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November 2009
Combating the Pre-Hibernation Mode of Winter
Dr Sreedevi Yadavalli
It happens every year around this time. As winter approaches, everyone begins to get into that pre-hibernation mode, storing extra fat for the cold months ahead.

The string of festivals that herald this season only lend excuse to guzzling calorie-rich foods and drinks, sleeping in some more in the mornings, cocooning in the evenings and skipping workouts because there's just no time to spare from the alreadyjam-packed festivities that barely allow intermittent time to plan for some more festivities. No wonder as the New Year comes in, our first resolutions are about regaining the fitness we've nearly squandered! But of course there's a way to make this entire process easier.

You could begin by eating smart – just take a cue from our recipes in this issue. You also need to keep your fitness ethic going while everyone around you is succumbing to the many temptations of losing theirs, though that's easier said than done. After all, it isn't easy to keep fitness habits on track, given all the peer pressures, time pressures and family pressures to just eat, drink, be merry and hang out with family and friends every other week during the festive season.

For those of you who are attempting to stay healthy, happy and fit this time of the year, take heart when your friends deride you for being the lone warrior. In January, when you're still a bundle of pep and your buddies are just about beginning to drag their pudgy selves into the gym, you will thank yourself for your choices.

Physical activity combats food craving, and helps you eat healthy. This is because exercise increases serotonin levels in the blood. When serotonin receptors in the brain get stimulated with more serotonin, appetite decreases and cravings for inappropriate, carbohydrate-rich foods such as sweets are decreased. Although there is still much to learn about serotonin, it is clear from research to date that it is one of the most powerful neurotransmitters in the brain. This 'feel good' brain chemical or neurotransmitter regulates sleep, reduces pain and appetite, and generally calms you down and improves your mood.

In winter, when there's less sunlight and exercise, our serotonin levels tend to get lower. Relish your fitness routine – more so in the winter months – it's your best bet to combat winter weight gain and feel good about yourself.

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