Is it instinct to put on winter weight?

Weight gain in the winter for survival?

The leaves are past prime color and the days are getting obviously shorter so we know the inevitable winter is around the corner. Actually this morning on my commute to work the weather man predicted the possibility of snow today. No matter what we do, the white stuff and cold is coming.

The cold weather also brings changes to our kitchen tables as we begin to make warmer foods and seasonal root vegetable recipes. The talk at the office seems to be about the carb and fat cravings which were almost nonexistent a month ago when fresh salads were at an abundance. So the question on all our minds; are these cravings hard to suppress when it’s primal to store fat as bear do to keep warm during harsh winter months?

One theory is shorter days attribute to the decrease in melatonin which can cause us to be sleepier and increase our appetite which can lead to cravings of comfort foods. These comfort foods are usually associated with fat and sugar and typically can be the root of gaining body fat during the winter months.

Beside the decrease melatonin during the winter months, serotonin is also affected by the shorter sunless days. The decrease in serotonin (the happy hormone) during winter can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD causing the majority of the population to turn to food trying to decrease feelings of sadness.

Michigan State University Extension along with an article by Robin Vitetta-Miller, M.S have suggestions to combat these cravings and ward off the weight gain during the darker months:

  1. Plan to eat right:
    • Eat more protein
    • Stock up on healthy foods in the house
    • Eat more soup to stay full longer
  2. Get some sunlight:

    • Bundle up and get outside to exercise
    • If you work in a windowless office, go for a walk during a lunch break
    • Get help for feelings of SAD by talking to your physician
  3. Exercise, Exercise, Exercise:

    • If calories are not burned, they are stored as fat
    • Exercise increases serotonin and mood which decreases food cravings

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