*contains affiliate links* Many people who live in areas with cold winters gain weight in the winter. If you track your weight, you may find that it’s harder to lose weight in the colder months. This is neither your fault nor a myth. Most people, even those of normal weight, gain a few pounds when the weather turns cold. However, it is possible to avoid gaining weight in the winter.
To do this, we must first understand what causes winter weight gain. There are two main factors. The first is a biological predisposition that is embedded in our genes to help us survive in cold climates. Our bodies are simply programmed to store more fat as winter approaches. And we’re not the only ones. Most animals do this, too.
When you think about it, it’s easy to understand why. More fat means more protection from the cold and more stored nutrients for the body to access when food is hard to find during the winter months. Our bodies don’t know that we can go to a store and buy polar winter clothing and all the food we need no matter what the weather is like outside.
In primitive societies, there was always plenty of food in the fall when nuts, fruits, and grains are ripe. It is only logical that we feel hungrier at this time and crave “warming” carbohydrate-rich foods that can be easily converted to fat and stored for late winter and spring when plant foods are hard to find.
A second factor that can lead to winter weight gain is the hormonal changes caused by shorter days. These changes affect our eating habits as winter approaches.
It is known that less natural light can lead to depression and lack of energy (SAD or seasonal affective disorder). Most people who are overweight tend to eat more when they feel low. We also turn to foods (especially refined carbohydrates like chips, chocolate, cakes, or white bread) for a quick energy boost when we feel tired. These foods cause blood sugar fluctuations that lead to further lows and cravings.
Understanding all of this makes it much easier to avoid winter weight gain. We naturally tend to eat more and eat the wrong foods during this time of year. We can’t expect to fight a biological need, but we can be mindful of what foods we choose.
It’s okay to eat high-carb foods in the fall if you crave them (and as long as you’re not on a low-carb diet), but be sure to favor whole grains and starchy vegetables over sugar and refined carbohydrates. The fiber in brown rice, whole-grain bread, pumpkin, etc., helps slow absorption and keep blood sugar levels stable.
At the same time, avoid winter weight gain by being careful not to eat unnecessary fats. Don’t slather your whole grain bread or squash thickly with butter, and don’t top your whole grain pasta with a cheese sauce. Opt for low-fat dairy products and use them sparingly.
And, of course, it’s important that we exercise regularly. Prehistoric humans would have exercised much less during the cold winters, but we don’t have to rely on outdoor activities for our fitness. We can go to the gym or set up a stationary bike in the basement. Even if we eat a little more, it doesn’t have to affect our waistline. So we can easily avoid the annoying weight gain in winter.
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