Winter brings an interesting array of challenges each year. Not eating pavement when you walk down any stretch of street or stairs. Leaving the couch to get in your sub-zero run. And, of course, stopping the urge to devour the contents of your pantry and avoid the subsequent weight gain.
That last one’s not your fault. Really. We’ve evolved to develop a subconscious impulse to do exactly that in the winter months, according to research from the University of Exeter.
Evolutionarily speaking, being overweight has never posed a serious threat to our survival. Being underweight has. In the winter, our natural instinct to maintain body fat is stronger than any other season because that’s naturally when food is scarce. So, more often than not, we fail to pass on sweet, fatty, unhealthy foods.
In this particular study, researchers used computer modeling to predict just how much fat animals should store in the winter months, assuming natural selection gives animals (including us) an optimal strategy for maintaining the healthiest weight. This model, in turn, predicts how the amount of fat an animal stores should respond to food availability, and the risk of being killed by a predator when foraging for food.
In short, the computer model shows the animal should have a target body weight that hovers above the level in which it loses weight, and below which it tries to gain weight. But their simulations show there isn’t much of a negative effect on energy stores when a weight surpass this optimal level. What this means is our subconscious controls that fight against becoming overweight are weak and easily overpowered by the immediate reward of tasty food.
“You would expect evolution to have given us the ability to realize when we have eaten enough, but instead we show little control when faced with artificial food,” lead study author Andrew Higginson said in a press release.
But don’t go blaming your inability to hold a New Year’s resolution on evolution—even though the researchers say New Year’s Day is the worst time to start a diet since out body instinctively stores fat to prevent starvation. There are ways to fight against the urge to eat (and eat, and eat…).
Simply being aware of this evolutionary tendency is step one. (Look, you’re halfway there!) “If someone is more conscious that cold weather naturally incites an innate tendency to overindulge it’s less likely to bite them,” says Ann Kulze, M.D., author of Eat Right for Life. “Beyond this first step of awareness, it goes back to the fundamentals of appetite control, like eating healthy, real foods while avoiding foods that drive appetite, exercising regularly, and being mindful during all aspects of eating behavior.
Here are four other ways to avoid weight gain this season:
- Avoid white flour products like white rice, white potatoes, sugar, and sweets since high glycemic carbs can skyrocket blood sugar and insulin, increasing your appetite and promoting the storage of fat.
- Instead, fill up on fiber-rich foods such as whole fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans. They can keep hunger at bay, stimulate the appetite-controlling hormone leptin, and keep glucose from flooding your blood stream.
- Limit sugar, especially in beverages, sugary cereals, and processed foods (like salad dressings, flavored yogurts, and packaged dessert snacks), which can trigger insulin resistance and fat storage.
- Get more protein into your diet. The most natural way to provide longer lasting appetite control is to consume fish, skinless poultry, nut butters, whole soy foods, dairy products, eggs, and beans, Kulze says. This will prevent the loss of muscle and help you maintain weight loss.
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- Turns out winter weight gain is a real thing
- Why “winter” means weight gain
- Reason 1: More fat = more warmth
- Reason 2: You’re getting dehydrated
- Reason 3: You’re feeling SAD
- Reason 4: But of course the Christmas cookies still play a role
- Don’t get stressed about it…
- 6 Unexpected Causes of Winter Weight Gain
- You’re Eating Fewer Fruits and Veggies
- Winter Blues
- Your Thermostat
- Comfort Drinks
- You’re Exercising Less
- Here’s How Much Weight the Average Person Gains During the Holidays
- six more months of winter
- prologue: thanksgiving
- Here’s how you can avoid winter weight gain
Turns out winter weight gain is a real thing
It’s very convenient to blame the holiday season for your weight gain — overeating at parties and family dinners is a perfectly viable culprit. But when February rolls around and you’re still feeling full, could there be something more at play? Often the term “winter weight gain” is thrown out as a joking myth or quasi-excuse, but it’s more real than we think. According to new research, natural evolution and lack of sunlight can heavily influence us to pack on the pounds when it gets colder.
