Maggie Stewart believes that healthy living opens doors – not only to feeling incredible, but to experiencing life fuller (pun intended). After acquiring a B.S. in Chemistry and minor in Sociology from the University of Miami, Maggie decided to follow her passion for science and helping individuals adopt healthy lifestyles into the field of product development.

Her love for health foods and fitness has inspired Maggie to become a Group Fitness and Spinning instructor and obtain a Specialist in Fitness Nutrition Certificate. Maggie is also the Director of Product for Modere’s Health & Wellness category. So needless to say, she knows what she’s talking about.

With winter in full swing and the holidays upon us, we thought we’d get her expert insight into weight management during this delicious albeit challenging time of year.

Modere: Why do you think people tend to gain weight more in the winter as opposed to other months?

Maggie Stewart:

We tend to spend more time indoors in the winter, decreasing physical activity while attending more events that center around seasonal dishes. People bond over food – that is common throughout history and among most cultures. However, the combination of decreased activity with increased caloric intake is not one that most find ideal. Weight gain is a common result of the winter season, which is why so many opt for that classic New Year’s weight loss resolution.

Are there any products out there that you would recommend to help with weight maintenance during the holidays?

Believe it or not, you can thoroughly enjoy the holidays without gaining weight! Modere Carb Blocker does exactly what it’s name implies and blocks the absorption of carbohydrates while FTX (or Chitosan) blocks fat absorption. Use them as sneaky add-ons when you want to indulge in Grandma’s homemade apple pie or crazy Uncle Phil’s mac & cheese. Pop a Modere Satiety Chew with a glass of water when you are feeling peckish and would otherwise overdose on multi-colored candies.

Modere Sync, Digestive Enzymes and Probiotic all support digestive health. They are perfect products to take year-round, but especially helpful when indulging in foods outside of your typical routine. Just remember that products can be helpful in weight loss or maintenance, but lifestyle is the real key to long-term success.

As you enjoy dishes you love – because you should – make time to stay active, too. Also, try simple tricks to maintain weight such as staying hydrated to eliminate unnecessary cravings, only indulging in dishes you love and bringing your favorite healthy dish to winter festivities so you have lower calorie options to fill up on.

Do you have any tips about stopping yourself from overeating during the winter?

Maintaining hydration and eating whole foods that naturally contain vitamins and minerals can support the feeling of fullness, since the body will be less likely to experience cravings if properly nourished. Do this by shooting to get the USDA’s recommended 5-9 servings of fruit and vegetables each day. Check out USDA My Plate.

Also avoid overeating by listening to your body and figuring out if you are actually hungry as opposed to thirsty or bored. Personally, I find maintaining activity levels to be one of the most beneficial seasonal tricks, as I’m less likely to go overboard if I exercised earlier in the day. Try joining a gym, picking up a new studio class or developing an at-home workout program – keeping up your physical activity is also key to staying on track during the winter months!

What should our readers avoid taking or doing?

Winter is a festive time to enjoy family, friends and cooler temperatures. Don’t spend the season feeling guilty and stressed about food choices and how you fit into your pants! Let healthy lifestyle habits and effective products keep you in check as you enjoy yourself into the new year. Modere has a portfolio of products to support your goals as well as a thriving community to share feedback and ask for advice. Check out our social media platforms and get involved in the conversations!

With all of the food and gloomier weather in the winter, how do you stay motivated to keep working out and how can our readers take a page from your book?

Staying with a workout regimen is a struggle for a lot of us. For a number of reasons, adding winter weather to the mix just makes exercise seem like a chore. Keep motivated by expanding your personal fitness community. This is easy with the popularity of Facebook groups, Instagram bloggers and Twitter fitness chats that are hosted by a number of healthy lifestyle groups. These platforms allow us to share our struggles, offer real-time advice and inspire others.

Even closer to home, get your friends and family involved to set up a weekly workout routine. Planning out my fitness routine on Sundays has made consistency easier for me to maintain. If it’s in my schedule, it happens because I want to check it off the list! Building accountability has also been proven to work for a lot of the fitness studios sprouting up all over the country. For instance, CrossFit, SoulCycle and Orange Theory Fitness are great examples of how community is used to build a larger sense of accountability, motivating the masses to stay committed.

We are all different and will find motivation in varying ways. Try a few things until you find what works for you. It will pay off and leave you feeling happier, healthier and able to thoroughly enjoy events throughout the year!

Most people are extra busy and stressed during the holidays. What advice would you give them regarding weight maintenance?

Meal prep! Prepping healthy snacks and meals at the beginning of the week or every few days is a lifesaver for any on-the-go individual. When we get going it can be hard to find time to prep food on a daily basis. Fuel your busy schedule with pre-made dishes and snacks that you can take with you or enjoy anytime.

Sunday tends to be my day where it’s feasible to find 1-3 hours to prep food for a few days in advance. However, any day that works for you will get the job done and allow you to focus on priorities. Simply purchase snack bags and re-usable Tupperware to fill with your favorite healthy recipes. Measure out serving sizes and create dishes that are full of fruits and vegetables to keep your energy up and maintain good health throughout the season.  

Can you share any dietary swaps that may help out during holiday feasts?

Sticking to weight goals during the winter season can be difficult when it comes to social activities that center around food. Choose a dish or two that you love and indulge while considering serving sizes. Try some healthy swaps with other dishes you like less to reduce caloric intake while still fully participating in celebrations. Cut empty calories consumed from sodas or juices by opting for a sparkling water. Brands such as LaCroix or Sparkling Ice offer a range of zero calorie flavors to choose from.

Making hot chocolate or other milk based favorites? Try swapping animal milks for plant-based alternatives. Unsweetened almond or coconut milk packs both flavor and creamy texture in less than half the calories of 2% Cow’s Milk. Additionally, use 2% Greek yogurt when making dips to up the protein while eliminating calories from the fat found in sour cream.

If you’re feasting on turkey, go for the white meat instead of dark, which is typically higher in fat. At any party, make sure you have a dish you can eat a limitless amount of; fruit and green salad are perfect lower calorie, nutrient dense options.

What do you think the biggest mistake is that people make when trying to maintain or lose weight?

Not eating. The popular solution for many of us that are trying to drop or maintain weight is to reduce caloric intake, which is logical since weight loss requires us to expend more calories than we consume. However, what isn’t always considered is the fact that this simple science does not take into consideration our body’s biological brilliance when it comes to survival.

Dropping caloric intake significantly below what your body requires can force starvation mode, which is the body’s way of adapting to the fuel reduction. In combination with reducing energy usage, the body stops burning fat as the core fuel source and resorts to metabolizing lean tissue and muscle mass instead(1). This is absolutely counter-productive when trying to lose or maintain weight.

My main takeaway point is to keep eating, but modify your food choices to ensure you get the nutrients your body needs. A part of this means reducing the empty calories that come from simple sugars, white breads, pastas and added oils because these foods add calories with limited nutritional benefit.

(1) Hagendorf, Allison. How Eating Too Little Will Eat-Up Your Fat Loss Goals. 2015. American Council on Exercise (ACE).