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How to Stop Winter Weight Gain

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How to Stop Winter Weight Gain? This is a tricky one indeed. Winter weight gain is a common complaint of many people. It seems that every winter we add a few pounds, and come summer we plan on losing them, but we almost never lose all of them. A few of them always stick around, making us just a little bit heavier every year. Over time this contributes to long term weight gain.

What’s up with this???

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Why do you gain weight in the winter? Reasons Why We Gain Weight

History/Genetics leads to winter weight gain

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.

But people, we live in modern times!  Unless you live on a homestead in Alaska, it’s probably not necessary for you to store fat through the winter.  Remember that!

Hormone Levels can effect winter 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.

In the cold winter months, people generally feel low, and maybe even depressed.  The word for this occurrence is “Seasonal Affective Disorder.

This can be caused by hormone changes due to lack of sunlight, vitamin D, or stress. When we feel depressed or stressed, our bodies crave high carbohydrates to raise our blood sugar and give us a short term “high”.  So people who feel low in the winter will tend to overeat or eat the wrong foods, leading to winter weight gain, more depression and a vicious cycle that is hard to break.

The Holidays Can Cause Winter Weight Gain

Holiday parties with open bars, buffets, and Christmas cookies are amazing, but if you attend many of them, you may be unintentionally overeating. Week after week, the winter can often find us with friends and family, indulging in sweets, alcohol, and large dinners. Weight gain is sure to follow.

“Comfort Foods” Can Cause Winter Weight Gain

Our culture associates rich, high calorie foods with cold weather. Soups, chili, casseroles, and desserts are abundant in the winter time. We even crave them at this time. Regularly eating exactly what we are craving can be a problem.

woman outside in a winter coat

So What Can We Do about Winter Weight Gain? How To Avoid Winter Weight Gain

A Healthy diet, Vitamin D Supplements, good self care, Seasonal Affective Disorder treatments and an awareness of your mood can all help you break this cycle.

Lifestyle Tips for Avoiding Winter Weight Gain

Fight Food Cravings: Substitute cravings for carbs, sweets, and fats with healthy alternatives, such as complex carbs (quinoa, brown rice, sweet potato, etc.), fruit, and high fiber veggies and beans. Stock your kitchen with healthy options so that you’ll be able to make good choices when you need to.

Eat First: When it comes to holiday parties, it’s always best to eat before you go. Feed yourself a healthy and filling meal before you go to the party, so you’ll be less likely to snack on cookies and chips all night. While at parties, look for the healthy options, and eat those first. Try to find fresh vegetables or lean meats.

Take Supplements: Vitamin D comes to mind as one of the more important supplements that people need in the Winter. It’s been shown to reduce the depression that some feel in the darker months and boost the immune system. Extra fiber and water in your daily diet can also help.

Exercise more:  Physical activity levels drop in the winter, particularly in places where it’s cold outside.  When you feel like snuggling up on your couch for the night, do a 30 minute workout first.  Again, the desire to stay home and rest in the winter is an evolutionary one.  We are not cavemen!  We don’t need to save our energy for spring.

Read more about how Exercise can improve your mental health.

Get More Sleep: Sleeping enough is one of the biggest ways to improve your overall health. When you’re well rested, you’ll be better able to make good choices surrounding diet and exercise and your body will be better able to use the nutrients in the food you eat. Good sleep will also have a positive effect on your mental health.

Mental Health Tips for Avoiding Winter Weight Gain

Address Depression or S.A.D.: Treatment is available for seasonal effective disorder, including medication, and talk therapy. Talk to your doctor about how you’re feeling, and ask for their recommendation.

Are you Stress Eating? Binge Eating?: Again, only a doctor or therapist can really identify if your weight gain is being caused by irregular eating patterns. If you feel like you may have disordered eating, please seek their help.

I am going to try really hard to remember all of this over the holiday season this year.  Do you have any tips for keeping the weight off during the winter?  I’d love to hear about them in the comments!


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