Do you ever notice, when the temperature drops, that you start to crave rich, warming comfort foods? It’s one of the things people ask me all the time in winter: why am I so damn hungry??
It’s not just your imagination: when you feel cold your body goes into self-preservation mode and sends out a message to heat up fast. Which is why you tend reach for carbohydrate-rich foods to provide that instant “heat” or hit of energy that you’re craving.
Then, when you give into those cravings, you get a spike in blood sugar which quickly makes you hungry again – and so the vicious cycle begins!
At the same time, the colder weather means the call of the couch is stronger and you probably feel like spending more time indoors, rugged up in front of the TV or with a good book, rather than outside exercising, right?
Compounding that, because exercise increases your serotonin levels (a “feel-good” hormone that helps control appetite), it stands to reason that if you’re exercising less, your serotonin levels drop and your appetite increases.
And so your appetite is increasing while simultaneously you’re moving less… no wonder most people gain a kilo or three during winter!
But just because mother nature seems determined to provide you with an extra layer of padding during the colder months, that doesn’t mean you have to throw down your salad in despair and give in to seasonal weight gain.
Here are my top 5 tips for beating the winter weight woes:
1. Snack between meals.
Eating a high-protein, high-fibre snack between meals – such as wholegrain crackers and cheese, or celery/ apple with peanut butter – will help fuel your body’s engine and keep you warmer. Protein and fibre help keep you satisfied too so you’re less like to crave sugary carbs.
2. Eat your carbs – but be smart about it.
Satisfy your cravings for starchy carbs with low-GI and wholegrain varieties of carbs that break down slowly for sustained energy (and help avoid the blood sugar spike!). Think sweet potato (mashed or baked); brown or basmati rice with stews and curries; jacket potatoes with a protein-rich filling such as bolognaise/ dhal or pulled pork; or add legumes such as lentils or chickpeas to stews or soups to help bulk them out and fill you up. The picture above is a perfect example – it’s the fish and pumpkin stew with lentils from this week’s recipe pack in our 12-week winter wellness challenge – yum!
3. Rug up and keep training.
Of course exercise burns calories, but because it affects brain chemicals associated with appetite, it also has the added bonus of helping to control how much you eat. So if you can keep up a regular training routine throughout winter that will make a big difference to whether or not you gain weight. If you find it hard to get out of bed when it’s cold and dark, lay out your (warm) clothes the night before; if you have reverse cycle air conditioning, set the heat to come on half an hour before you wake up; and wear extra layers to training – beanies, gloves, thick jackets – you can always take layers off as you warm up but it’s much nicer (I think) to be warm when you first get out in the cold air!
4. Health-ify your comfort foods.
If you really can’t resist those wintry comfort foods, just find lower-calorie ways of making them. There are tonnes of ideas on recipe sites such as Pinterest or just Google “healthy comfort food” and you’ll get thousands of recipes. Simple swaps such as black bean or konjac pasta instead of regular pasta; yoghurt instead of cream; or pumpkin instead of potato can make a big difference while still satisfying your comfort food cravings.
5. Get some sunlight.
Sunlight has been referred to as “the natural appetite suppressant”. As mentioned earlier, a lack of sunlight can decrease your brain’s serotonin levels. In serious cases, this can lead to depression – but it can also affect your appetite. When your serotonin levels are low you don’t experience the same levels of fullness, which can cause you to eat more.
If you want some extra help and useful tips (as well as a whole lot of accountability!) just hit reply and I can chat to you about our 12-week winter wellness challenge that the Goddess girls are doing. There are face-to-face and online options so if you want to know more, get in touch 🙂
Hope to see you all at training!
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