Spring’s Hidden Barriers
By Associate Professor, Exercise Science Jessica C. Peacock, Ph.D., M.A., NCC
I recently read an article about some of the reasons people gain weight in the springtime and thought I would share these with you. This is a really important topic as we move into March, April and May, as many people are starting to feel good about the changing weather and chances for increased activity. But don’t let the positive momentum that comes with spring and the promise of summer not far away blind you to some of the challenges to healthy living this time of year:
- The days are longer, and while this offers more chances for activity, it can also mean more time to snack and eat! Plus, if you’re exercising more because of the nice weather then you might feel hungrier than you have been recently. So watch out for increased calorie intake, and plan accordingly.
- Vacation season begins! Whether you’re traveling for spring break or just for a much-needed weekend getaway, the improved weather in springtime often means getting out on the road or taking a break from the daily routine. And travel and vacations are some of the biggest barriers to maintaining healthy habits. A poll reported that 81% of Americans indulge while on vacation – and indulgences often lead to unexpected weight gain.
- The Easter holiday brings not just the Easter bunny, but lots of candy too. Outside of Halloween, it is reported that more candy is consumed on Easter than on any other day of the year. With Peeps, Cadbury, and Reese’s all tempting us with their products, it can be difficult not to sneak a few treats here and there. Did you have a plan for getting through Halloween? If so, it might be time to create a similar plan for Easter! There's no reason not to enjoy a little candy now and then, and having a plan will help you do so in a healthier way and and feel good about it.
- More daylight and warmer temperatures lead to outdoor restaurant seating. If you’re taking greater advantage of dining out and things like happy hour, chances are you’ll be consuming more calories than normal. In fact, we’re apt to eat 50% more calories when we dine out than when we cook at home. And if you’re doing happy hour, chances are your calorie intake is even higher due to half-priced appetizers that are still full-fat! Focus on sharing plates and making healthy choices.
- Look out for hidden calories in foods we’re more likely to dine on in the warmer weather. For example, salads seem like a safe choice when looking for a healthy meal. But do you know how many calories are in some restaurant salads? As an example, the Quesadilla Explosion Salad at Chili’s has 1,400 calories and 65g of fat! Sometimes salads are not the healthiest choice. Drinks can also hold hidden calories; sugary alcoholic drinks at happy hour or iced coffee drinks at breakfast/brunch can also be less healthy options when spring begins.
As you can now see, barriers to staying on track with healthy living are still present in the spring season. So don’t neglect the need to continue to stay vigilant and plan ahead for overcoming these challenges. Schedule time to work out, add in extra movement when the nice weather permits, and keep up with a food journal – all these things will help you be successful and reach those summer goals!