Appetite control in winter: our top tips
Even the strongest willpower is tested in the winter months, with the flood of rain and wind at our door. The darker, colder nights seem to bring us closer to those salty chips, that crispy pizza or an extra glass of red wine. We all have our bad days, but when we're tired, cold and feeling the urge to hibernate, it is certainly harder to stick to our healthy eating plan. But it's far from impossible – in fact, some of our most successful weight loss clients lose their weight during the winter season (most say this is because they are more focused than the summer).
It's not all our fault – we actually have a built-in, natural tendency to store more fat as winter approaches. It is what we call our "winter appetite". For our ancestors, this was probably vital. Additional layers of fatty tissue on the body protect against the cold. It is then used as fuel in late winter and early spring when food supplies would have been low. But for us, that's just not true – so it's an excuse we can't use anymore! Today we are all fortunate enough to live in a time and country where there is plenty to eat all year round. We no longer need to store fat as it is of no use to us.
Watch the white stuff
Another urge we might have at this time of year is opting for white, processed carbohydrates like baguettes and also sugary snacks, as we believe they offer us a "quick fix" and can even help set the mood in winter to improve. We can also subconsciously change our snacking strategy to include more of these foods when looking for a lift. In reality, these have problems with our blood sugar control and even with our moods. So they are NOT the answer to increasing energy levels or happiness. They are a short term solution that actually makes the situation worse.
A much better approach would be to follow the little and frequent advice and choose lean proteins with fiber-filled vegetables that will help us be satisfied longer. Even a small amount of healthy fats (like a few almonds or a few olives or avocados) can help us stay full (it stimulates leptin, which signals our brains that we have eaten enough). All it takes is a little bit of willpower and good habits and good food choices to reap the benefits of a controlled appetite this year.
How can exercise help control your winter appetite?
Exercising as little as half an hour a day has been shown to curb our appetites and keep us from feeling sluggish. This puts our weight control back into our own hands despite the cold, miserable weather outside.
I've noticed that myself in recent years. I'm a cold-blooded person, of course, and have always apologized for not exercising (I just want to hibernate at this time of year!). But I've learned to combat this urge – not just for my body and health, but equally important for my mood (and my family is undoubtedly grateful for that!).
Research shows that exercise is one of the best mood enhancers. In fact, people suffering from depression have undergone studies in which exercise plays an equally important role in increasing their emotional well-being as antidepressants, and in many cases doctors prefer exercise as a form of treatment without the need for medication.
If you hate the cold like me, you don't even have to venture outside. I keep 8 and 10 kg kettlebells at home and lift them for 15 minutes every day when I can't go outside. Or how about a simple jump rope that you can do at home or even during your lunch break in a quiet room at work?
If you're bored of the gym, try an exercise DVD like Davina's (you can buy a box of 3 DVDs cheaply enough) or borrow one from your local library first to see if you like it to buy one for home?
It's all about habit – if you haven't exercised in a month you will feel the difference – lethargic, depressed, and unmotivated. Research even shows that lack of exercise affects your immunity. I am certain that if I don't exercise regularly, I get recurring chest or sinus infections. So if you've been neglecting it for a while, it's time to start back at the gym, get on your bike, or get back to your dance or aqua fit class tomorrow. You will immediately feel the benefits for your body and mind. it's addicting in a good way!
Sometimes all you have to do is have a few appointments in your journal to exercise – and stick to – between now and Christmas. Tick the dates if you are completing them for an additional Mon-Yo. Or try exercising with a "buddy" when you feel like you need the motivation of another person showing up at your door! Let's face it: there is always an excuse NOT to exercise. If it's a monumental task, tell yourself, "I'll only do 10 minutes." Then say "Maybe only 10" again after 10 minutes! Before you know it, you've been exercising for at least 30 minutes and it was relatively painless.
The most important thing is that at the end of the day, whether you've exercised 10 minutes or 30 minutes, you showed up and achieved more than you expected. Well done! Not only will this help you get closer to that vision of yourself, but, as mentioned earlier, you will also improve your mood and overall health.
Take control, avoid the quick fix mentality, take stock and keep moving to reap all of the wonderful benefits of feeling and looking slimmer this winter.