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Craving Carbs in Winter: Is It Depression?

What’s normal, what’s not?

Your Carbohydrate Cravings: Normal or Not?

To decide if your carb cravings in winter are normal or not, analyze them, suggests Wurtman and Edward Abramson, PhD, a psychologist and professor emeritus at California State University, Chico, who wrote the book Emotional Eating. Ask yourself these three questions:

  1. Are the cravings seasonal?
    The carb cravings associated with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) have ups and downs by season, says Wurtman. "It has to be present in the fall and winter and has to disappear in the spring and summer," she says, to be associated with the most common type of SAD. (Other SAD symptoms: extreme fatigue, sleeping too much, weight gain, difficulty concentrating.) "It may take a year before you know that is what it is," Wurtman says.
  2. What happens right before the craving hits?
    "Craving is associated with emotional turmoil of some sort," Abramson says. That turmoil might be depressed mood.
  3. What time of day are the cravings strongest?
    Carbohydrate cravers are most likely to experience them in the late afternoon and evening, Abramson says. That could be because the kinds of emotions that tend to contribute to cravings get worse as the day goes on, he says, especially if your depression is mild. You may be caught up in the hustle and bustle of work and family all day, and then, when things calm down, become bummed out, for instance, that your spouse is paying more attention to TV than to you, he says.

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