Why We Gain Weight in Winter

Winter pounds got you down?

December hits and every magazine cover has: 5 ways to keep those holiday pounds off!  Beat Winter Weight Gain! Winter Weight Gain Blues…. You get the idea.

All these magazines have us believing that everyone gains 5 to 10 pounds over the holidays, that’s its perfectly acceptable as long as we hit the gym come January.  That its evolutionary we need the extra weight in the winter just hide it under a cute chunky sweater and come spring the weight is shed with that overcoat.  I’m here to call bull@$!*.  That’s right!  Winter weight gain is NOT a thing we need.  It’s NOT evolutionary.  It’s not something that happens to everyone.

A study done in 2000 indicated that the actual average weight gain hovers between ½ and 2 pounds for the year.

True or False

A look at common statements related to winter weight gain.

Hibernation?  Winter Survival?

Actually no!  This is a misconception that we gain weight in winter for survival.  Humans did not need to hibernate as we originated along the equator in climates that held a steady temperature year long.   By the time we began colonizing colder regions of the world we had evolved enough to build shelter and use fire for warmth.

Yes early humans living in the northern hemisphere did stock pile food for winter; this was mostly the same items we store today, such as root crops.  No they did not over eat to stock pile fat.  Game animals were hunted all year round with the furs being used to make warm clothing and bedding.  If we look to other mammals we see that they lose weight in winter and gain it in summer months to be used as fuel for winter.  Keeping the body warm requires a higher expenditure of energy.

People were active during the day!  The human body is designed so that it self regulates temperature.  Feed it, cloth it, keep active and the body stays warm and weight stays constant.

Weight Gain is Related to SAD

Seasonal Affective Disorder is not as rampant as we are led to believe; about 2% of adults 18-50 are affected by SAD, with numbers drastically declining past 50.  As with any form of depression weight gain or loss is personal.  Some people eat when stressed or depressed where others avoid food.  A problem comes in determining why people are depressed.  No one study can determine whether the depression is caused by weight gain or if the weight gain causes depression; thus we cannot claim gain is caused by SAD or any other form of depression.

One thing we know for sure is that Ennui (a lowered level of happiness, caused by the cold, wet and dark days of winter) is caused in part by a lack of vitamin D.  By supplementing and getting outside we can reduce this reaction to the shorter days of winter.

Get outside, supplement the diet with Vitamin D, and eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables to avoid the effects of ennui. 

Holiday Stress Makes Me Eat More

There is some truth to this statement; stress can induce the want for high fat, sugary foods.  With the holidays come sugary snacks a plenty!  Holiday baking, cookie shares, office parties and friendly gatherings offer up a ton of how-can-I-resist snacks.  This is a mental dilemma, one that we can work through with a bit of practice and will power.

Heading to a gathering?  Eat before you go; preferably a vegie packed meal!  This will help you say no or have just one goodie, instead of a plateful.

Before that company arrives or you head out to a gathering take a moment in a darkened room to breathe.  10 to 20 breaths should do it.  Long and slow, through the nose will help to bring a sense of calm before you head into that storm.


Keep the refrigerator stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables that you can grab on the go.  The more you have prepared the less tempting that drive through will be.  Most importantly remember to take time for yourself to get outside and have some fun.  A little bit of sunshine goes a long way to improving mood.

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