Battling the BLIZZARD BLOAT BLUES
These days you may have noticed a subtle expanding of your friends’ waistlines as well as your own. Well, take consolation in knowing you are not the only ones suffering from… “blizzard bloat,” that creeping up of body fat that has hit many of us recently, according to an informal survey of frustrated, and slightly fatter colleagues and friends.
In the animal kingdom, fattening up for the cold winter months is critical for survival. For us human animals, that leftover cave man-instinct to gorge on fattening foods and hibernate just causes trouble!
Though these old instincts are plausible as a partial cause of winter weight gain, there are more complex—and controllable—causes too. The most important probably involve decreases in both sunlight and physical activity. Together, they can contribute to enough of a calorie imbalance to cause weight gain. Here’s how…
- Physical Activity. When it’s cold outside, we tend to exercise less and even cut back on subtle calorie-burning activities such as short walks and light outdoor chores. These caloric expenditures may only add up to about 100 calories per day, but this translates into a 3-4 pound weight gain during the winter months.
- Sunlight. Some people are particularly susceptible to light deprivation, caused by the decrease in daylight hours during the winter. About 5 percent of the population become markedly depressed with seasonal affective disorder, known as SAD. About one-fifth of the population is affected to some degree, prompting increased food cravings and weight gain in susceptible people, says Norman Rosenthal, MD, a seasonal affective disorder expert.
What to do to both improve your mood and curb your cravings?
- Bundle up and go outside to reverse the symptoms of light deprivation. You’ll feel refreshed and less bored, and your appetite may be more controllable. The amount of needed daylight varies for each individual. In general, the more the better. One hour daily in the morning, ideally at sunrise, is most helpful, says Rosenthal. If you’re not an early bird, several hours on the weekends may help make up for a lack of sun during the week. If going outside doesn’t do the trick or isn’t always an option, light therapy, also known as phototherapy, may help.
- Up your activity level, even just a little. During just one exercise bout, your brain releases feel-good chemicals, called endorphins into your body. These chemicals reduce pain, increase feelings of well-being and elevate your mood. If you’re regularly active, these benefits multiply. A brisk 30-minute walk just three times a week relieves major depression just as effectively as an antidepressant in most adults, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
- Increase your intake of healthy carbohydrates. Carbs increases serotonin production, says Judith Wurtman, Ph.D., who has studied nutrition and the brain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. SAD-triggered food cravings may be a result of seasonal changes in the brain chemical serotonin, which regulates mood and appetite. Eating more healthy carbs such as whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables may increase serotonin levels, reduce cravings, and keep you from putting on pounds.
- Try my sumptuous soup recipes to feel full, satisfied, but still keep calories under control,
- Try eating more protein to help reduce the cravings for fatty carbohydrates such as cakes, cookies, ice cream and chips caused by light deprivation, says Rosenthal, who says his SAD patients respond well to higher protein diets.
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