We can’t help noticing the change of seasons. In nature living organisms do not resist these changes and follow the natural course of events. We, humans, are the only ones who try to keep up a static way of life in a dynamic world. We are the only ones who have come to believe that we must do the same things every day, have the same schedule, sleep the same number of hours and eat the same amount of food. In nature other living organisms bring their actions into conformity with their body’s needs. We try to bring our body’s needs into conformity with the actions we believe we must undertake. A behavioral pattern that we can’t get away with, and the more we try, the stronger our body resists it.
In the past week I have received a lot of messages from people, saying they don’t know what is going on, but they are experiencing an increase in appetite. They have not changed anything, but at the same time the amount of food that used to fill them up in the summer, keeps them starving now. It goes without saying that they all have strong willpower (I am being sarcastic now) and try to resist their body’s need for more energy. They do their best to try and control the amount of food they consume, they even increase the intensity or duration of their workouts a little bit in order to burn extra calories… only to succumb to the temptation a couple of days later or on the very same evening and overeat.
Before I explain what is going on in the body and why sometimes it is best to succumb to the temptation than to resist it, here is some background information.
The cyclic pattern of seasons, food availability and the connection to vitamin D
From the point of view of evolution, back when we were not able to control our environment and tur winter into summer by setting the air conditioner to 25 – 26 degrees on a frosty winter’s day, temperature differences signaled the body what it had to prepare for.
For example, summer was the season for reproduction, because children conceived at that time are born in the spring, when food is beginning to be plentiful and this helps the parents raise a healthy child.
Autumn preceded winter and the temperatures and the food that was available acted as information to the body that it had to prepare for scarcity and cold weather.
If you pay attention, you will see that during different seasons food has a different macronutrient ratios and different micronutrient composition. We are talking seasonal food. I have already discussed this and you can read about it in more detail in my first book – The IFS Gene: A Vision for Health.
In autumn, the foods have more fructose and also more polyunsaturated fats. At the same time, in this season the sunshine duration is lower. From my book you know that carbohydrate-richer foods are favored by the body in times of higher sunshine duration, while foods that are high in animal fat are favored in times of lower sunshine duration.
What happens in autumn?
There are foods that are higher in fructose and polyunsaturated fats and there is less sunshine. This means less vitamin D. What is the connection? The increased fructose intake prevents calcium absorption and leads to vitamin D deficiency. That, in turn means that the increased fructose intake should be accompanied by a sufficient intake of vitamin D to compensate. In summer, as well as in warmer countries, this is the reason why we, despite a higher intake of carbohydrates, feel good and don’t gain weight.
What role do the lower vitamin D level and the higher fructose intake in autumn have to play?
From an evolutionary standpoint, this discrepancy between the increased fructose intake and the decreased vitamin D level plays a key role for our survival. These circumstances lead to temporary insulin resistance, a couple of kilograms more, and the purpose of all this is to store more energy for the cold winter and the scarcity it entails.
This is why our increased appetite in autumn and the gain of 2-3 kilograms are part of the natural order of things. This does not mean you are lazy and have no willpower. You must realize that weight varies and as long as you don’t lose control, but just you listen to your body, you will not experience abrupt weight gain that you have to struggle with afterwards.
Also, from an evolutionary perspective, at this time of the year our metabolism slows down a little, the body needs more sleep and we feel slightly lethargic. You know how your mood also changes, when it is cloudy outside. This is called seasonal affective disorder and is not some kind of illness or something to fight. This is the body’s way of making us be less active, so that, once again, it can conserve some energy.
Naturally, there is a discrepancy between what is programmed in our genes and what is happening now, because we live in a totally different environment. And yet, the biological urge is more powerful than the mind.
So I have a couple of tips for you.
- Include enough seasonal foods in your menu. We all eat out-of-season foods, but the important thing is which ones prevail. Include pumpkin or butternut squash, chestnuts, pears, grapes, raw nuts, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, onions, etc. You know that food is information and by including these foods in your menu, you will provide your body with the right information.
- Listen to your body. If you are slightly hungrier than usual, you can either add one more smaller meal or increase one of your portions, and make sure that the extra food comes from seasonal vegetables. Make sure that the extra food consists of carbohydrates or fat. If you increase your food intake by 200-300 calories, you will not get fat, but you will satisfy your body’s need for extra energy. If you resist this, you will probably make up for it by a lot more than 300 calories and then you will gain weight for sure.
- Don’t torture yourselves with extra workouts. Work out as usual or if you feel more tired, don’t decrease the intensity level, but simply decrease the duration of the workout.
- Try to go to bed a little earlier. Sometimes I am surprised at how late people stay up. And not because they are so busy, but because they don’t make optimal use of their time. I am sure you can sacrifice some of your everyday activities for one extra hour of sleep.
- Not every extra gram you see on the scale will change your life. Even if you gain 1-2 kilograms, you won’t look worse. You will probably just feel better. Accept that your body needs this at the moment and then it will be much easier to get rid of these 2 kilograms which can be lost much faster, when the extra fat has done its job in the body.