Winter weight gain is a common complaint of many people. It seems that every winter we add a few pounds, and come summer we don’t lose them all again either. A few of them always stick around, making us a little heavier every year. They seem to be very hard to lose extra pounds! Why does this happen and what can we do?
There are many contributing factors. First, it seems likely that we have a genetic disposition to store more fat as winter approaches. Many animals do this and it was probably vital to survival for our ancestors. Extra layers of fat on the body protect us against the cold and then can be used as fuel in the late winter and early spring when food stocks would historically be very low. We probably have a tendency to eat more in the fall, when food is plentiful after harvest time, to help this process along. We may also unconsciously choose foods that are higher in fat content at this time.
Hormone levels can also influence our weight gain. The interaction of hormones and other chemicals in the brain can bring about variations in appetite and cravings. Some neurotransmitters can also influence the way we eat. People who are overweight often have low levels of these neurotransmitters and the results can include excessive appetite, depression and sleep disorders. At the same time, the lack of daylight caused by the shortening days during late fall and winter can bring on seasonally affected disorder or winter depression. One of the quickest ways to give a boost to the energy levels and emotions is to eat high carbohydrate foods including sugar treats, chips and cereals that give us a fast blood sugar ‘fix’. 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 hard to break.
So altogether there are many reasons why we eat more high carbohydrate foods such as cookies, pies and chocolate in the winter, and of course most of these foods also contain high levels of fats. The best way to handle this is generally to substitute other foods that are also high in carbohydrate so that we get what our body craves, but which have low fat content and plenty of fiber. This means potatoes, wholegrain bread without butter, wholegrain rice, cereals, and fresh whole fruit.
It is also important to take more exercise. Often our physical activity levels drop in the winter and we have a tendency to want to stay home and rest. This is natural 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 plenty of food in the stores come February. We do not need to stow fat the way that they did. Sign up with a gym or get a stationary bicycle for the den. Transform those carbs into energy now instead of keeping it on the waistline until spring. Winter weight gain is easily avoidable this way.