allow yourself to have a treat now and then. Settle on one you can't really live without it and stick with it. That way you can plan where you want to spend your calories. "Whatever you do, make it worth it," she says. She says at Clean Cut, they tell client to pause and ask themselves, "Is it worth it? Would I rather skip a glass of wine tonight or eat this leftover cake?" "Ask yourself these questions before just grabbing," she says. You'll feel stronger once you avoid something a few times.
  4. The excuse: Fruits and veggies are harder to come by.
    More produce (watermelon, cherries, corn) is in season, inexpensive and accessible when it's warm. Come fall, you reach for heavier, warming comfort foods like mac and cheese because the farmer's market is closed and the supermarket has less fresh options. (Plus, eating can help raise body temperature which may be why we seek out hearty bowls of pasta, chili and stews.)
    How to avoid it
    Opt for frozen fruits and veggies. Frozen produce is oftentimes more nutritious because it's frozen at peak freshness. Just avoid canned ones which can be high in salt and preservatives. And remember that fruit is still fresh in the fruit and winter; it's just different, says Sawyer. She recommends eating apple slices spread with all-natural almond or peanut butter. "The good fat helps the sugar in the apple process a little slower, making it more satisfying," Beware that too much fruit any season isn't good in your diet, she says. "Look to increase your veggies this season with ones like rich seasonal squash that is filling, comforting and full of nutrients."
  5. The excuse: It's too cold to take Spot for a walk.
    You may be driven to reduce your dog's regular walks come fall. Instead of heading around the block, you just let him out in the yard or quickly walk around the cul-de-sac.
    How to avoid it
    The cold weather deters many people from continuing their active routines. But when your pup isn't getting his exercise, neither are you. Look at Fido's sad face and remember the importance of giving both of you some time outdoors. You can also text a fellow pet owner to help you stay accountable. "If you know someone is waking up with you, it's harder to hit snooze and talk yourself out of it," says Boscaino.
  6. The excuse: It's suddenly dark out.
    You had planned to go for a run at the park. But now it's pitch dark out. So your plans have been axed.
    How to avoid it
    You can't avoid weather issues like snow, rain, cold and darkness. But, you should have a backup plan. Try an app or DVD to get in a workout at home. Or hit up the local gym and run on the treadmill. Twenty to 30 minutes is better than nothing. You can always make it up in the next few days by adding extra time to your other workouts, says Boscaino. "Remember that exercise doesn't give you the freedom to eat whatever you want," she says. "It gives you the freedom to save up for the cheat you plan."
  7. The excuse: You have too many dinner dates.
    In the summer, you'd make fish on the grill and then go for a bike ride with your partner. Now that it's too cold to grill, you have less active date night. You grab dinner out and catch a movie. You try new spots and tend to overeat. Or, you order in and watch some Netflix.
    How to avoid it
    Try something indoors that's active or date night like bowling or ice skating. At restaurants, split your entrees with your partner or take half home. Learn toward healthier options like salads, fish, vegetables and whole grains, says Sawyer. "Foods rich in starch and sugar seem to make you feel better in the moment, but in the end leave you with the urge for more," she says. Snack wisely while you're streaming a movie at home. "Just because it's movie night, doesn't mean you have to have popcorn," says Sawyer. "Why not make roasted chickpeas?"
  8. The excuse: You want to try every recipe you see online.
    Recipes for muffins, breads, cake and more start to fill your Facebook feed. Now that you're home more, you're inspired to get baking. But this new hobby can prove detrimental to your waistline.
    How to avoid it
    Choose a recipe and have friends and family over to try it. That way, you won't be left with leftovers you feel inclined to sample. Avoid taking tastes as you cook. And stick to small, sensible portions. Split a muffin with a friend, for example. Sawyer also say you can try paleo flour or coconut flour when baking. "Baking is more about filling time than the finished product," she says.
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