Control Your Winter Appetite
It's not just your imagination -- winter really can whet your appetite. Here's how to keep it under control.
The Comfort of Food continued...
"Simply put, when outdoor temperatures drop, your body temperature
drops, and that's what sets up the longing for foods that will warm you
quickly," says Kristin Herlocker MS, RD, a nutrition expert with Diabetes
Centers of America in Houston.
In short, she says, feeling cold triggers a self-preservation mode that
sends the body a message to heat up fast. And that message is often played out
as a craving for carbohydrate-rich foods -- the sugars and starches that
provide the instant "heat" boost your body is longing for.
Moreover, McAllister says, when we give in to those cravings for sugary,
starchy foods, blood sugar spikes and then falls, setting up a cycle that keeps
the appetite in motion.
"We get hungrier quicker, so we reach for more high-carbohydrate
'fillers,' and the vicious cycle is on," says McAllister.
Wolfe-Radbille believes there's also a cultural stigma influencing our
winter food choices.
"Technically, any food will boost your metabolism and help your body
temperature to rise, but culturally, we're not trained to think of salads or
fruits and vegetables as winter eating -- first, because there's less of them
around, but also because we associate winter with richer, heavier meals, going
back to when we were children," she says.
So, when your body sends the message, "Warm me up," Wolfe-Radbille
says, your brain hears, "Bring on the mac and cheese."
Of course, winter also means holiday parties, and wheelbarrows full of the
very foods we're craving.
"Not only does the winter season set us up to crave these higher-calorie
foods, but the holidays put them in front of us, usually in great
abundance," says McAllister.
The Dark Days of Dieting
While for some it's falling temperatures that sets appetites in motion, for
others, it's the decrease in sunlight.
"Up to 6% of the population suffers from SAD -- a type of depression
caused by a lack of exposure to light," says McAllister. SAD is Seasonal
Affective Disorder that occurs the same time each year as the days are shorter,
but goes away as the days get longer in spring and summer. Besides shorter days
and a decrease of light in the winter, other causes include problems with the
body's biological clock or in levels of the brain chemical serotonin.