Chill Out to Lean Out: Beat the Winter Bulge with Sleep and Superfoods

Winter is often associated with weight gain as our energy levels decrease, leading us to crave sugary, carbohydrate-rich foods. At the same time, our metabolism slows down as our bodies attempt to conserve energy and stay warm. To prevent piling on the pounds during the colder months, there are a number of lifestyle changes that you can make.

Sleeping with the Seasons

Inadequate sleep has been linked to weight gain and obesity, so it’s important to listen to your body’s needs and ensure you get plenty of rest. During the winter months, that means going to bed earlier when our energy levels are at their lowest. Aim to go to bed before 10 p.m. to make sure you’re getting enough sleep, and create a dark environment to maximize melatonin production, helping you drift off with ease.

Sleep-deficit problems are also a component of many chronic diseases. Entering a deep-sleep phase is crucial for the body’s repair mechanisms to function properly. A lack of deep sleep can result in chronic inflammation which contributes to weight gain.

Seasonal Affective Disorder and Weight Gain

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) can often lead to overeating sugary comfort foods that cause a spike in insulin, followed by a drop in blood sugar levels, resulting in a vicious cycle that can exacerbate depression. To counteract this, maintain a low glycemic index diet focusing on low-starch, low-sugar foods. You may also want to consider supplementing with nutrients that support both your metabolism and emotional strength like:

  • Medicinal mushrooms, such as Reishi and Cordyceps
  • B vitamins such as B1, B6, and B12
  • Ginseng
  • Adrenal extracts
  • Chinese yam

Additionally, gentle exercise can help elevate mood by increasing endorphins (“happy hormones”), and regular meditation can aid relaxation by reducing cortisol levels.

Vitamin D and Healthy Winter Foods

Vitamin D-3 supplementation is particularly important in winter due to decreased sunlight exposure. Eating foods rich in good fats and oils can help calm anxiety and stress while supporting a healthy weight. Walnuts and other raw nuts contain healthy fats that help fight weight gain, while salmon, coconut oil, and olive oil provide other sources of healthy fats. If you’re a meat-eater, you may want to focus on heavier meats like lamb and bison which are more nourishing. It’s crucial to choose foods that are on the low glycemic index and consider taking supplements that help balance hormones, such as DIM, curcumin, zinc, and medicinal mushrooms.

Finding Balance

Ultimately, it’s essential to strike a balance between staying active (to prevent stagnation leading to SAD and weight gain) and ensuring you get enough restorative rest and quiet time. By following these principles, you’ll experience greater energy, vitality, and enhanced well-being during the winter months, with fewer cravings for unhealthy foods.