It's that time again.
The worst of the winter has subsided and we're all looking optimistically forward to the new season, praying for an early summer. Last year's weather was incredible, let's hope this year will match it! However with this optimism, always comes a sudden, gut-wrenching realisation: summer is coming, but is my summer body actually ready? If you are anything like me, then the answer is mostly like "lol no" followed by a guilty look towards the chocolate drawer.
However this social attitude that expects your body to be "summer ready" before being able to sunbathe is completely backwards. Firstly, because of it's ignorance towards the fact that chocolate is amazing and food in general shouldn't be scrutinised but enjoyed. Secondly, because only letting your skin see the sun once you have reached your "ideal shape" is limiting your vitamin D intake. Plus thirdly, The Sunshine Vitamin could actually help speed up your journey to being "bikini body ready".
It has been known for some time that being overweight is linked to vitamin D deficiency. But can this be furthered? More recently, research has been undertaken to find out whether there is more to the relationship between our weight and vitamin D. Indeed, it has been explained that a person's vitamin D demands differ depending on their size - obese people need more vitamin D in their system to reach the same blood levels as those who aren't. Additionally, it turns out vitamin D can be seen to encourage weight loss:
1. It has the ability to regulate belly fat
2. It increases serotonin levels which control everything from mood and sleep to your appetite
3. It reduces the formation of fat cells
4. It suppresses current fat cells
You're probably now thinking "that doesn't make any sense, how can simply catching a few rays reduce weight loss?". Well, vitamin D is an environmental sensor. Your body judges how to behave by looking at the amount of vitamin D your body is getting - the more vitamin D you absorb, the more your body will believe it's summertime. When you are low in The Sunshine Vitamin, your body presumes it's winter - so you will naturally prepare for winter by craving more food and increasing your fat stores. This is a natural instinct as during winter, food is more likely to be scarce.
So what we see is:
Low vitamin D = body thinks it's winter = fat stored and low serotonin makes you crave more food
High vitamin D = body think it's summer = increased serotonin reduces appetite, fat stores more easily shifted
Wonderful news! But, in reality how does this affect us? The simple answer is, we all need more vitamin D in our lives. As a nation, thanks to the social strains of office jobs and other responsibilities pulling us indoors, we are generally vitamin D deficient. During the summer it's very simple to resolve this: the more time you spend in the sun, the more serotonin you will produce - nothing a BBQ at the weekend won't fix. Not only does this increase of sunshine and serotonin help ward off negative vibes, but you are less likely to overeat as this magic hormone prevents hunger and cravings. However like with everything, in winter this can be a bit more difficult to fix.
There are three main ways of getting vitamin D: diet, supplements and UV exposure. According to the NHS, it's difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, and so to solve this, people will resort to supplements. However supplements can lead to an overdose of vitamin D. Where lacking in this vitamin can be harmful, so can having too much. An overdose of vitamin D can raise the levels of calcium in the blood and affect your heart negatively.
Sissons claims "it is not possible for the body to make too much vitamin D from sun exposure."
The most effective way of absorbing vitamin D is through UV exposure. The UV reacts with your skin, creating The Sunshine Vitamin and kickstarting the production of serotonin. This happens more frequently in summer than in winter for the obvious reason that we lack sun during the colder months (October through March) - so trying to sun worship through autumn and winter in the UK is pointless.
Nevertheless there are still solutions to help get summer ready. Taking the occasional trip to your local tanning salon for a dose of UV exposure wouldn't go amiss*. Or instead, how about we all banish those social expectations of being "bikini ready" when you first greet the sun. As soon as summer hits, peel off the thermals and embrace the rays. Everyone needs a serotonin kick, besides, what even is a summer body? In my eyes, it's a happy one.
* Please note we only recommend the use of sunbeds which comply with EU 0.3 Regulations. This will mean that the UV output of sunbed lamps equates to the strength of the Mediterranean midday sun.