The first study, from the University Of Exeter, examined the animalistic urge of eating as a means for survival. We have two natural forces at play; the desire to eat (and gain weight) for energy while avoiding starvation, versus gaining too much weight that would make us more susceptible to predators. Devising a computer model to determine the mathematical possibilities of these two forces, researchers uncovered that the desire to fight against starvation is far greater than the desire to prevent overeating. We fear starvation far more than we fear gaining too much weight, so the desire to keep eating is a stronger motivating factor. It seems that eating desire is so ingrained in us that it still drives us in our modern lives (where there is basically no chance of actual starvation). As such, this desire is heightened when food is traditionally more scarce, during the winter months, so we’re more susceptible to our evolutionary urges during these times.
The second study, from the University Of Alberta, uncovered that our bodies’ fat cells may have a positive reaction to sunlight. The findings, discovered by accident, suggest that fat cells which reside closest to the skin, when exposed to blue light (which the sun produces), actually begin to shrink, thus storing less fat. Researchers have inverted this finding to suggest that lack of sunlight, which we would experience during the winter months, can increase the cells’ ability to store fat and make us more susceptible to weight gain. After this initial discovery, researchers intend to study exactly what amount of sunlight is needed to create this effect and if sunlight exposure in infancy could be a determining factor in our fat-making abilities as we age.
Add to convincing scientific reasons cold weather lifestyle factors: spending more time indoors, no pressure to work on that beach bod, etc.,and winter weight gain seems not only real, but hard to avoid.
Extra motivation to stay fit and eat healthy is definitely needed during this season so trainer and nutritionist, Kyle Byron, shared the following quick tips we can all use to fight that winter weight gain.
First, find your motivation. “You have to have a reason to care about your health and fitness”, says Byron, “and it has to be more powerful than your need to cope with eating junk food and sitting on the couch”. Deadline goals like signing up for a race in the spring or even seriously considering your long term health are all great motivators to stay active.
Second, create your own day-to-day accountability by incorporating others. Byron belongs to a group training club “and it motivates me to show up, train hard, and do the exercises I might not normally do”.
Also, remove all junk food from the house. “If you are part of a family, it’s best to have a meeting about this and suggest if others want junk food, they can eat it outside the house.” Byron adds, “The chemical desire to eat will always beat willpower, when treats are in our environment.”
Lastly, “Know how to eat.” A diet lacking in nutrition or adequate calories can leave you craving more junk, looking for a quick fix, “Once I fix a few things (with) a person’s nutrition, they crave less junk food.”
So yes, excuse makers, winter weight gain is real and a variety of factors can have us feeling heavier when it’s cold. But it’s no reason to give up, if anything, it’s incentive to work harder for your health and be in peak condition for when beach weather arrives.
Winter can be kind of a downer. We go from summer, where the sun stays out until after 8 P.M., outdoor cocktails are the norm, and clothing is light and airy, to winter, where it’s dark, cold, and we have to trudge through snow in a bulky coat and boots. Another complaint a lot of people have once temps drop and self-imposed hibernation begins: winter weight gain.
It’s become somewhat of an expectation that we’ll gain a few pounds throughout this season. But it’s actually unfair to blame weight gain completely on colder weather. By doing that, and just accepting that lower temps = larger waistlines, you’re ignoring how much control you have over the situation. Yes, whether or not you gain weight this winter is in your hands, too, not just Mother Nature’s. Here’s why.
Contrary to what you may think, cold weather can theoretically help you lose weight.
Research shows that our bodies actually use a significant amount of energy trying to warm us up when we’re cold through a process called nonshivering thermogenesis (heat production). And it can actually burn a significant amount of fat. One study published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism in January 2014 suggests that a colder environment activates brown fat, a type of active fat tissue that actually produces heat to burn regular white fat. Another study from 2014 suggests that the physical act of shivering can also alter fat cells and boost metabolism, similarly to how exercise does.
The problem is that when it’s cold out, most of us use every excuse in the book to not step outside.
“No more walks or hikes outside, and it’s harder to motivate to go the gym before or after work when it’s dark and cold,” Jackie Baumrind, M.S., R.D., senior dietitian at Selvera Wellness, tells SELF. When you’re holed up inside and your activity level is much lower, you end up burning fewer calories each day than your body is used to.
When we stay inside for so long, we get bored. When we get bored, we eat.
“We tend to be inside more often in the winter, and watching TV or surfing the net instead of going outside, and when we are inside more, we tend to snack more out of boredom than actual hunger,” Baumrind explains. “That’s a surefire way to gain weight.” We also tend to reach for comfort foods. Part of that’s physiological, Susan Albers, Psy.D., clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and expert in mindful eating, tells SELF. “Most comfort foods are hot (mac and cheese) and literally warm our insides from our cheeks to our toes,” she says. The other reason they’re comforting is psychological. “Comfort foods are deeply rooted in our memories of childhood and culture,” Albers says. Once we learn to associate these physically warming foods with cozy memories, we crave them when we want to feel that way again.
