People eat an average of 86 more calories a day in fall than they do in spring, and it’s no surprise: crisp autumn air makes heartier foods more appealing, and fall is the season for food-centered holidays like Halloween and Thanksgiving, leading straight toward Christmas. There are scientific reasons why you crave more substantial food in cooler weather, too: the shorter days and long, dark nights mean your body and brain are running on low serotonin–the well-known hormone that controls your mood. In cooler weather, your serotonin transporters moves serotonin out of the brain quicker than it does during summer, which means that you will try to compensate by consuming more carbs and flooding your bloodstream with serotonin, inducing a sense of well being, contentment, and relaxation. A few times a season, this can be good (Read: Thanksgiving) but turned into a habit, you can get caught in a vicious cycle of carb cravings and mood swings.
The best way to offset this natural seasonal change is to be mindful of your appetite. Everyone should feel good about enjoying seasonal dishes and holiday gatherings, but a general consciousness and these handy tricks will help you control your cravings and stay slim through the colder seasons.
1. Buy red plates: It was once believed that calming blue suppresses the appetite, and stimulating red enhances it–but it turns out, that’s not the case. A recent study at the University of Parma in Italy tested people’s consumption of food on red, blue, and white plates, and it turns out that red plates had the appetite reducing effect. Another study published in journal Appetite showed a similar result with red, white, and blue cups, and suggested that the color may send a subconscious “Stop” signal to the diner.
2. Go for a run: Ever do an intense workout and actually feel less hungry than before? Working out tends to increase overall energy intake, but not enough to offset the calorie deficit from the workout. Studies also show that running suppresses appetite. So if you have a large family dinner planned, go for a long run beforehand. Then within 30 minutes of your workout, eat a small but protein rich snack like celery with hummus, or a glass of chocolate soy milk.
3. Practice yoga: Yoga and other forms of meditation can calm your anxieties, which reduces the urge to turn to food for psychological comfort. Studies have also shown that yoga can be an effective treatment for binge eating. If you are feeling sad, anxious, or irritable, back away from that coconut ice cream (oh, you know what I’m talking about) and get thee to the yoga studio.
4. Get some sun: All these pesky cravings are related to the lack of sunlight; not only that, our primary source of Vitamin D is sun exposure. According to Dr. Edward Giovannucci at Harvard School of Public Health, modern humans don’t get nearly as much Vitamin D as we need. Eating a breakfast high in Vitamin D has been shown to decrease appetite for 24 hours. High levels of Vitamin D also helps metabolize fat, meaning it will burn energy and store less fat.
5. Eat tryptophan: Tryptophan is a dietary amino acid, which means we have to obtain it through food sources. This necessary protein is one of the molecules needed to make serotonin and melatonin. Here are some tryptophan rich vegan foods: soybeans, spirulina, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, chickpeas, and bananas. Try this Happy Vegan Banana Almond Milkshake for a tryptophan boost–it is also high in magnesium, calcium, and zinc, which are powerful anti-depressants and hormone-regulators.
More in Weight Loss: The Effect of Just One Minute of Exercise on Your Weight
Diet Myth: Eating Breakfast Helps You Lose Weight