The fall is a time of bright and beautiful colors. It is also a time that most of us tend to gain weight. We appear to eat more as the days get shorter. There is a seasonal rhythm to calorie intake. Meal size, cravings, hunger, and overall calorie consumption increase in the fall.
In the fall, some animals hibernate, doubling their fat storage in preparation for the scarcity of winter. There are genes in humans that are similar to hibernation genes. This may explain why humans show the same tendencies.
Researchers calculated a 222-calorie difference between calorie intake in the fall versus spring. Our bodies are genetically programmed to pick up on environmental cues of the changing seasons to influence our eating habits.
The fall is also a season of holidays and celebrations. Holiday foods tend to be rich in calories and sugar such as cookies, cakes, and baked goods.
Many of us tend to be less active in the cooler months. Some people also suffer from seasonal affective disorder. This can predispose to not just feelings of depression but also increase cravings and decreased activity.
The following are suggestions to avoid or minimize fall weight gain:
- Follow a healthy eating pattern year round
- Follow an active routine
- Sleep during the night and stay active during the day
- Get enough sleep of between 7 and 8 hours a night
- Go to bed early and rise early
- Keep the bedroom dark
- Avoid exposure to intense light at night
- Eat most of your calories earlier in the day.
- Avoid eating late or close to bedtime. Stop eating at least two hours before bedtime
- Avoid eating during night hours
- Avoid exercise or intense physical activity within 2 to 3 hours before your bedtime.
- Have a contingency plan for holiday parties
- Don’t go to holiday parties hungry.
- Focus on socialization not eating when you go to holiday parties
- Above all have fun.
Ife Ojugbeli, MD, MBA.