Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are YOU Roadway Restricted?

Apparently, "Winter Weight" is an actual term: it refers to highway weight restrictions enforced on trucks carrying heavier loads. These restrictions are (ironically) in effect between December 1st and the last day in February .. interestingly enough, these dates correspond quite closely to the dates that my weight should be restricted on roadways!
So what's up with winter weight gain? From a naturopathic standpoint, it becomes important to evaluate all of the possible contributing factors. Firstly, because it's cold, our bodies crave heavier foods, more carbohydrates and denser meals. These types of meals are generally higher in calories. Surprisingly, these cravings usually start in the brain: serotonin naturally decreases in the fall and winter months due to a decrease in sunlight exposure. This can contribute to the onset of SAD (seasonal effective disorder), an increase in blood pressure, an increase in pain sensitivity and sleep disturbance. Carbohydrates, because of their effect on insulin release, can contribute to the increase in serotonin production, increasing circulating serotonin levels resulting in mitigation of the above side effects of low serotonin. However, excess carbohydrates can also contribute to the unfortunate side effect of a few winter pounds!
A second and very important factor to the December "Butterball" transformation that happens to a few of us in the winter is the association between light and thyroid function. Although, after 4 weeks of light therapy test subjects did not show changes in typical blood measures for thyroid function (thyroid function panel), tests did show a decrease in circulating reverse T3 levels. What one may extrapolate from this result is that people that exposed are to less light have a higher amount of reverse (or unactive) thyroid hormone. When these subjects are exposed to light again, their bodies have an increased amount of active thyroid hormone which results in an increase metabolic function (less weight gain and more energy)!

Is light the only way reduce reverse T3 (inactive thyroid hormone) and avoid winter weight? No way, Jose! Other simple and effective ways to keep your T3 active and stabilize weight is to insure adequate protein intake: this stabilizes the blood sugar and decreases stress of the body which decreases cortisol and helps fat metabolism remain optimal. Protein will also help curb carbohydrate cravings, keeping you fuller for longer. Adequate sleep is also part the fat burning equation: when a body lacks sleep, hormones are produced that decrease the rate of fat metabolism which equals the birth of the butterball belly!

These simple strategies coupled with a little regular exercise and fresh air can keep your tundra tummy tiny and tucked tidily under your winter wool .. and then you can embrace the little bit of belly that you do gain as cushioning for those skating mishaps and unexpected ski "trips"!