I am not the sort of gal with much of a sweet tooth. I can bake a cake, or cookies, or whatever, and if my kids do not eat it, the sweet will just sit there until I end of throwing it away. One serving is plenty for me. That is, generally, I do not have a sweet tooth.
However, in the last couple of weeks, I have found myself eating cookies in the afternoon, and store bought cookies, at that. Last week, I bought a candy bar, and I haven’t bought myself a candy bar in years. And, the last several nights have found me getting up at 2 a.m. to cram something sweet into my face, then going back to bed. This pattern began to trouble me this morning, as nothing good can come of it, and over the summer I finally lost the last 10 pounds that I had been aiming to lose. Why am I suddenly craving, and ingesting sweets, when normally I can walk right past them?
I did some research and found that as the days get shorter, many of us women start to crave sweets and carbs, which explains that weight we put on every winter, only to have to lose over the summer. In the summer, because of the longer days, our bodies get enough sunlight to keep our serotonin levels in a healthy range, and we feel good. Along with the shorter days comes less sunlight, and less serotonin production, and less serotonin means that we may begin to feel sluggish, and even depressed. Sweets and other carbohydrates temporarily boost that sagging serotonin level, and we feel better. So, suddenly candy corn becomes medicinal.
Women naturally make less serotonin than men, so we are particularly vulnerable to craving sweets when fall and winter roll around. Hormones also play a role, with estrogen blamed for monthly carbohydrate craving in some women, or increased sweets cravings in peri menopausal women. So, we have the old triple whammy. We make less serotonin, which helps regulate moods and sleep, plus our hormones wreak havoc with sweets craving control, and for some of us, the shortening days that arrive in the fall cause our serotonin levels to drop, creating sweets cravings to help us feel better. One article I read made a valid point; where there to be a mass marketing of mini candy bars, and holiday goodies during the summer months, we wouldn’t find them attractive, but once the sun begins to set earlier, we cannot get enough of those sweet treats.
So, what can we do about these seasonal sweets cravings that can only lead to weight gain if left unchecked? To begin, we can work to get as much sunlight as possible. Bundle up and take your morning coffee out on the porch, or deck, and soak up the morning sun. Right now, it is still dark when I am getting up, with the sun rising as I get my son ready for school, but we make use of the available sunshine by walking to and from school every day. Getting outside and walking, or doing some other form of exercise can also help curbs the carbohydrate cravings and boost serotonin levels.
Availability plays a huge role when it comes to sweets and carbohydrate consumption. What this means is that if there are no cookies, candy bars, or dishes of candy corn all over the house, and filling the cupboards, and your desk drawers, then you are far less inclined to seek out sweets to eat. I know that there is no way that I would go out for candy, or cookies at 2 a.m. in the morning. Do not keeps sweets, or your carbohydrate drug of choice, stocked in your home, car, or office. If it is not there, you cannot shove it into your face. Instead, keep healthy snacks on hand that satisfy. Of course, quantity play a big part, too. Eating one cookie is not so bad. Eating one box of cookies is bad, so work to control how much you eat, if you must partake.
Lastly, if you begin to feel depressed, or stressed, or anxious in the fall, and sweets become your pick-me-up, see your doctor, as you may have seasonal affective disorder, and antidepressants may not only help your moods and energy level, but may also nip the sugar cravings in the bud. In my case, I have been off of my antidepressants, and feeling fine, for four months now. But, with increased life stresses, and decreased daylight hours, I think it might be wise to start taking the antidepressants again, or I will not only be stressed and depressed, but I will be overweight, too. I want none of it.
The switch to Standard Time is right around the corner. Now is the time to look at your eating patterns, and to look for any changes, such as increased cravings, or middle of the night eating. Keep a food journal, and make lifestyle changes when possible. If nothing helps you beat back the need for a Snickers Bar or two, see your doctor before your weight gets out of control along with your emotions and stress level. Do not allow the shorter days cause you to “fall” into bad habits.