In summer it seems so easy to eat, fresh, healthy foods right? With skin on show and warm summer outdoor nights – we naturally crave fresh salads, tropical fruits, grilled seafood and drink way more water! But summer must come to an end (every year) and often those healthy eating habits are replaced with heavy meals, a few extra vinos, ditching exercise time for couch time and sometimes a couple of extra kilos!
Whether it’s a biological behaviour (human hibernation), plummeting temperatures or something about the comfort that winter food brings, here are the real reasons you eat more during the colder months and how prevent overeating and weight gain.
You might be SAD
If your carb cravings are getting a little out of control (pasta, pastries and that whole packet of biscuits) you could be suffering from season affective disorder or SAD. SAD, also known as winter depression, is a mood disorder that affects people with normal mental health at particular times of the year. It is especially evident in the cooler months due to the reduction of sunlight, and subsequent drop in serotonin – a brain chemical that affects mood. The brain produces more mood-lifting serotonin on sunny days than on darker days.
Beat it by: Looking after your gut – since about 95% of serotonin is produced in the digestive system it makes sense to look after it! The production of serotonin is influenced by its environment so increase probiotic rich foods in the diet to support optimal digestive function– yoghurt, kimchi, sauerkraut, kefit and miso are all great options. A traditional ‘Mediterranean diet’ has also been shown to be supportive for optimal serotonin production – that is, rich in vegetables, fruits, unprocessed grains, fish and seafood with modest amounts of lean meats and dairy.
Overeating in winter may be a primitive impulse to stockpile for the cold, harsh months ahead, but we live in the 21st century people and there is a 24-hour supermarket around the corner.
Beat it by: being aware of your portion sizes. While buying in bulk can be a great way to save money it does not work the same way on your waistline. Ensure that you fill up your plate first with vegetables and then modest amounts of protein and carbohydrates. Wait 20 minutes before going back for seconds as it often takes a little while for your stomach to signal to your brain that you are full. Still hungry? Fill up veggies to ensure that that second helping doesn’t become a weighty issue.
While settling on the couch may be a far cosier option than heading out for a run on a frosty morning, letting your exercise habits fall to the wayside will have an effect on both your mental and physical health, and no doubt your waistline.
Beat it by: Yes it’s cold outside but your health should be a priority year round. Find an indoor class you like, train with a friend so you can support each other or work out at home! Download a homework out on your iphone, set yourself a squat challenge or make a home circuit with 20 reps of situps, pushups, squats, lunges and planks to keep you active through the winter months.