The shift in daylight can also throw off our sleep and lead to cravings.
Albers says that the change in daylight hours can throw off sleep and, consequently, our appetites—being sleep-deprived messes with hormones that regulate appetite and cravings.
For some people, the change in season can mess with their mental health. This shouldn’t be ignored.
Some people are prone to developing seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that’s triggered by the season’s shorter days and reduced hours of sunlight. Like any other type of depression, this can lead to weight gain. If winter weight gain is paired with symptoms of SAD, like feelings of sadness, emptiness, and guilt, or loss of interest in things you used to like doing, seek help from a mental health professional.
These four things will help you avoid winter weight gain—and none of them involves braving the cold. (You’re welcome.)
Winter weight gain doesn’t have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. Here are four things you can do to avoid it.
1. Make healthier comfort foods. “Make a big bowl of healthy (not creamed) tomato or minestrone soup or a butternut squash soup,” Baumrind suggests. “Those can be savory and warm and not be calorie and fat bombs. Also, you can make a big batch to have over several days and pair it with different items to give you variety.” Albers suggests making stews full of fiber-rich veggies and with a water base to stay fuller for longer.
Why “winter” means weight gain
Be honest: what’s the real reason behind that big, baggy sweater you’ve been wearing all winter? Is it for extra heat or is it hiding extra pounds? No need to be ashamed – you’re not alone. A study of 315 people found that they consumed an average of 222 more calories per day during fall and winter, compared to spring. The reason? It goes way beyond all the extra cookies on offer.
Reason 1: More fat = more warmth
Scientists believe that our bodies are genetically predisposed to fatten up at this time of year – a survival method to keep us warm and also in case there is a shortage of food as the winter gets worse. Valid excuse? We don’t think so. Nowadays the temperature in our environment is normally heated and stable. Plus, you don’t need to worry about a shortage of food. The majority of us don’t hunt our meals anymore – so tell your body to pipe down and stay in control of how much you consume
Reason 2: You’re getting dehydrated
Believe it or not, you actually sweat as much in winter as you do during other seasons like summer or spring. Due to things like the dry heat of radiators and all those extra layers we throw on, our bodies can easily become dehydrated. As the body’s response to dehydration is often confused with feelings of hunger.
Reason 3: You’re feeling SAD
Winter can cause doldrums or even more severe, a seasonal affective disorder (SAD). It’s a type of depression that typically affects people over this cold, dark and nasty time. Symptoms can be profound sadness, irritability, lack of interest in social activities, inability to concentrate and extreme fatigue. This is known to lead to craving more high-calorie comfort foods to make you feel better and improve your mood. It can also leave you feeling lazy and neglecting your training.
We’ve already mentioned that the average American will gain between 1 ½ to 2 ½ kg’s from Thanksgiving to New Year. It’s the season of good food and nothing is harder than avoiding the many unhealthy choices – be it in the office, at the Christmas market or at your family get together. We know that all these sweet treats make Christmas something special but still, don’t let it be an excuse. Find ways around your overeating habits by sticking to sugar-free treats, choosing healthy foods likely to fill you up and sparing a thought to your digestive system before you reach for round 2.
Don’t get stressed about it…
Everyone loves Christmas, but we can’t deny that it’s stressful. So many “to-do’s” and hardly any time to unwind, make the end of the year a ticking time bomb. And stress never comes alone – emotional eating soothes our nerves and stops the time for a split second. Triggered by your own emotions and increased stress hormones, hunger hits hard and because it’s winter, you’re likely to eat even more when it does. But don’t forget that the best way to combat stress is sports and staying on top of your health.
6 Unexpected Causes of Winter Weight Gain
The holidays are over, and you’re still (sorta) sticking to your healthy resolutions-so what’s with the tight jeans? Aside from these 4 Sneaky Reasons Why You’re Gaining Weight, winter’s harsh temperatures can play a huge role as to why you’re not losing those extra pounds. After all, people are spending less time being active outside and more time staying warm indoors. Beat any cold-weather growth by avoiding these traps.
