Weight gain in the winter is a common complaint of many people. We seem to add a few pounds every winter, and we don’t lose them all in the summer either. A few of them stick around forever, making us put on a little bit of weight every year. They seem to be very difficult to shed extra pounds! Why is this happening and what can we do?
There are many factors that contribute to this. First, it seems likely that we have a genetic predisposition to store more fat as winter approaches. Many animals do this and it was probably vital for our ancestors to survive. Extra fat layers on the body protect us from the cold and can then be used as fuel in late winter and early spring, when food supplies would be very low historically. We probably tend to eat more in the fall, when food is plentiful after harvest time, to aid this process. At this point, we can also unconsciously choose foods with a higher fat content.
Hormone levels can also affect our weight gain. The interaction of hormones and other brain chemicals can cause variations in appetite and cravings. Some neurotransmitters can also affect the way we eat. Overweight people often have low levels of these neurotransmitters and the results can include excessive appetite, depression, and sleep disturbances. At the same time, the lack of daylight due to the shorter days in late autumn and winter can lead to seasonal disturbances or winter depressions. One of the fastest ways to boost energy levels and emotions is to eat carbohydrate-rich foods, including sugar treats, chips and cereals that give us a quick ‘fix’ of blood sugar. So people who feel low in the winter will tend to overeat or eat the wrong foods, leading to weight gain, more depression, and a vicious cycle that is difficult to break.
So, all in all, there are many reasons why we eat more carbohydrate-rich foods in the winter, such as cookies, pies and chocolate, and of course most of these foods are also high in fat. Generally, the best way to deal with this is to replace other foods that are also high in carbohydrates so that we get what our bodies crave, but are low in fat and high in fiber. This means potatoes, whole grain bread without butter, whole grain rice, cereal and fresh fruit.
It is also important to exercise more. Often times, our physical activity levels drop in the winter and we tend to want to stay at home and rest. This is of course when it is cold outside. But we are not cavemen! We have heating in our homes and can be sure that there will still be enough food in the shops in February. We don’t have to store the fat like they did. Sign up at a gym or buy an exercise bike for the den. Transform those carbs into energy now instead of keeping them on the waistline until spring. In this way, weight gain in winter is easy to avoid.