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The #1 Reason You Gain Weight In Winter

Posted on: by Women's Health
weight gain

Adventure Boot Camp’s registered dietician, Kim Hofmann, dispels the myth around winter weight gain…

Is there any #1 reason you gain weight in winter? While there are numerous small changes we make that ups our odds of gaining extra kilos, there does seem to be one major reason that stands out from the rest. Read on for the low-down…

It is normal to gain weight during winter?

Gaining weight in winter should not be normal, but it does seem to happen for many people, therefore probably making it the norm! Our body functions in the same way in summer and winter, what changes is how we feel, what we do, what we eat etc.

Why do I gain weight in winter and then lose it in summer?

People tend to gain weight in winter because they exercise less, eat more comfort foods and eat bigger portions. Also, because we wear more clothes, it’s often not as noticeable or we feel we can hide it! In summer, when it gets hot and we start wearing less clothing, people become aware of the weight gain and often go on quick-fix diets to lose weight. It also seems easier in summer as we are able to eat less heavy foods (more fruit, yoghurts, salads etc.) and portions tend to be smaller too.

Who is most prone to gaining weight during winter?

There is no literature on who actually eats more in winter. I think generally people eat more and therefore gain weight. One part of the answer is those women that are emotional eaters. This means that when they feel more emotional, they tend to go to food for comfort. Winter is an especially ’emotional’ time as we see less of the sun and therefore some people suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or otherwise known as ‘winter blues’ or ‘winter depression’ with symptoms of appetite increase, carbohydrate craving, weight gain and increased sleeping rather than decreased appetite and insomnia. Also, because we are colder during this time we often want to eat to warm up – by eating our bodies need to digest the food and this would increase your body temperature slightly.

Is there a chemical reaction in the brain that increases our appetite in colder weather?

The only theories in brain chemical changes in winter apply to SAD patients, but this may give an indication of changes that generally occur in winter. Melatonin is secreted in response to darkness, so there is more melatonin around in winter when the nights are longer than the days. Patients with SAD have greater seasonal fluctuations in their melatonin rhythm. In some cases, low serotonin activity may contribute to the symptoms of SAD. Another possible link is altered tryptophan responses. The symptoms of SAD could also be low levels of dopamine and/or norepinephrine in the brain.

What food should I choose to stock up on during winter?

It’s important to remember that summer and winter eating need to be different in terms of what foods you choose. Generally, we crave warmer foods such as soups, stews, curries and casseroles. If made with little or no oil and eaten in reasonable portion sizes, these foods are perfect to eat. If you are struggling to eat fruit, stew or microwave it to make it more suitable to the season. Similarly with your cereal, have it with warm milk or make yourself porridge, so that you can have a delicious and comforting start to your day. As long as you remain conscious of your portion sizes, your weight should not shift this winter! With respect to exercising, if you continue exercising at the same intensity then you can continue eating the quantities you were, but if you decrease your exercise you will need to decrease your portions as well, so it would be in your best interest to stay exercising.

Remember that exercising through winter will keep the winter blues away! Visit www.adventurebootcamp.co.za or call 021 447 2746.

To get more tips from Kim Hofmann, registered dietician for Adventure Boot Camp please contact her on kimh.rd@mweb.co.za or call her on 021 674 4666 or view her website here!

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