You’re Eating Fewer Fruits and Veggies
We know you’re not going to the grocery store and thinking yay-apples again! With many farmers markets shut down until springtime, baked goodies and salty snacks are more tempting than fresh-picked fruit. “But micronutrient deficiency from skimping on fruits and veggies manifests itself as an increase in hunger since your body craves vitamins and minerals,” says Scott Issacs, M.D., endocrinologist and author of Beat Overeating Now!.
Beat the bulge: Your body absorbs nutrients best through food, so eating a rainbow of fruit and veggies ensures you’re getting all the good stuff, Issacs says. Go for what’s fresh now-winter squash, citrus fruits, leafy greens-since in-season produce packs the most flavor. Craving berries or sweet corn? Pick them up in the freezer section; frozen produce is picked and packaged in peak season and contains as many nutrients as fresh. (Try these 10 Winter Vegetables, Fruits, and More to Buy at the Farmers Market.)
Shorter days and frigid temps can do more than make you feel a like you’re trapped in a dark ice cave. Reduced sunlight causes a drop in serotonin, and can result in Seasonal Affective Disorder. In fact, women aged 20 to 40 are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed, and people with SAD crave more carbohydrates and sweets-likely as a temporary mood lift, according to a study in Comprehensive Psychology.
Beat the bulge: Step into the sunshine within an hour of waking. Exposure to morning light-even when it’s cloudy-is effective at reducing symptoms of SAD, according to the Mayo Clinic. Do a double dose on your mood by bundling up and taking an outdoor jog before work, since exercise reduces depressive symptoms. And reach for foods that contain DHA-a type of omega-3 found in salmon and trout-which may lessen depression, according to a study in Journal of Affective Disorders.
Do you keep your home at a toasty 74 degrees? Turn it down-your body burns more calories by using energy to warm up. “Cold temps activate brown fat-the type that raises metabolism,” Issacs says. So if you’re going from your cozy home to your warm car to your heated office, you’re not burning to your fullest potential.
Beat the bulge: Turning your thermostat down a few degrees below your normal set temp can translate to an additional 100-calorie burn a day, Issacs says. Embrace the shivers for a few minutes daily to activate calorie burning. Try walking your dog instead of letting him in the backyard or resisting the urge to warm your car in advance.
You practically have a water bottle glued to your hand in the summer, but you need just as much now to combat cold dry air. “Being even just a little dehydrated can mimic feelings of hunger, causing you to reach for food when it’s actually water that your body needs,” says Emily Dubyoski, R.D., a dietitian at Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center.
Beat the bulge: The general recommendation is 91 ounces of fluids per day for women, plus more if you’re exercising, Dubyoski says. If a craving strikes, have a full 8 ounces of water and then wait 10 minutes to decide if you’re still hungry, she says. And reach for foods that contain a high water content-broth based soups, water-rich fruits and vegetables like apples and celery, and hot tea. They count toward your daily fluids quota. (These 8 Infused Water Recipes to Upgrade Your H2O will also help you score a nutrition boost.)
You know comfort foods like mac and cheese aren’t exactly waistline-friendly, but warming drinks can tip the scale too, says Hope Warshaw, R.D., author of Eat Out, Eat Well. A daily afternoon mocha jumps your daily calorie intake by nearly 300-that could translate to an extra pound every few weeks (and that’s assuming that you pass up the tempting bakery items at the coffee shop!).
Beat the bulge: Stick with hot drinks that are no- or low-calorie like coffee and herbal tea, and watch for added sweeteners, especially if you drink more than one cup a day: 1 tablespoon of honey adds 64 calories to your drink; flavored syrups add 60 calories. Instead of warming up on caffeine, consider swapping your afternoon snack for a cup of chicken or tomato based soup-both have less than 75 calories per cup! (We’d recommend these 6 Hot, Healthy Drinks to Warm You This Winter too.)
You’re Exercising Less
Even if you rarely miss a workout, hibernating indoors means activity levels go down (translation: more Scandal marathons and fewer weekend hikes). Plus, with cold and flu season in full swing, feeling under the weather can throw off your normal workout routine.
Beat the bulge: Now’s the time to strap on your activity tracker-aim to get a minimum of 10000 steps a day. Embrace outdoors sports-sledding, skiing, or having a snowball fight with the kids-or tell yourself you can only stream your favorite show while walking on the treadmill. And know that it’s okay to exercise if you have a mild head cold (avoid working out if symptoms are in your chest), Issacs says. In fact, studies show that moderate exercise-biking, jogging, yoga-can help your immune system fight off bacterial and viral infections. (New to skiing? Try The Right Exercises to Prep Your Body for Winter Sports before you hit the slopes.)
