Finding the motivation to work out and eat healthily through the dark winter months can feel like a bit of an impossible task. And if you’ve ever struggled with body image or disordered eating, it can also feel like an incredibly scary slippery slope. But eating well and exercising can reduce the risk of you suffering with major illnesses such as heart disease, cancer, and type two diabetes by up to 50 percent.
In addition to physical health benefits, getting the balance right can also be really good for your brain. From helping people cope with the symptoms of depression and anxiety to improving your memory, research has highlighted how important eating a balanced diet and working out can be mentally.
If you already suffer with low moods of depression, the cold and dark of winter can make it worse. And it’s a feedback loop. For many people, the more depressed they feel, the less likely they are to workout, then they feel more depressed, then they still don’t work out. Timing exercise and regular meal times into your day can give you a sense of routine that you need when there are so few hours of daylight.
Plus, the “high” you get after working out is so real. The endorphins released will make you feel happier and more energetic, and they may also do things for you between the sheets: Eating well and working out may do wonders for your sex life. Aerobic exercise — like running, cycling, and swimming — have all been found to increase circulation and blood flow, which is crucial for performance in the bedroom. Additionally, strength-training has been proven to improve people’s overall body image and increase libido while reducing stress.
There’s no denying the numerous benefits that getting your workout gear on and getting moving can have, but when you’ve finished a long day at work and are being forced back out into the dark, there’s some serious motivation you need to call upon. While taking the first step is definitely the hardest, there’s some things you can do to make it a little easier for yourself.
Finding exercise that you actually enjoy is a start. If you have trouble going to the gym or going on a run (or it’s just too snowy to run at all!) check out a pole dancing class. Buy an intro to a yoga studio. Try zumba. Really, whatever activity appeals to you and feels like you’re “not really exercising,” but having fun could be the key to keeping moving.
Holding yourself accountable or finding a workout buddy to do it will make it much harder to turn down a session. Another trick? Booking a class so that you feel obligated to attend. Getting friends to book the same class also helps, as you don’t want to let them down.
So, once you’ve found the workout you enjoy, dragged a friend along for the ride, and start to feel the famous exercise rush, you want to come home to seriously scrumptious food. But everything associated with health is cold and salad based, right? Oh no no.
Winter is the time for hearty stews, fresh soups, and homemade pasta sauces. And they’re so much to make than most people think! When you make a dish yourself, you can really add the flavors and nutrition you need to make something tasty that will fill you up. Try creating meal plans full of bean and vegetable stews, stroganoffs, and wholemeal pasta dishes. You’ll get all the nutrients and energy you need, without even noticing that you’ve switched up your diet.
Going into the new year with goals to be happier, healthier, and having better sex without the pressure of weight loss will get you in the gym and keep you there. The reality is, when it’s cold and dark outside, you should be proud of yourself for even putting your trainers on! And when your workout is done, you can come home and treat yourself to a hearty, homemade, veg-filled feast.