Depression, Weight loss | May 19, 2017 | Author: Naturopath
Winter can be a bleak time of year for dieting and maintaining a fitness regime. The cold weather can make you more vulnerable to comfort foods, avoiding the gym and staying indoors.
While extra bodily padding over the winter months was necessary for the survival of cavemen by keeping them warm and allowing extra stores to burn through when food was scarce, this is not really necessary in the modern era of abundant food, winter woollies and heating.
A small percentage of Australians may develop seasonal affective disorder or SAD, which is a form of depression triggered by the reduction in sunlight exposure. This can lead to a lack of motivation, oversleeping, cravings for carbohydrates and in some cases overeating.
However, for the rest of us winter weight gain usually occurs as a result of overeating and lack of physical activity. Studies show that the ‘hibernation theory’ of winter overeating does not hold up for the vast majority of us who do not suffer from SAD.
This really is the key to keeping the weight off this winter. Regular exercise helps to burn those unused calories, preventing them from being stored. 30 minutes each day is an ideal goal to aim for but finding lots of other opportunities to keep the body moving is definitely an advantage.If weight loss needs to occur, the amount of time you exercise may need to be higher.
If you’re sitting at a desk job, have regular breaks to get up and stretch your legs and why not consider going outdoors for a short walk on your lunch break. The other advantage of regular exercise is that it helps to boost your levels of feel good hormones, helping to reduce stress and food cravings.
Comfort foods have a certain level of nostalgia, but can also be high in carbohydrates and fat. Why not try comfort foods that warm the soul and provide nourishment to the body instead? Minestrone soup, vegetable soups, stews and casseroles are all perfect examples of how to feel good and satisfied after a wholesome meal. Add lots of vegies, lean meat, barley, lentils and beans to help keep you full for longer. Why not try eating a soup entrée before a main meal. Research has shown that eating a vegetable soup before a meal helps to reduce your food intake by 20%. Similar results were also achieved by having an entrée salad or a meal with a high-water content.
Be aware of healthy food substitutes so that you never feel deprived. Make a healthy hot chocolate with raw cacao powder, rice milk and a little coconut sugar. You can still eat pizza but use mountain bread or wholemeal pita bread as the base and top with olive oil, fresh chopped garlic, herbs, broccoli florets, roasted sweet potato and goat’s feta. Make a healthy chocolate mousse by adding soaked dates, coconut milk, avocado and raw cacao powder to a food processor and processing until smooth. Even just substituting brown rice with white rice, white bread or pasta to wholemeal and a sweetened yoghurt to a natural yoghurt can make a big difference.
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If you allow yourself to indulge, don’t fall off the bandwagon. Instead limit your food intake over the next few days and increase your exercise. It seems so easy to give up, but a few little slip ups can easily be reversed with some simple planning and increased energy expenditure. Have a think about why you ate those food, was it that you were anxious, sad, tired or had really strong cravings. If you can find a reason why you ate those foods, it might also help you to understand how to avoid it in the future.
Cravings for carbohydrates can increase during winter, especially for those you suffer from SAD.
Eating regular meals with a portion of protein in each can really help to eliminate the craving.
A good quality protein shake can also help, for people who are looking for something quick and easy to consume as a substitute for a sugary treat.
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Cinnamon, gymnema, chromium and some other nutrients can provide additional support if the cravings are out of control.
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Limiting or avoiding alcohol intake is an easy way to reduce calories, therefore avoiding winter weight gain. Alcohol is high in sugar and very low in nutrients, not really providing many health benefits. Limit intake to 1-2 standard drinks per day and include alcohol free days. If you are having alcohol consider red wine or a clear spirit with sparkling mineral water and a squeeze of lemon as a healthier alternative.
Research shows that sleep deprivation can lead to overweight and obesity. Having said that, it’s also important not to oversleep either. Have a night time ritual to unwind and relax before bed, limiting screen time from television’s, iPad’s, phones and computers helps to achieve this. Try reading a book, writing, listening to relaxing music or a warm Epsom salt bath with candles. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, allowing for 7-9 hours’ sleep each night.
Cizza G, et al. Chronic sleep deprivation and seasonality: implications for the obesity epidemic. J Endocrinol Invest. 2011 Nov;34(10):793-800
Yanovski J, et al. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. N Engl J Med. 2000 Mar 23;342(12):861-867
Flood J, Rolls B. Soup preloads in a variety of forms reduce meal energy intake. Appetite. 2007 Nov;49(3):626-634