- By Nicole Jurick
Here’s How Much Weight the Average Person Gains During the Holidays
For many, no matter how strict their diet, all bets are off as soon as the sweet potato casserole comes out of the oven on Thanksgiving. During the six-week stretch between Turkey Day and New Year’s, it seems easier than ever to indulge in carbs and sweets. After all, we’re surrounded by irresistibly delicious fare and it seems like our relatives love nothing more than heaping another serving (or three) on our plates. As a result, many of us experience some holiday weight gain. But while you may feel like an expanding balloon by the time New Year’s Eve arrives, the average person doesn’t put on quite as many pounds as you might expect during the holiday season.
According to a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American’s weight increases by 0.4 percent over Christmas and 0.2 percent over Thanksgiving. In total, that amounts to around one pound gained during each holiday season. The researchers found that the bulk of this weight gain occurs in the 10 days following Christmas—perhaps hinting at the fact that the cheer of the day throws off people’s diet equilibriums until the New Year brings forth more steadfast resolutions.
Although gaining a pound might seem like a small price to pay for your favorite holiday treats, the researchers point out that what makes this particular poundage so problematic is the fact that you’re unlikely to lose the extra weight after the conclusion of the holiday season. Translation? Within a few years, all that holiday weight gain will accumulate.
However, if you want to stay in shape between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, Milton Stokes, PhD, of One Source Nutrition says that maintaining a proper fitness routine throughout the holidays is an easy way to prevent those pounds from multiplying.
“Unfortunately, many people spend their winters eating a bit more and exercising a bit less,” Stokes explains. “If you’re consistent in your exercise habits, there’s no need to change your eating patterns.” In short, if you maintain your exercise routine and eat whatever you want at holiday parties, any added calories will have a harder time sticking to your waistline.
Also, to avoid snacking on the same unhealthy foods after the holidays end, make it a point to throw out all of your leftovers rather than leaving them in the fridge. After ringing in the New Year, the last thing you’ll want to face is the temptations of last year!
What it all boils down to is being kind to your palate and your body this holiday season by practicing a mix of healthy habits and tasty indulgences. And once you’re ready to shed those extra pounds, read up on The Best Way to Lose Weight in Winter.
six more months of winter
“I would prefer if you didn’t keep stealing cheese or we’ll only be having Macaroni & Nothing for dinner.” I got after Scott for getting into my ingredients. “Right right, sorry” he scratched his head and ruffled his shaggy brown hair, “I just get so excited by Thanksgiving dinner, I don’t know what to do with myself all day.”
“Well you can get to grating me some more ingredients for starters”
He mock rolled his eyes “Fine! If I must…” we both chuckled as I got back to preparing our meal. These kinds of happenings were to be expected. The truth was Scott was always like this this time of year. Thanksgiving kicks off what I’ve affectionately started calling Eating Season for Scott. From November to January there’s a good chunk of major holidays that occur in quick succession. And they all seem to have a theme of good eating and hearty drinking.
I first noticed it after we’d moved in together 6 years ago. I’d always chocked it up to him burning off post final exams stress, but we graduated 3 years ago and the past years haven’t seen any change in the current formula. I guess if anything it’s just a habit for him to indulge this time of year. Of course, as I’m sure others have experienced, this results in a few extra pounds around the waistline come New Years Eve.
Scott is no different. From summer to fall, he’s a relatively trim guy, probably 175lbs on any given day. He puts in his 3 days at the gym every week. He’s got some good definition in his arms and thighs, but I’ve never known him to have any serious muscle like a six pack. Honestly I think he just loves food too much to eat chicken and brown rice every day. Which brings us to winter. Every year I watch my Labrador of a boyfriend take a break from the gym and start to soften up around the edges. His definition blurs, his belly curves outward just a bit and his cheeks get a bit more pinchable. And just in case you were wondering, I do mean both heh. It all makes for some good cuddle sessions in the coldest parts of winter, but by summer it all melts away. It makes sense though. The most he usually gains is 15-20 pounds and that can only do so much for a guy whose 6′ 4. Still I’ve started to look forward to it for one reason or another.
