Ahh so summer is winding down for us up here in the north which is a bittersweet moment. The relentless heat is easing it’s way into cooler temperatures (albeit more briefly and not so cool down south!) but that also means the approaching end of the outdoor fun that summer brings. Oh well, each season brings it’s own pleasures, right? I, like a lot of people, tend to eat more healthily in the warm weather. Weather is a factor in appetite development as the heat tends to suppress the urge in most people. A suppressed appetite combined with a love of outdoor activity and suddenly staying lean might not seem as hard. In the summer. But then there is winter and the opposite becomes true: colder weather can increase appetite development.
The lack of sunshine during colder months has been shown to decrease the production of the feel good chemical, serotonin. Serotonin modulates mood, appetite, aggression, anger, sleep, and metabolism so obviously it is a crucial component of staying mentally and physically balanced. Carbs are necessary for proper brain function but it matters which kind you consume. Complex carbs are slow to digest and consist of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Simple carbs are quickly digested and consist mainly of foods and drinks with added sugars like molasses, honey, or high fructose corn syrup. Low levels of serotonin have been linked to Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD) and is the reason why so many of us crave easily digested simple carbohydrates which acts as a quick fix when serotonin dips. This quick spike in blood sugar is the problem that comes with the consumption of simple carbohydrates because this occurs as sugars are released immediately into our blood-stream. Continuous spikes in blood sugar causes Insulin Resistance . You know that drowsy, bloaty, depressed feeling you get after eating a meal of simple carbs? those are symptoms of IR and weight gain, high blood pressure and pre-diabetes can be the result. *It should be noted that those who spend too much time indoors can suffer from this same loss of serotonin. Spending just 30 -60 minutes in the sun can help to boost your serotonin levels so go soak up what’s left of the summer!
Monitoring your serotonin and insulin level is just one strategy in maintaining or achieving a healthy weight. Here is more information to help you out:
- Carrying extra weight is like being in debt, you will have to pay for it in the future so don’t take on any more.
- Poor health is cumulative and yo-yo dieting is detrimental to your heart health. Small lifestyle changes now can prevent major health setbacks in your future.
- The major thing that over-fat/obese people ( more than 20 pounds over weight) in common: they don’t eat enough. Going too long between meals puts the body in starvation mode so that the very next thing you eat is stored as fat. Survival is the body’s main objective and some body fat is crucial for survival.
- Sedentary people take longer to clear glucose from the bloodstream. The longer it takes you to clear glucose from your bloodstream, the more likely you will suffer from a chronic disease like diabetes in the future ( Journal of the American Medical Assoc.). Daily Exercise solves this problem.
- Alcohol can decrease metabolism by 30%! Drink in moderation ( wine preferably).
- Food labels are there to help you. Pay special attention to serving size, sugars, salt and fat content. Saturated fat should not exceed 2.5 grams per serving!
- Snacks should not exceed 150 calories and meals should not exceed 400.
- Exchanging your dairy and fatty foods for their low-fat versions is an easy way to start eating healthily.
- When choosing a snack first ask yourself ” am I hungry or thirsty?”. Perceived hunger is sometimes dehydration. Then ask yourself “have I had enough fruit or veggies today?” before proceeding.
- Fiber rich foods (fruit & veggies, oats) keep you fuller longer so aim for 25g daily.
- Juices and sodas are weight busters. Stick to water and teas (flavored and plain).
- Restaurant meals contain staggering amounts of fats and sugars so cook at home as much as possible.
- Know your trigger foods and do not keep them in the house. Alcohol and foods high in fat, salt and sugar are well known triggers for most people. However, over deprivation will most likely lead to bingeing. Aim for treating yourself with one special indulgence on the weekends. Just know you might have to work it off!
- Ask for support from your team (spouse, family, friends) and don’t succumb to peer pressure from those members who are not on the path to good health. Be a leader not a follower.
- Your body never outgrows the need for sunshine, good food and exercise. Treat is as your most prized possession.
- Building muscle mass will help you burn fat over the long run. Cardio burns fat at the moment. Combine the two and you have a winner.
- Just because you exercise does not mean you cannot suffer health problems. Proper nutrition is fundamental for overall health (esp. heart health).
- Squeeze as many footsteps into your day as possible to prevent weight gain. Park farther away, take the stairs all the way or halfway up.
- Exercise doesn’t have to happen in the gym but requires consistency. Aim for getting some in everyday.