Good Health

Tips for Avoiding the “Fall 15”

By Dr. Haley Perlus | Contributor

If you have ever attended your freshman year at college or sent a child off to school, you are well acquainted with the term “freshman 15.” Those extra 15 pounds that creep on in the fall are not just the domain of co-eds. Adults are subject to it as well as colder climates bring us indoors and less body-conscious clothing has us dressing in layers. 

While weight gain should never come with judgment, it is far more challenging to lose weight than it is to prevent it from occurring in the first place, with some mindful tips people can follow as the days grow shorter and colder.

Pay attention to emotional eating 

The start of fall brings more time spent at home. More time at home can lead to boredom and possibly seasonal depression. For some, this comes with emotional eating, leading to weight gain. To prevent weight gain, it’s important to learn your habits and patterns and make the necessary adjustments. For example, if you know you emotionally eat at 8pm, either eat something healthy at 7:45pm to eliminate the 8pm binge or take yourself far away from food and engage in a more healthy behavior such as going for an evening stroll, journaling, or talking to a loved one.   

Experiment with New Healthy Recipes 

Fall brings so many healthy vegetables. Research and experiment with cooking new healthy meals to keep you engaged, entertained, and healthy.  

“Seasonal Affective Disorder” Derailed Your Eating Habits 

As daylight savings rolls around, you’re not alone if you feel blue. Seasonal depression not only impacts your mental health but can impact your weight. People with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are more prone to emotional eating than people who don’t have the condition. If you struggle with SAD, do your absolute best to get outside for a moment of fresh air and human movement. Even five minutes can have an impact on your mood. As far as food and emotional eating go, try embracing mindful or intuitive eating. Every time you have the urge to eat, take a moment to reflect on how you’re feeling physically and mentally. 

Control Your Stress Levels 

Summer is typically a less stressful time for most of us. However, when fall comes, our schedules tend to ramp up again. Stressed individuals tend to have high cortisol levels, hormones released in response to stress. Chronically high cortisol levels can cause weight gain, as they have been linked to greater food consumption. Additionally, a stressful lifestyle may cause more cravings for junk food. Techniques can help you reduce stress. Some options include exercise, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing. 

Take phone meetings while walking. 

Taking a 30-minute phone call on the go can help you burn an extra 100 calories. 

Make Small Changes in Your Eating Habits 

Taking a small changes approach can have many benefits for weight management. First, small changes are easier to incorporate into everyday life than large ones. For example, eating 100-200 fewer calories daily is more manageable than eating 500 fewer calories daily (basically, an entire meal). Minor changes are also easier to maintain in the long run, which is key to managing weight. And successfully making these small changes may lead them to more significant changes in their life. 

Change Your Comfort Foods 

Enjoying food is a primal desire for all human beings. However, you don’t have to eliminate your favorite foods and treats to keep winter weight gain low. Instead, experiment by substituting foods with higher quality ingredients to upgrade the health value of your favorite comfort foods by including more whole-food, low-sugar, and healthy ingredients. For example, switch out white sugar for honey, maple syrup, or even monk fruit. Instead of white flour, you can use whole-wheat, gluten-free, or almond flour. Upgrade oils by avoiding processed oils such as trans fats and hydrogenated oils and use less refined options such as coconut, olive, or avocado oil. 

Don’t Forget to Sweat 

Many exercises and strategies can help you avoid seasonal weight gain while offering several other benefits for overall health and well-being. Regardless of the kind of physical activity you choose, research shows that consistent exercise, when combined with healthy eating, helps prevent weight gain while helping maintain weight loss in the long term. Variety also helps; by sweating your calories off with different types of exercise throughout the week, it will be harder to get bored of it. For example, try including some cardio, resistance training, and strength and flexibility (such as yoga) in a given seven-day period. 


Dr. Haley Perlus is a Sports and Performance Psychology Ph.D. who provides healthy advice people of any age can follow to maintain their health year-round.  For information, go to: www.drhaleyperlus.com 

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