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Forget the winter blues, beware the winter munchies

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My wife says that she always knows when we will have a very cold winter.  The way she determines this is by noticing the animals – especially squirrels and foxes – will start eating more and fatten themselves up before the full force of winter comes.

Of course, my wife comes from the forests in Sweden, so she had a lot of time on her hands observing animals.

However, there is a lot of truth to that.  But does this fattening up process also apply to humans? The answer is ‘Yes.’  We tend to eat more in the cold weather months.

Some researchers even think this is part of our primitive impulses, just like many other animals have.  Studies have been done to test this, and one in particular tracked people who ate season to season.  It turned out that as the winter days wore on, people were consuming more calories.

Of course, this increase in calorie intake makes us ideal candidates to gain weight during the winter and fall prey to all the advertising for summer diets and getting in shape for beach season.

However, I do have a theory that has a little bit more to do with the way our brains function in the winter.  Many people suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) during the winter season, which can significantly affect your mood increasing feelings of sadness, depression or even lethargy.  All of these feelings can act as a trigger, leading some folks to compulsive eating.

Whether or not we’re storing fat for the winter or have some primitive impulse to eat more, we need to pay better attention to what we’re eating. Because if you started your winter with a few extra pounds like me, it’s time to start cutting back.

Dr. Manny Alvarez serves as Fox News Channel's Senior Managing Editor for Health News. Prior to this position, Alvarez was a FNC medical contributor.
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