Girl in Winter

Winter Weight Gain: Causes and How to Avoid It

It’s cold out, and that can make weight loss challenging. When that’s combined with the holiday season, it’s easy to see why winter weight gain is so common. Fortunately, it’s possible to counteract that extra weight with some simple tactics.

Holiday Weight Gain Statistics and FAQs

Winter weight gain is actually quite normal. Research shows that people tend to gain a couple pounds between December and January, and there are many ideas as to why this happens. The following questions address some of these ideas.

Does your body store more fat in winter?

One study by the University of Exeter shows that people tend to have more cravings and urges to store up fat during the winter. In this study, they created a computer model showing how people tend to seek more fat during winter months when food would have historically been more scarce. This may lead to extra fat storage.

Is it harder to lose weight in the winter?

Many people have a harder time losing weight in the winter due to the holidays, colder temperatures, shorter daylight hours, etc.

Why do we eat more in winter? Does winter increase a person’s appetite?

It appears to be the case the people eat more calories in the winter. Much of it is cultural—we tend to seek warmer (and often fattier) foods during colder months.

How much weight do people gain on average during winter?

On average, people gain 1-2 pounds during the winter, most of which occurs during the month of December. Some weight loss may occur in January, but the extra pounds often add up year after year.

Common Causes of Winter Weight Gain

Looking into the causes of winter weight gain, here are some of the most common reasons why losing weight may be harder during colder months.

Survival State

The first reason relates to the statistics mentioned above. With colder weather comes some of our evolutionary survival impulses, including increased food cravings and a desire to use less energy. This can make it harder to be active and eat healthy.

Holiday Season

The holiday season has an obvious impact on healthy eating habit. Heavy meals and holiday drinking are common, and those can add more calories to your diet.

Harder to Exercise

With cold weather and less daylight, getting outside for a run can be mentally challenging. As a result, people tend to exercise less during the winter months.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Finally, the lack of sunlight often leads to seasonal affective disorder (SAD, also called seasonal depression). SAD can make it harder to motivate yourself to get up and exercise or refrain from unhealthy grazing during the day.

How to Avoid Winter Weight Gain

While it can be harder to avoid gaining weight in the winter, it’s not impossible. Sometimes, you just need to change up your tactics a little. Here are some simple ways to lose weight in the winter.

Consistent Simple Habits

New Year’s frequently brings a surge in dramatic weight loss efforts. However, drastic spikes in dieting and exercise are not usually sustainable. Subtle changes to your routines have a better chance of becoming lasting habits than immediate cold-turkey tactics. Find one or two things to change, and work on those.

Find Recipes You Like

Healthy eating doesn’t have to be miserable! Find wholesome recipes that you’ll enjoy and incorporate those into your regular meals. Doing so can make dieting a little easier. Prioritize protein when choosing recipes, since protein helps you feel more satisfied after eating.

Find Fun Indoor Workout Routines

To keep the cold weather from deterring you from working out, find ways to exercise inside. Squats, lunges, jumping jacks, and low-impact weight training can help you get some physical activity without having to face the cold.

Make the Outdoors Fun!

If you still need to get some more aerobic exercise, find fun ways to be active outside! If you have snow, consider a snowball fight or sledding. Don’t have snow? Play yard games with the family. By making it fun, it’ll be easier to jump into it.

Get on a Sleep Schedule

A key to combatting seasonal depression and keeping energy levels up is getting plenty of rest. To do that, set a strict time to get to bed, and keep yourself to it. In most cases, 7-9 hours is about right.

More Ways to Combat Winter Weight Gain

In addition to the above tips, there are some dieting tactics you can use to maintain weight loss during the winter. To learn more, check out this article on avoiding weight gain during the holidays.

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