Right on queue, once I’d declared dinner was served Scott dug in with zeal. Macaroni and cheese was always a must, as well as the usual turkey, ham, stuffing, and green bean casserole. Even if it meant getting up at 9am on a day off, seeing his excitedly carve away at my hard wake made it worth it. He put away 3 fully loaded plates before I casually reminded him there was still dessert. I gave him a choice of pumpkin pie or raspberry cheesecake. With his stomach bulging, he chose both.
I have spent this morning checking my fridge as frequently as a spurned lover checking their phone. I am similarly disappointed at what I find.
Condiments and beer are not going to satisfy my hunger. At first, I don’t get it. I’m not due for my period, not feeling particularly emotional … but I am cold. (My landlord keeps the radiators miserably low.) And it turns out temperature has a big role in affecting our appetites.
According to Dr Andrew Higginson from the University of Exeter, this is an evolutionary response: “Storing fat is an insurance against the risk of failing to find food, which for pre-industrial humans was most likely in winter.”
A study in Massachusetts tested this theory in 2006 when 593 research participants were followed for a one-year period. Not only did people eat more in the fall compared spring (on average an extra 86 calories per day), but they also did less physical exercise when the temperature fell. As a result, body weight also peaked in winter months, though the researchers added: “Greater seasonal variation was observed in subjects who were male, middle-aged, non-white, and less educated.” Similar results were found in Brazil and the Netherlands.
As I researched this, studies about humans mingled with studies about animals in my search results, and I couldn’t help but click. The chart for domesticated cats (whose lives were followed for three years) is incredibly similar to the chart for people. Each year, the temperature rises along with the average hours of daylight and the cats’ food intake drops. Then the temperature falls, there are fewer minutes of sun each day and the cats eat an extra 10g per day.
Still, when I Google the words “health” and “winter weight gain”, I’m inundated with articles telling me what to do about something I’ve just learned is probably deep in my evolutionary makeup. Meh. I’m just going to keep my fridge stocked till summer gets here.
Here’s how you can avoid winter weight gain
Come spring and we all seem to be packing some holiday weight. Twenty-five-year-old Sonakshi Shah, who works in Gurugram, complains of never being beach ready to ring in the New Year, thanks to the extra kilos she puts on each winter. “My weight is never really a problem till the brink of spring, which is when I realise, at the end of each winter, that I have put on some weight. I’ve tried everything–from hitting the gym and going for jogs–but nothing seems to really stick, probably because I start too late.”
Lalitha Subramanyam, chief nutritionist at Grow Fit, opins that eating could just be people’s primitive impulses urging them to pile up energy for the cold months ahead. She says, “As we get less daylight in the winter, our pineal gland responds to lack of light by producing melatonin, the sleep hormone, which makes us feel sleepy and ready to rest. When we feel sleepy, we lack energy and motivation and so, our activity levels decrease. We may feel the cold more and because the act of metabolising food generates heat, our body will naturally crave carbohydrate-rich foods to keep warm. The higher level of melatonin also increases appetite.”
Less daylight leads to deficiency in Vitamin D which, according to Seema Singh, chief clinical nutritionist and HoD, Fortis Flt Lt Rajan Dhall Hospital, also plays a role in the winter weight gain. “The lack of vitamin D reduces fat breakdown and triggers fat storage. So, the calories we consume are stored in fat cells rather than being used for energy.”
Dr Vinita Sharma, senior Ayurvedic doctor, adds: “People tend to succumb to binge eating during the winter months as the body is in the constant need of energy to generate heat. To keep up with the energy supply and demand chain, our appetite tends to increase.”
The trouble lies in where to draw the line. If you aren’t strong-willed enough, you can spiral into an uncontrolled binge eating marathon, repeatedly. Some people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter months, which is a mild type of depression and can cause feelings of sadness and lethargy.
Also read: Weight loss: Go phalahari like Indian yogis for fantastic results
“This low mood tends to force us to overindulge in feel-good things like ‘comfort food’ and over-sleeping,” Dr Vanita says.
Lalitha explains, “Even if you don’t suffer from SAD, winter can affect your mood and you may find yourself consuming simple carbohydrates to feel better. These foods will produce the hormone serotonin which will make you feel happy but not for long as these foods cause your blood sugar to spike rapidly and then drop quickly, much like a rollercoaster. It’s normal to want to cope with long, cold nights by filling up on food – numerous studies have shown that the brain actually produces feeling of happiness when you consume high-calorie, high-fat foods.”
