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Have you noticed yourself starting to gain a few early pounds of winter weight already?
At summer’s end, nature dishes out a series of influences that is best described as a “perfect storm” for gaining weight. Let’s dissect this storm and look at some strategies to safely navigate those unwanted pounds.
Nature is making a concerted effort to store an insulating layer of fat at summer’s end to prepare for winter. With proper preparation, understanding, and respect for this storm, its surge can actually offer many benefits to the body. Unchecked, this storm will pack on those pounds.
Keep reading to learn how you can get the most out of this seasonal change, without storing excess weight you don’t need!
Summer’s end offers a plethora of ripe fruit just begging to be eaten. The fructose in fruit easily converts into fat in the liver, which is much needed insulation to endure a cold winter. Omnivores like bears and humans would tend to gorge on sweet, ripe fruit to the point of excess – just think of how many apples fall from just one tree! Yes, it seems we were meant to eat them, but a nice healthy layer of insulating fat may result. (1)
The nice thing about this fruit fat is that it is distributed equally throughout the body for insulation, rather than camping out mainly on the belly, hips and thighs.
These fruits also cleanse the gut with fruit fiber. A little too much fruit triggers a loose stool, which is nature’s way of dispelling accumulated heat from summer. This is much the same as when your child gets a fever accompanied by diarrhea – the diarrhea is there to dispel the heat (fever).
As summer’s high temperatures build up in the body, in an attempt not to overheat, the digestive strength becomes weaker this time of year according to Ayurveda. Conversely, in the winter when it is cold outside, the body’s internal heaters turn on to keep us warm and to better digest the more dense winter foods like meat, root veggies and grains. (2)
With weaker digestive strength and metabolism this time of year, (2) nature offers a harvest of easy-to-digest foods that have been ripening on the vine all summer long. The fruits and veggies from the garden are pre-digested, or cooked, from the sun.
Never Got That Memo
Unfortunately, most folks are squeezing in the last couple of barbeques and eating fried chicken, ribs, burgers, fries, shakes, ice cream, and of course, it wouldn’t be a barbeque without some beer!
Sadly, as far as I can tell, none of these were naturally ripened on the vine and thus, are extremely hard to digest, even in the winter when the digestion is at its best. The perfect storm just got bigger as we continue to eat foods that we don’t have the digestive juice to digest well. The result: weight gain.
Just when we thought the storm was weakening, it instead gets stronger. With cooler nights and winter just around the corner, the brain starts to crave certain tastes that will help insulate the body and slow, or calm, the nervous system for winter. (3) You guessed it – the appetite increases in the winter (3) and, according to Ayurveda, the brain starts craving sweet and salty tastes. Each individual brain has a menu of favorite foods that will provide those tastes, such as chips, desserts, chocolates, coffees, breads, and carbs, carbs, carbs.
When the brain picks a food from that menu, all willpower goes out the window and we find ourselves eating way too many of those fatty foods we just know we shouldn’t be eating!
Second Storm Surge
As the days get shorter, the body’s rest and digest parasympathetic nervous system is activated in preparation for shorter days and longer nights. With higher parasympathetic activity, the rest more and eat more nervous system in the winter is a weight gain recipe. The body burns calories less efficiently and will store more fat. (3)
Circadian changes in the winter encourage the body to get more sleep and have less daytime activity, which adds to even fewer calories burned and more fat stored. (3,4)
The Final Surge
Naturally, the fall harvest is abundant. Once the perishables have been eaten, the foods with more density that can store and last through the winter remain. These foods, like grains, nuts, seeds and root vegetables, are late harvesters, giving nature time to build more density in the form of concentrated proteins and fats.
While very insulating, these dense foods are also harder to digest and more easily stored as fat.
The Good News! Navigating weight gain’s perfect storm is about building an even layer of winter fat, rather than excess, in the wrong places.
Storm Protection: Know It Is Coming and Be Prepared
- Give yourself permission to eat lots and lots of ripe veggies and yes, it’s okay to eat those fruits as well. Better a small healthy layer of insulating fat than the damage that a month of binging on barbeque and vacation food can do. Fill up on the good stuff!
- This time of year, the accumulated heat will dehydrate us. As the brain often perceives thirst as hunger, we start eating. Try to drink 1/2 of your ideal body weight in ounces of water per day.
- Boost digestive strength, so that if you are eating the heavier foods, you help your system digest and process it. Consider 1 capsule of both Warm Digest and Beet Cleanse about 15 minutes before meals with a full glass of water. This will help to boost digestive strength before the meal.
- Fear not those extra pounds! October is a great detox season and a great time to lose the pounds and fully reset the digestive strength you will need this winter to stay healthy. Consider our Group Colorado Cleanse Event, which is held each spring and fall. If you are not ready for a two week cleanse, I suggest you start with our 4-Day Short Home Cleanse. Download our free Short Home Cleanse eBook here.
This article was originally published September 19, 2012. It was updated with the newest info/research and republished September 24, 2015.
What do you do to prepare your mind and body for winter?