Making healthier habits: How to get through winter

Everyone is sick of winter. The post-Olympic doldrums have passed, most of our streets and backyards are covered in sheet


Everyone is sick of winter. The post-Olympic doldrums have passed, most of our streets and backyards are covered in sheet ice and snow as far as the eye can see, and you feel the cold straight into your bones and teeth. Though we have tried to embrace winter, the gig is up. It’s time for it to go.

I don’t know about you, but this winter has been rough on my skin. And lips. And hair. And nails. I can only hope no one looks at my feet in yoga class. Not pretty.

Winter never ceases to remind me that I don’t take care of my outsides the way that I take care of my insides. The photo above is me, but it is me with help. Anyone can look good in a stylist’s hands. Most days my skin care regimen involves a bit of tinted moisturizer with SPF, concealer to mask the bags under my eyes and the myriad of spots that keep sprouting up, and a touch of mascara. Incidentally, I think I was sold a bill of lies in my teens when they said that my ‘problem’ skin would go away miraculously in my twenties. I’m now at the start of my 40s and still get pimples. What is up with that?

And then there’s my hair. I finally went for a haircut last week and felt beautiful and amazing for the day or so until I had to wash my hair again, and I was once more responsible for styling it. Don’t get me started on why my hair can never be replicated. My hairdresser told me that in the heart of winter many of her clients are a lot like me ‘ they let their hair go for too long without trimming or colouring it, and end up feeling even more blah. Most days the past few months I’ve had a toque firmly ensconced on my head so a hairstyle felt like a moot point. I believe Canadians have a national duty to embrace hat hair.

My hands are cracked and dry, my lips are brittle and my body itches. There doesn’t seem to be enough moisturizer in the house for all of us.

I know it will be spring soon. For many, not soon enough. But I also know I can’t use winter as an excuse. I’ve had iffy skin for a while. I don’t really know what I’m doing with my skin-care regimen, and it was one of the habits I wanted to get a grasp of as I went about changing habits in my quest to be healthier.

In their study on habits at the University College London, Research Psychologist Phillipa Lally said cues and triggers were the key to making or breaking habits. Participants would try to make a new habit first thing in the morning, or right when they got home from work, or at night before bed.

About 10 days ago, I made a decision to ‘trigger’ my going-to-bed routine to get to bed earlier and get seven hours sleep. This trigger would coincide with another habit, cleaning my skin and brushing my teeth. The habit hasn’t stuck. Some nights I remember to do it; other nights ‘ like tonight ‘ my son (whom we are potty training) decides to go ‘potty’ in the bath, and I end up scrubbing the tub. No, it wasn’t an innocent little wee-wee.

Too much information? At this moment, my decision to not drink wine for 66 days seems not only foolhardy but outright misguided.   

And so, the skin-cleaning habit hasn’t formed, and my seven hours sleep a night habit ‘ though I’m trying, and sometimes succeeding – doesn’t always happen. On a positive note, I managed to finish Season 3 of Homeland (and wept).

There are tons of tips out there for helping our skin get through winter. As much as you want to soak in a tub, shorter showers are better for you to prevent drying out the skin. Humidifiers should be your new best friend. And, I’m discovering, you can help your skin from the inside out, too. Unsurprisingly, the best foods for skin are the ones that are good for overall health: nuts, salmon and green leafy vegetables. But if I eat all those healthy things and still have spotty skin, it makes my quest to not eat sugar (and, in turn, chocolate) seem equally foolhardy.

Next week I will interview a holistic skin care professional, who will not only talk about eating well for good skin, but provide me with ideas for good skin care maintenance. I know I should be washing, exfoliating and moisturizing. But am I the only person who is confused about how many products there are on the market, and what is best for you? I need a little professional guidance if I’m going to have glowing skin by my 42nd birthday. And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Botox.

Follow me on Twitter @erinpp

Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health.