5 tips to help you avoid hibernation


This past weekend, for most of us, marked that time of year when our clocks were turned back – yea – darkness at an earlier time. Yes, it feels like the time to hibernate but never more so than this year. Thanks to Covid, many of us would like to and then wake up in time for spring and hopefully a vaccination.

Under normal circumstances, at this time of year, energy levels wane while our desire for food gears up for winter.

While we may live in heated environments and wear warm winter clothing outdoors (but unfortunately, not all of us are that lucky), it’s not the colder temperatures that send us in search of heartier fare and sweet treats. It’s a lack of daylight that’s responsible for winter appetites and the lethargy you may feel.

Summer appetites, on the other hand, are affected by temperatures. Heat, especially when extreme, can lead to diminished appetites and loss of weight. It used to be, before we spent so much time in air-conditioned homes, workplaces, cars and restaurants, that people would put on a few pounds in the winter and then when the summer heat arrived, the few pounds would naturally drop off. No one would turn on their stoves during the summer heat and lighter fare was preferred. Nowadays you can eat inside an air-conditioned restaurant with sweltering heat outside and the special of the day being lasagna. So much for summer weight loss.

But back to where we are now. The gray shorter days of November (on their own without Covid) can yield lethargy and slower calorie burning capacity along with a desire to eat more. Like bears, which are well-known for packing on fat before they sleep away the winter, our bodies want to put on extra fat, particularly the kind that’s known as brown fat or brown adipose tissue (BAT), which provides the calories for shivering – that’s how we can help to sustain normal body temperatures during this period of cold weather.

But here’s the problem: we don’t shiver our way though the winter.

Putting on winter weight if it naturally fell off in the summer would be fine. But instead, people diet to take that winter weight off. Losing weight slowly is one thing but with all the quick weight loss methods out there, these diets can lead to all kinds of problems including gaining even more weight back. Or those winter pounds can just accumulate those winter pounds each year.

This year, matters are likely even worse. While we may not (yet) be locked away in our homes, and we may feel as though we’re hibernating, take heart as you can still enjoy comfort food. Here are a few smart strategies you can weather winter in peak shape with energy to spare.

Eat regularly throughout the day
Going too long without eating can lead to fatigue and even more importantly, poor moods – feeling down or hangry (the irritability that accompanies low blood sugar readings). It’s enough that you have to deal with the concrete stresses of these times but to not fuel up can exacerbate the impact of the seasonal effects. Eating regularly can also boost your metabolic rate slightly which can help to energize you a little.

Go for balance
Having unbalanced meals– too few carbs or too little protein – can lead to cravings. To avoid a rollercoaster effect on blood sugar readings, be sure to include a slowly digested protein at breakfast, lunch and at snacks. Check out this post for best protein options.

Slashing your carb intake when seasonal cravings may intensify can make you feel even more down. Instead go for smart carbs. Opt for pulses, such as lentils, chick peas and dried beans, and beans, which are super carb and protein-rich choices that can also help to stabilize blood sugar readings. Go for whole grains over refined selections.

Go for hearty not heavy fare
You may need to fool your body into thinking you are going along with the idea to pad your body with extra fat. Broth-based soups loaded with plenty of vegetables are super choices for taking the edge off your appetite. When making dishes like stews or chili, if using meat, keep it lean and instead of loading the dishes with lots of meat, boost the amount of fibre-rich options like pulses and vegetables.

Don’t forgo exercise
Even if you’re dragging yourself around, go for regular workouts. These days just because that doesn’t involve hitting the gym, it doesn’t mean you can’t move. A good brisk walk, outdoors if you can, or possibly an online fitness program or even putting on some music and dancing around or marching can help to get your blood flowing and energize you. It’s also a great stress reducer.

See the light
In more extreme forms, this shortage of daylight can go hand in hand with depression – Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But for many, besides affecting appetite and energy, a lack of sunlight can simply put you in a lousy mood. If possible, get outside and take in some daylight. If not, try to spend time near a bright window.

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Categories: Uncategorized

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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