When it comes to weight loss, winter is BY FAR the most difficult time of the year for most people.

Which is strange when you think about – you wouldn’t think that something as trivial as the weather would have any effect on your ability to drop (or even just maintain) your weight.

But sure enough, once the days start getting shorter and the weather starts cooling off, almost all of us start to experience the effect that winter can have on our health (and waistline).

Why It’s Tough To Lose Weight In The Winter

There are a few reasons that managing your weight is difficult in the winter, but the major one is the fact that the days are getting shorter and our total exposure to the sun is far less than it would be during the spring and summer months.

And while that may not seem like a big deal, for many people it can have a profound impact on their mood and energy levels, as well as on weight control. Fatigue (a common complaint among those of us who hate winter) in particular can signal the release of hormones such as ghrelin which stimulate appetite.

Sun exposure also acts as a major source of Vitamin D, which has been linked to sleep quality, and Nitric Oxide, which helps regulate metabolism.

So, given that the deck is seriously stacked against you this time of year, the following is a list of tips and tricks you can use to help win the weight loss game and keep the pounds off.

Tip #1 – Optimize Your Sleep

Since fatigue leads to the secretion of fat promoting hormones, it’s important to prevent this by getting your sleep right.

Generally speaking, most of us would do well to get an hour or two more in the winter than in the summer.

So, if you usually get seven hours of sleep, shoot for eight or nine.

Pro tip – get the extra few hours by going to bed earlier rather than waking up later.  Waking up with the sun (or relatively close) will help regulate your circadian rhythms and improve sleep quality.

Tip #2 – Make Exercise Easy

Let’s face it – when it’s cold, dark and miserable outside, the LAST thing any of us want to do is hit the gym.  This is especially true when your energy levels are in the toilet and all you want to do is sit on the couch eating pizza all day.

If you want to keep up with your gym routine (and you should), you need to make it as easy as humanly possible.  For some people, that means exercising first thing in the morning so they can’t make excuses later in the day.

For others, it means working out at their office gym during lunch rather than having to drive across town after work.

You get the idea – whatever you need to do to make it as easy as possible, DO IT.

Tip #3 – Pay Attention To Food Quality

While calories are king for dropping weight, that doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to food quality.

Not only are fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats lower in calories than most junk foods, they also help blunt hunger and raise your energy levels – perfect for when you’re struggling to get yourself to the gym on a cold, dark day.