The days get shorter, the air is colder and somehow your jeans have become a bit tighter! If this is you, you’re not the only one. Seasonal weight gain varies from person to person. According to research by John Hopkins University people tend to gain between five to seven pounds on average during the winter months! Most of us may attribute this to a few extra bowls of creamy carbonara or a few too many glasses of red wine, but in fact there are a few other fascinating scientific and evolutionary reason why once the snow flies many of us may gain weight. Not to worry we’re going to explore what you need to know to sail through winter and enjoy shedding those warm sweaters to spring into spring!
The two key secrets are understanding: 1) Why Winter Weight Is A Thing and 2) What Are Your Solutions
According to research from The University of Exeter, it’s ingrained in our biology to want to “stock up” by eating more in the winter months to prepare for “hibernation”. Scientists suggest that our primitive instincts kick in leading us to “stock up on calories” just like bears to prepare for hibernation. In fact, we tend to consume approximately 200 additional calories per day or gain a couple of pounds a month (3500 calories = a weight gain of one pound) as the sun starts to set sooner. This makes sense evolutionary as the innate fear of not being able to source the necessary nutrients when foods become more scare in the winter.
- Enjoy healthy fats like coconut oil. Coconut oil has medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA) that help to speed up metabolism and even promote weight loss. One 2008 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that subjects who consumed meals containing MCFAs lost twice the amount of weight as those who didn’t. Try our signature Golden Latte just whisk together warmed 1 cup warmed almond milk, 1 Tbsp. extra virgin coconut oil (EVCO) and 1/2 tsp of turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and pepper.
- Be mindful of portion sizes by using pre-measured containers for your snacks and meals
- Track your foods the first week every month especially during the winter months in an app. like myfitnesspal to help you be proactive
Your sleep-wake cycle which includes your daytime hormones and nighttime hormones are controlled by the amount of light that you are exposed to. Thus, in the cooler time of the year when there is less sunlight (and heat) to enjoy your pineal gland will stimulate the production of your sleep hormone melatonin. This increased feeling of sleepiness, even when it’s not time to sleep yet, can result in a lack of energy and motivation. In addition, higher levels of melatonin tend to increase your appetite. In a nut shell this means that you may naturally find that you feel like moving less and eating more, which if left without a plan, can lead to weight gain.
- Include green tea in your morning routine which can kickstart your energy while at the same time helping you feel more Zen thanks to the L-theanine that can help you feel less stressed. Enjoy as a tea or try Power Foods 101 Green Tea Protein Balls pg. 179
- Expose yourself to more natural sunlight by getting your sun fix as soon as you rise OR using a SAD lamp for at least 30 minutes while you work during the day.
- Add one extra work out a week during the winter months if you can outdoors which works double time by helping you burn more fuel and giving you more overall sun exposure shifting down the too early production of melatonin when the sun goes down.
Baby it’s cold outside! So, in order to stay warm your metabolism ramps up. Although this sounds like a good thing, an increase in metabolism may actually lead to weight gain instead of fat burn, if you’re not careful. According to research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, your metabolism increases in efforts to burn more energy raising your core temperature. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll burn off that second helping of mashed potatoes as most people tend to spend the majority of time in temperature regulated environments or indoors.
- Increase nutrient dense healthy fats like nuts & seeds. Eat them just as is or get creative! Make your own Power Foods 101 Rosemary Fig Nut Cheese pg. 212 or Buy some at your local health food store.
There’ s nothing like cozying up with warm wool socks, a fluffy blanket, some comfort food and a good book when the temperature dips to below zero! People tend to eat more — in particular warm comfort foods due to shifting hormones and metabolism. When your body metabolizes the food that you eat, it generates heat, which means that your body may naturally crave more food to help you heat up. Often these foods may be foods that you don’t ordinarily eat including creamy rich foods, pasta, more bread and red wine.
- Switch up your comfort foods to a lighter version! i.e. use zucchini spiralized noodles and a cashew cream sauce for your creamy carbonnera or jimica nachos, just switching out your tortillas for the veggie jimica and loading with your favourite guac; salsa and of course chili peppers! Enjoy raw or roast the jimica first with some olive oil and sea salt!
Less sunlight can also trigger seasonal affective disorder or SAD in some people. Research suggests that SAD maybe associated with low levels of serotonin your “happy & sleep” hormone which is also a precursor to melatonin and other neurotransmitters including acetylcholine and dopamine (Jepson 1999; Schwartz 1997; Depue 1989, 1990). SAD is usually characterized by depression that starts in the fall, worsens in the winter and ends in the spring. The Cleveland Clinic estimates that about half a million people suffer from SAD, with symptoms including having a low mood, motivation, irritability, extreme fatigue. Many people with SAD also find that they crave carbs and when they indulge they tend to gain weight easily. Studies show that the change in serotonin may result from reduced levels of vitamin D.
- Eat foods to promote serotonin ! Chocolate Chia Pudding
- Other serotonin building foods include: eggs, nuts, seeds, salmon, turkey
©Dr. Joël, ND
Inspiring Health Naturally
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