Even if you love fall, you have to admit that it's a strange sort of in-between season. It's not the carefree days of summer spent in shorts and flip-flops, and it's also not quite the cozy months of winter that call for wrapping up in scarves and sweaters.
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Likewise, when it comes to weight loss, you may expect the challenges of summer — barbecues, ice cream and alcohol, oh my! — and the holiday season, while autumn's pitfalls might not be so obvious. But the season comes with a few unique barriers that can trip you up.
Here are some common habits we adopt or activities we choose to do (or not) that could make the number on the scale grow.
1. Increased Stress
With long sunny weekends and vacations behind us, it can feel good to get back into a regular routine — aka that "back-to-school" feeling. But this time of year also typically comes with more deadlines, appointments and (if you have kids) shuttling to school, activities, etc. Put another way, stress ticks up when the dog days of summer are behind us.
And here's the thing about stress: We're more likely to overeat and choose less-healthy foods when we're feeling overextended, per a study in the Journal of Molecular Biochemistry published October 2018.
How to Dial Down Your Stress
Double down on your stress management. When obese adults participated in a stress management program (think: learning progressive muscle relaxation, diaphragmatic breathing and guided visualization), they lost more weight over an eight-week period than their counterparts who didn't take stress-reduction classes, according to that same Journal of Molecular Biochemistry study.
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2. Cooler Weather
Sure, those colder temps help you get a better night's rest, but they also may make you less likely to want to be active or exercise outdoors. Unfortunately, dialing back on your activity level means you'll burn fewer calories.
How to Stay Active During Colder Months
Planning ahead is key.
"If you're an outdoor exercise fiend, consider the right clothing so you can continue your journey," Chris Mohr, PhD, RD, of MohrResults.com, tells LIVESTRONG.com. "There's a saying I learned when I was in Norway and it's stuck with me since — there's no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing."
If that doesn't appeal to you, what are your indoor options?
"Many gyms offer virtual classes, and there is certainly no shortage of apps that offer a great variety of workouts," Mohr says.
Crunched for Time?
Choose one of these 20-minute workouts that torch calories and build muscle.
3. The Urge for Comfort Food
It's fall, y'all — and that means pumpkin spice lattes, cider donuts, game-day snacks and warm casseroles that might be slightly less than healthy. Add in the fact that you've probably put away your swimsuit for the season and have dug out your cozy oversized sweaters, and it can be tough to resist these cool-weather treats.
How to Still Enjoy Your Favorite Fall Eats
The age-old advice of "everything in moderation" absolutely still applies. You don't have to skip that PSL altogether, but maybe order a tall instead of a venti. And try pairing that ooey-gooey mac and cheese with a big leafy green salad.
And here's another trick: Dial back the portion sizes at your other meals. When a small group of adults cut down their main meal portions to "smaller than normal," they didn't end up eating more (and making up for those calories lost) at other meals or snacks, found a study published February 2020 in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity. Point being: You can enjoy your comfort food faves in all their glory and compensate for your indulgence at another meal, if you so desire.
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- Journal of Molecular Biochemistry: "Impact of a stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity: a randomized controlled trial"
- International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity: "Reductions to main meal portion sizes reduce daily energy intake regardless of perceived normality of portion size: a 5 day cross-over laboratory experiment"