We are one day away from winter now, and the cold mornings have finally set in! The change in weather usually means more illnesses get around, we start making showers much hotter, get into soups (soup season is finally here!), and start wearing extra layers to keep us warm.

As a dietitian, it is really normal to hear people say that they know their weight will go up in winter. But why does this happen? If we go back many many years to when we lived in caves and hunted for our food, we needed different techniques to ensure that we survived being stuck out in the cold. Food didn’t appear in front of us every day, in the form of meals and snacks like it does for us now. Food was scarce, and we had to eat as much as possible when it was available to ensure that we had sufficient bodily storage of fat, and glucose, to sustain us to the next feed. We also rugged up in animal skins and sat by fires to keep ourselves warm, instead of lots of lovely warm clothes and air conditioned work and homes. So yes, our lives have change significantly since this time, but there are some tendencies that we still carry, such as wanting to eat more when it is cold to maintain our regular bodily functions.

When we are cold, our body undertakes a variety of functions to keep us warm, such as giving us goosebumps, shivering, and drawing warm blood closer to our internal organs (explains cold fingers and toes). This does burn additional energy, which explains why our body tells us that we need to consume more in order to support our bodies doing these tasks. Based on our lifestyles now, it is not necessary to consume additional foods in order to maintain functioning, as we have adapted our external resources, such as clothes and homes, to provide the additional warmth we used to get from within.
So this winter when you feel yourself looking for that extra snack or second helping at dinner, it is always worth asking yourself whether you are really hungry (and comparing this to the last time you ate), whether getting up and moving a little will satisfy your body to keep warmer, or if you are just thirsty, and this is disguising itself as hunger.

Some tips for mindful eating in winter:
– Assess your hunger using a hunger rating scales – these are very easy to use and give you a great understanding of how hungry you actually are.
– Fill up on your fluids – this may be switching to tea or coffee (with small amounts of milk and/or sugar if you like) to ensure that you are getting adequate fluid each day. Herbal teas add a nice twist.
– Soups and casseroles for days – these are full of veggies and will fill you up with lots of great fibre. Due to their high liquid content, they will add to hydration, and any nutrients that leach out of the vegetables you swill consume in the broth (yum yum!)
– Hot snacks are good snacks – this can include things such as a piece of toast or fruit bread, a small bowl of oats, some warmed up berries with oats or yoghurt to top, or a cup of low calorie hot chocolate can be great ideas to warm you up and fill you up
Another tip is to make sure you keep up your physical activity. It is the number one way of warming you up!
For additional tips and advice, make an appointment to see one of our APDs.