During the winter season, less daylight hours and inclement weather can cause sluggishness and even lead to seasonal affective disorder (SAD) – a mood disorder with depressive symptoms. People have a tendency to sleep and eat more during the colder months. To counteract this tendency, it is important to not only stay active but maintain a healthy diet to fight winter inactivity and subsequent weight gain. And therefore certain foods should be avoided or moderated in order to keep energy levels high and calorie intake at or below energy expenditure.
Simple carbs tend to be less filling but more fattening than complex carbohydrates. In the body, they turn to sugar and enter the blood stream quickly, causing an imbalance in blood sugar levels and providing a superficial burst of energy. Leftover glucose becomes fat and the imbalance in blood sugar can lead to fatigue and irritability, further aggravating “Winter Blues.” Foods made with white flour, packaged cereals, sugary sodas, candy, cake, fruit juice, corn syrup and table sugar should be consumed sparingly, especially during the winter months when their caloric overload is less likely to be canceled out by extra activity.
Some Complex Carbohydrates (for people who are sensitive to sugar)
It was once believed that complex carbs did not raise blood sugar levels as rapidly as simple sugars; however, some complex carbohydrates actually raise blood sugar levels higher than some simple carbs. People who are sensitive to sugar should therefore avoid complex carbs that cause blood sugar irregularity.
Despite the name, diet sodas can cause increased cravings for sugary foods (or a desire to heavily sweeten foods) because of their artificially sweetened flavor. In addition, the high sodium in sodas can cause water retention. So substituting diet soda for regular soda may not produce the desired effect and instead lead to more intense cravings for sugary junk food, which will negatively affect energy levels and mood.
Fatty meals cause sleepiness. And foods with high fat content are also comforting, leading to more consumption in an attempt to regulate mood. As a result, a vicious cycle is formed in which one depends on fatty foods to elevate mood and returns to fatty foods when depression or irritability kicks in due, in part, to poor food selections. This cycle is compounded during the winter season when mood and energy levels are already suffering. Avoiding high fat foods can reduce the severe changes in energy levels.
Food choices impact mood, energy and weight. And the more dedicated one is to choosing food sources that provide good, efficient fuel for the body, rather than quick fixes that lead to mood destabilization and weight gain, the more likely it will be that winter months don’t cause winter pounds.