Control Your Winter Appetite

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The weather outside is frightful — but the food is so delightful! If that’s the tune that runs through your head from November through March, you’re not alone. As temperatures fall, experts say, our winter appetites can spin out of control.

“Studies indicate that we do tend to eat more during the winter months, with the average person gaining at least 1 to 2 pounds — and those who are already overweight likely to gain a lot more,” says Rallie McAllister, MD, author of Healthy Lunchbox: The Working Mom’s Guide to Keeping You and Your Kids Trim.

And while a heartier appetite for a few months out of the year may not seem like such a big deal, McAllister says it can be when we end up gaining weight year in and year out.

“Many people who are around 50 years old are also around 30 to 35 pounds heavier than they were when they graduated high school — and those pounds are roughly equal to 30 winters of a heartier appetite — so it really does add up,” says McAllister, a family practice medicine specialist from Lexington, Ky.

But what is it about frostier temperatures that drive us to eat more? If you’re thinking it’s because holiday goodies are more abundant in the wintertime, you’re only partially right. Experts say there are a number of factors at work.

The Comfort of Food

It’s cold. Days are shorter, and nights are longer. You’re worn out from holiday preparations — or maybe you have a case of the seasonal blues.

Whatever the reason, experts say, when winter hits, cravings for metabolism and help your body temperature to rise, but culturally, we’re not trained to think of salads or 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 comfort foods, find lower-cal ways to do it. Mac and cheese made with low-fat cheese, steamy pizza with veggies and a whole wheat crust, a bowl of vegetable soup, cocoa with non-fat milk — be creative in cutting calories while keeping the comfort.

4. Get a Daily Dose of Light.

If you think your food cravings may be related to shorter days, try to spend at least some time outdoors in sunlight every day. If that’s not possible, talk to your doctor about light therapy — a way of increasing serotonin levels through exposure to artificial light.

5. Keep a Lid on Seasonal Goodies.

That’s not just a figure of speech. Keep rich treats left over from the holidays out of direct eye view, McAllister says. If someone has brought you goodies as a gift, say thanks, without sampling.

6. Give Out a Lot of Hugs.

If it’s comfort you’re seeking, hugging is a great way to fill you up without filling you out, the experts say. Instead of turning to comfort food, hug your kids, your spouse, your dog, or cat — or visit an orphanage or senior center, where hugging is at a premium!