Brrrrr. It's cold out there! It's likely that you've gotten out your gloves, ice scraper and boots. While you've prepared to brave the outdoors, have you checked in with your stomach yet?
As the temperature drops, don't be surprised if you notice changes in your appetite. Cold weather tends to make people feel hungrier. The body processes food quicker when it is chilly, therefore making you feel hungrier. Food equals calories which in turn keeps you warmer.
Don't get hard on yourself if you find yourself rummaging around the kitchen for food. It was tough for our ancient ancestors to survive cold weather. Therefore, there is a biological urge to forage for food in anticipation of extreme conditions.
The other reasons for a boost in appetite may be more psychological in nature. When you are inside for long periods of time, it's tempting to reach for comfort in the form of grilled cheese, hot tomato soup, and warm casseroles. These comfort foods often tap into early childhood memories! Here are some tips to follow during the cold weather.
1) Buy "Just Enough." Consumers tend to purchase more food right before snow storms and extreme weather conditions. Therefore, you may have a surplus of available food to snack on while waiting out the weather. If you feel the urge to cook or bake, use this time to cook meals you can store in the freezer and pop out on a day when you need a quick meal.
2) Drink Up. Hot beverages can go a long way in warming up your body as well as preventing comfort eating. Stock up on hot tea, warm cider, sugar free cocoa and coffee. Stir with a cinnamon stick.
3) Chicken Noodle Soup. If you tend to reach for soothing food on cold days, a study published in the journal of Psychological Science found an association between chicken noodle soup and feelings of comfort. The good news is that chicken noodle soup has many nutritious benefits and tastes great on a chilly day.
4) Layer Up. Warm up by layering clothing, cocooning in a blanket, sitting next to a fireplace or taking a hot shower. Thirty minutes of indoor movement, an active game or exercise equipment can also help to keep your body warmer and prevent you from feeling hungrier.
5) Be Mindful of Comfort Eating. Before you eat, ask yourself if you are really hungry or not. If you think you are emotionally eating, try distraction or connecting with someone by email or phone. For those who do end up digging into comfort foods, eat mindfully! Savor each bite slowly.
To learn more about comfort eating and to take the Mindful Eating Pledge, go to www.facebook.com/eatdrinkmindful and www.eatq.com
Dr. Susan Albers is a psychologist and author of six books on mindful eating including her latest, EatQ (HaperOne, 2013), Eating Mindfully and 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without Food. She is frequently quoted in Shape, Fitness, Self, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and other publications. She was a guest on the Dr. Oz TV Show.