Inactivity seems to be one of the main reasons for the winter weight gain. If you cannot walk outside because you cannot stand the cold, join a fitness centre, dance classes, pilates exercises, yoga or any physical activity.
Lalitha suggests, “Use exercise equipment at home – a stair climber, stationary bike, and exercise videos when it’s hard to get outdoors or to the gym. You might, place a TV in front of a home treadmill so you don’t get too bored. An aerobic exercise thrice a week is a good option when you slip your exercise regime. Weight training is an alternative.”
Emphasising on the importance of exercising, Dr Vinita adds, “Doing 30 minutes of light to moderate physical activity per day will help a lot.”
Opting for fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and bioflavonoid that prevent cold and flu for each meal can also strengthen the immune system. Lalitha adds, “Take five to 10 minutes and do some lowlevel aerobic exercise like jogging at a spot or doing jumping jacks. That way, when you step outside, you’ll already be warm.”
Reducing alcohol consumption and getting enough sleep also make a difference when it comes to weight loss. Dr Shilpa Thakur, chief dietitian, Asian Institute of Medical sciences, suggests one to drink a lot of hot fluids like soup, green tea, green coffee, hot vegetable gruel, lukewarm water, along with doing cardio and floor exercises at home.
Seema opines that even exposing oneself to sunlight for 20 minutes a day can boost your vitamin D and serotonin levels. She suggests a way out as she adds, “Find a source of comfort in something other than food, like catching up with a friend, playing with a pet or having a hot cup of tea.”
Photo: Mail Today
Diet chart for good health:
Lalitha Subramanyam, Chief Nutritionist at Grow Fit, charts out the ideal diet for a working man/woman to ensure they avoid the winter weight gain.
As far as a meal during winter months is concerned, be it a male or female, it should meet the energy requirements and be a balanced one throughout the day. It’s the overconsumption due to the seasonal climatic change that pose a problem. The tendency to overeat or binge due to SAD or the excess melatonin should be curbed consciously by cautious eating, to avoid becoming a victim of weight gain. The most important is the cooking methods adopted to make the meal. The grilling, baking, stir fry and steaming methods are far superior to frying as far as weight gain is concerned.
1. EARLY MORNING: Drink fruit juice with a few almonds help to kick start the metabolism.
2. BREAKFAST: Opt for cereals, eggs and milk, which cater to our protein needs; the addition of a vegetable or fruit salad gives satiety.
3. MID-MORNING SNACK: Some sprouts or nuts keeps our metabolism going and prevents craving for high carb foods. It can be complemented with a fruit and some curd.
4. LUNCH: An ideal lunch would comprise 300/400 kcal energy and about 15 -20 gm protein. Opt for an assortment of cereals, pulses, vegetables and milk products.
5. MID-AFTERNOON SNACK: Similar to the mid-morning snack, this will keep the urge to binge at bay. Dinner should be similar to lunch.
Snacks to lose those extra kilos:
1. Kiwi is one of the best winter foods to eat daily. Kiwi also helps strengthen your immune system, and is good for your heart and vision.
2. You can eat pomegranates; add some seeds to your yogurt, salads, or plain water. Drinking pomegranate juice in the morning kick-starts your metabolism and boosts energy level.
3. Brussel sprouts have anti-inflammatory effect, which helps boost your energy levels, improves your immune system and prevents cold and flu.
4. A stir fried vegetable would be a better idea than a veg pakora. So, opt for stir fried baby corn and capsicum stir fry rather than a capsicum or baby corn pakora.
5. Baked puris and sevs are a good alternatives to deep-fried ones.
6. Swap vegetables and sprouts wrap for pooris and paranthas.
7. Opt for unsalted roasted almonds and nuts.8. Apples and oranges are also excellent for boosting immunity.
9. Kale is a good source of protective antioxidants.
10. Opt for low fat yogurt with fruits.
11. Ginger tea.
12. Roasted whole grains.
13. Bajra/jowar chapati with methi or bathua are excellent alternatives to oily paranthas.
14. Use turmeric in milk for a hot beverage, or in stir-fried vegetables.
15. Jaggery and honey.
16. Replace sugar with artificial sweetener like sucralose.
17. Replace full fat milk with low fat milk for milk pudding preparations.
18. Opt for popcorn.
19. Saag in extremely healthy, but cut down the amount of ghee used for tadka.