When it is unbearably cold, most of us invariably end up gaining weight. There are lots of reasons for it.
Firstly, a dip in the temperature whets up our appetite as the body needs to use more energy to keep itself warm, especially if the cold causes you to shiver.
This is the reason why we tend to reach for heavier, more warming foods, as eating helps warm up the body from inside.
There is a hormonal angle too. According to a 2019 study published in Nutrition & Metabolism, the levels of leptin (the hormone that helps trigger fullness) were higher at warmer temperatures and lower at colder ones, so satiety is more difficult to come by.
Plus, seasonal affective disorder (SAD) too comes into effect which is a type of depression that's related to the change in seasons.
A hormonal shift due to decreased sun exposure in the winter can also indirectly add to our problems by sapping our energy and making us feel moody, and thus more prone to crave and succumb to heavy, unhealthy junk foods. All this adds to the winter weight gain.
Finally cooler weather makes outdoor exercise difficult and our days, which are anyway shorter in winters, tend to become less active.
So, is there a solution?
The solution lies in being aware of the problem and taking corrective action by being prepared for the jump in appetite and soothing it with healthier food options.
Instead of worrying about increased hunger, tackle that hunger with satisfying, nourishing foods.
Smart Tricks to Prevent Winter Weight Gain
Snack on a handful of mixed nuts (such as almonds or walnuts) and seeds (pumpkin/sunflower) every day. Or savour a glass of aromatic badam milk.
Nuts and seeds, high in minerals and essential fatty acids, help ward off cold-causing germs.
There is nothing like a steaming cup of chai made with generous amounts of grated ginger to open up our respiratory track.
Try this decoction too: crush ginger, black pepper, garlic, and boil in two glasses of water till it becomes about a glass.
Ginger helps stimulate circulation and ease congestion in the throat and lungs as it has capsaicin that triggers the body's nervous system, and terpenes and “ginger oil” which increase blood circulation to warm up the body. These cups also help prevent unnecessary noshing.
Get Your Greens
There is a reason why we get an array of saags in the winter season; they are naturally warming, so OD on them.
Have a saag (rotate your greens and try them all) a day all through the winter. There are enough to choose from, plus they are inexpensive, loaded with antioxidants, and delicious.
Switch to complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat.
Score some allicin every day; eat two raw garlic cloves early in the morning and have raw onion with your meals; both have allicin, which boosts the circulation and warms the body naturally.
Nothing Like A Bowl of Soup In Winters
There is nothing like a hearty bowl of soup to warm up in the winters. Combine all your favorite vegetables, protein, ginger, garlic, and black pepper for a perfect bowl of soup.
Season with rosemary and basil, both are warming herbs, and some peppercorns that are perfect to clear blocked up sinuses.
In fact, a smart way to try and keep our daily calories low and nutrition high is to have a warm bowl of soup for a few dinners every week.
A Glass Of Milk & Some Exercise Go A Long Way
End of the day it is a good idea to have a tsp of turmeric with warm milk at bed time, to help keep the body and mood both happy and toasty.
Modify your exercise regime. Try to do a few short bursts of indoor exercise throughout the day (stair climbing, dancing, slow jogs, skipping rope); these can be as effective as longer duration exercise.
Easy Recipe To Beat The Cold
Try this hearty soup with a twist that is ridiculously low in calories (about 225 calories) and extremely filling. And of course, more delicious than any restaurant soup.
Heat 1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan and add 1/2 small finely chopped onion, 1/2 chopped carrot, and 1 chopped celery stick.
Cook for 8-10 minutes until softened, then add 1 small piece of chicken, boiled and cubed (skip it if you are vegetarian), 1 crushed garlic clove, and 1 tablespoon chopped basil.
Fry for another 2-3 minutes. Add 250 ml hot chicken or vegetable stock, 1 chopped tomato, and 50 gm steamed french beans.
Mash 50 gm beans, stir into the soup, and simmer for 30 minutes, adding a handful of minestrone pasta (or noodles), and 50 gm shredded cabbage for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
(Kavita is a nutritionist, weight management consultant, and health writer based in Delhi. She is the author of Don’t Diet! 50 Habits of Thin People and Ultimate Grandmother Hacks: 50 Kickass Traditional Habits For A Fitter You.)