Do you notice the number on the scale creep up during the grey in months between the holidays and spring? You’re not alone. Many of us bemoan dreaded winter weight gain around this time of year. But contrary to popular belief, there’s no scientific evidence to prove that we’re biologically predisposed to weight gain in the colder months. Unless you’re a bear, that is. “We do know that in [hibernating] animals there will be seasonal changes in hunger hormones, but there really is nothing to suggest that that’s true in people,” says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Institute in Ottawa.
That being said, our behaviour in colder months may lead to winter weight gain for some of us. Here’s why:
We over eat during the holidays
Remember all those heavy meals and finger foods you consumed during the holiday season? The evidence may be sticking around long after the celebrating has stopped. Research shows that we tend to gain one or two pounds between late November and early January. That may be a lot less than you thought you’d gained eating Grandma’s stuffing, but studies also suggest that we often don’t lose that weight year after year. “It may be that when spring comes around, you see a few more pounds on the scale than you saw the year before.”
We feel down over the winter months
Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that typically affects people over the winter, may cause sufferers to eat more when it’s cold and dark. “We know that food itself is a comfort as far as mood goes, because it actually impacts the same circuitry of the brain as drugs do. So people use food medicinally to make themselves feel better,” Those who struggle with their mood in the winter may find themselves consuming more high-calorie comfort foods at this time of year. If you sufer rom SAD, seeking professional help is recommended.
We’re less active in the winter
This certainly isn’t true for everybody – winter sports enthusiasts may actually become more active during this season. But if you’d rather curl up under a blanket than hit the slopes when the temperature drops, you may be more sedentary during the winter months.
If you are prone to winter weight gain, fear not – consciously changing your behaviour during this time of year can help ward off those extra pounds.
How do you stay active during the cold months?