During the holiday season, everyone gains a pound or two. And that’s not just because of the Christmas cookies. It turns out there are several reasons why we gain weight during the colder months from our hormones to a lack of exercise.
That being said, here’s what could be causing your winter weight gain and why you don’t need to sweat those extra calories this Christmas.
Why do we gain weight in the winter?
Many of us put on weight around the holidays that we can blame on comfort foods. But there are actually a few other fascinating scientific reasons behind why we tend to gain weight during the winter months.
Surprisingly, not all of them have to do with gingerbread men:
- Your instincts are kicking in. According to Moodi Dennaoui, a dietitian, we often eat an additional 200 calories a day during the winter. Our instincts to stock up on calories, Dennaoui says, come from the innate fear of not being able to source the nutrients we need once food becomes scarce in winter.
- Your hormones are boosting your appetite. The U.S. holds up to 45% of the global pharmaceutical market and many people use melatonin pills or gummies to help them sleep. But during the winter months, your body produces more melatonin because there’s less sunlight. Melatonin also boosts your appetite, which means we’re eating more and moving less.
- We’re less likely to exercise. Shorter days and colder weather are some of the most common reasons why many folks give up their exercise routine once winter comes. It can be even trickier to keep up with physical fitness when you don’t have a gym membership and you rely on jogging for cardio.
What can I do to combat winter weight gain?
Now that you know the truth behind winter weight gain and why you might have a tougher time buttoning up your pants come spring, you can feel more prepared to get back into shape.
Here are a few ways you can reduce winter weight gain this season:
- Take up indoor exercise. It’s important to keep your body moving all year long, especially considering six out of 10 Americans over the age of 55 will be managing a chronic condition in the next 10 years. If jogging in the snow isn’t on your list of fun activities, consider taking up an indoor exercise or sport. Swimming, for instance, is considered the fourth most popular recreational activity and the fourth most popular sport in the United States. Aerobics, yoga, dance, and kickboxing are also great indoor exercises for winter.
- Make those extra calories healthy. As we said above, we tend to eat an additional 200 calories during the winter season. In fact, up to 275 million people eat out at a restaurant at least once a year. The next time you go out to dinner, consider ordering something that’s not only warm but also good for you like butternut squash or chickpea curry.
- Avoid fad diets. You might be tempted to indulge in some of the latest fad diets to shed off your winter weight, but stay away from the trends. Diets aren’t sustainable. Instead, focus on eating a balanced diet that’s high in whole foods and low in preservatives. Avoid multivitamins, too. While 50% of a vitamin you take will still be absorbed, research shows that taking multivitamins without the supervision of a doctor could actually be more harmful than helpful.
Winter weight gain happens to everyone. Don’t stress the weight and don’t deprive your body of the vitamins and nutrients it needs. Be kind and gentle to yourself while easing yourself back into your healthy, daily routine.