After working hard in preparation for summer, many people abandon their diet and workout regimen during the winter. However, it is not just your everyday routine that causes the winter weight gain.
Studies show that people can gain as much as 5 pounds during the holiday season. I spoke to Isaac Robertson, a fitness expert from TotalShape.com, who reveals the 8 reasons behind winter weight gain and gives advice on how to stay healthy and active during the cold months.
Reasons Behind the Winter Weight Gain
Although we don’t hibernate through the whole winter like bears, our bodies are preparing for the colder season. As our ancestors had no way of knowing how long the winter would last, they tended to stock up on calories and nutrients.
Experts claim that even today, we consume as much as 200 additional calories a day during the winter.
2. Too much sleep
The shorter days and the lack of sun during the winter actually affect our hormone production. Specifically, we tend to produce more melatonin, a hormone our body produces in response to darkness and tells it it’s time to sleep.
Less sunny hours means more melatonin, meaning we feel sleepy during the winter. Additionally, increased melatonin levels can cause an increase in appetite.
3. The holidays
We all know that the best part of the holiday season is the food. Unfortunately, it is easy to enjoy the festive meals too much and lose track of just how many calories you’re consuming.
Moreover, those holiday drinks are a major source of hidden calories; in addition to alcohol, which is in itself high in calories, we add other fat and calorie-rich ingredients to the festive cocktails. In addition, experts claim that alcohol slows down your metabolism by a staggering 73%.
4. Metabolism increase
In order to keep us warm during the cold months, the body boosts our metabolism to produce more energy. Unfortunately, this usually leads to an increase in appetite as well, as we have to make up for the lost energy and calories. This can lead to your food cravings skyrocketing.
5. Comfort foods
There is nothing better on a cold day than a hearty hot meal. Pasta, stews, and roasts are popular comfort foods during the winter as our body craves something hot to warm itself up.
Also, consuming food produces warmth through metabolism, and that is especially the case when the food is high in calories.
6. Lack of motivation to exercise
When it’s cold and dark outside, it is much more appealing to reach for comfort foods than it is to go out for a run. Excuses to avoid exercise are much easier to find during the winter.
7. Lack of fresh produce
Due to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables during the winter months, we are much more likely to reach for packaged snacks and store-bought meals. These are often full of processed foods and very poor in vitamins and minerals contained in fresh fruits and vegetables.
It is not uncommon to develop SAD during the winter months. The lack of sunlight, which plays a very important role in regulating our mood, can lead to SAD, or Seasonal Affective Disorder. This is why you may feel more depressed and melancholic during the winter.
How to Avoid the Winter Weight Gain
1. Stay active
Even though it’s difficult, try to stay active during the winter. If you enjoy running or walking, try out the machines at the gym, or, if you enjoy outdoor sports, find some winter sports that seem fun to you, like ice skating or skiing.
2. Don’t graze
Spending a lot of time indoors without much to keep you busy can lead to an increase in snacking. To avoid this, try setting boundaries for yourself, whether it is portion size control or a specific snack time.
3. Watch the alcohol
It is easy to get carried away with alcohol during the holiday festivities, but, as previously mentioned, cocktails are rich in calories.
You can either find alternative drinks that contain fewer calories or try to keep track of how many glasses of eggnog you’re having. Also, drink lots of water between your cocktail glasses to keep you from drinking too much.
4. Keep your meals loaded with whole foods
Make sure all your meals are filled with protein, such as steak or chicken, and that there are plenty of vegetables on your plate.
These types of meals keep you feeling full for longer, which means you are less likely to binge later or snack between meals. It is very important not to skip meals, as it can also lead to binging.
5. Limit your sugar intake
When consuming sugar, our insulin levels spike, which leads to an increase in appetite. To avoid this, you should limit your intake of sweets, sugary drinks, and processed foods.
Fitness expert Robertson concludes: “Because they think it is not completely sustainable, people often let loose and abandon their diet and exercise routine during the winter.
You shouldn’t completely abandon your lifestyle during the cold months, but only adjust it to the new circumstances. Hopping on a treadmill instead of going on a long walk is a valid replacement if you don’t like the cold.
Keeping the bits and pieces of your routine and making the necessary adjustments, instead of completely giving up on it, makes it easier to get back to it after the winter.
Additionally, keeping active and watching what you eat during the winter can help balance out the hormone production affected by the cold and dark days.”