Preventing winter weight gain is more difficult for people who have seasonal affective disorder or S.A.D. Oftentimes the absence of sunlight can leave you feeling depressed, which leads to binge eating.
Winter weight gain is not just about holiday overeating. A lack of sunlight can cause food cravings and mess up a healthy serotonin cycle.
Researchers believe people who don’t get enough sunlight tend to crave carbohydrates. As many as 10 to 20 percent of people experience at least some symptoms of S.A.D. but have not been clinically diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder.
As someone who lived through several blizzards and battled the winter weight gain every October through April before moving to Florida, I learned a few tricks for keeping trim.
A lot of people don’t realize it, but some Floridians battle weight gain more in the summer when it’s too hot to exercise outside. Winter is a much easier time to slim down in Florida or places with milder winter climates.
But if you live in a state where seasonable affective disorder or S.A.D. is common and fitting into your skinny jeans is next to impossible, here are a few tried and proven tricks for preventing winter weight gain:
No. 1: Trick for preventing winter weight gain: Go to bed by 10 p.m. It’s important to sleep more for weight loss, but the timing of that sleep is also important. People with seasonal affective disorder have higher level of the sleep hormone melatonin during the day, which makes them want to rest or “hibernate” during the day and stay up late. Consider taking melatonin (a supplement from the health food store) at about 9 p.m. at night to get a real night’s rest.
No. 2: Tip for avoiding winter weight gain: Eat carbs early in the day. You can create the best serotonin cycle with a carb-timing diet. Researchers say the serotonin levels of people with seasonal affective disorder are lower in the winter compared to summer. If you eat serotonin-boosting carbs in the early part of the day, your levels appetite will wind down by the end of the day. By early morning, your serotonin decreases enough to give you an appetite for breakfast.
No. 3: Trick for beating winter weight gain: Get outside! Even though it’s cold out, you will benefit from getting fresh air and exercising outside. Mall walking for weight loss is fine as long as you also exercise outside. Try outdoor activities such as sledding, cross country skiing, ice skating, shoveling snow. Should you join a gym or exercise at home? You are more likely to spread germs in a gym setting during the winter.
No. 4: Tip for losing winter weight gain: Don’t fall into the trap of ordering pizza or dining out too often. Although Applebee’s provolone-stuffed meatball fettuccine may look hearty on a cold winter’s day, it has 1,550 calories, which may be all you need for the entire day. Stick to their Weight Watcher’s meals instead. If you must eat out, stick to healthy Japanese or Thai restaurants. Avoid the McDonald’s drive-thru.
No. 5: Trick to stop winter weight gain: Don’t fall into the trap of wearing only your “fat clothes” or winter clothes. Keep your shorts, summer dresses and other skinny jeans around so you know your ideal size. Make yourself try on your skinny sizes every day as a reminder. Weigh yourself once a day as well.
Finally, if you have S.A.D., don’t try any fad diets during the winter months or take diet pills. Stick to a clean diet, exercise and get plenty of sleep. Make comforting yet healthy foods such as stews and soups loaded with vegetables. To beat winter weight gain, seek out support by joining weight loss support groups, spending time with like-minded friends or workout partners.
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