Winter weight gain is common in everyday discourse, and it is a widely held belief that during the colder months, piling on the pounds is much more likely. However, there is some evidence to suggest that this is an old wives' tale rather than a fact. Read on to find out the facts concerning weight gain in winter.
It Is Not as Extreme as People Think
One study conducted in 2000 aimed to confirm or debunk the common perception that American adults gain from five to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. In fact, it was found that the average weight gain was around a pound. It is true that this study took place a number of years ago, but the evidence is strong enough to debunk. Unfortunately, the implication of this research is that if you gain weight during winter, it is a result of lifestyle choices, and not the fault of the cold weather.
It Is Natural to Gain Weight in Order to Keep Warm: Not True
This oft-cited nugget of wisdom makes intuitive sense, but there is in fact no scientific evidence to back it up. There are some animals - usually hibernators - that are biologically programmed to gain weight when it's cold, humans don't. Experts suggest keeping to your healthy-eating plan even throughout the winter, as gaining weight over these months is bad for your overall health, and it will be harder to lose come spring.
Melatonin Makes the Body Want to Eat More
The increased desire for unhealthy snack foods during winter has less to do with biological programming and far more to do with the lack of light affecting melatonin levels. Primarily, this hormone affects sleeping patterns, but it can also alter appetite. Presence of melatonin usually results in tiredness, and light normally suppresses production so that the body doesn't fall asleep during the day. However, during winter, there is less light, and therefore, production of melatonin is increased, the natural side effects being an increased appetite and a craving for carbohydrates.
Lack of Vitamin D Can Increase Weight
Vitamin D is responsible for the absorption of fat, so people with less of this nutrient are more likely to weigh more. As the human body needs sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, the winter months can make many deficient and thus more susceptible to weight gain due lack of vitamins. The good news is that can be easily offset by healthy food choices and physical activity.
Many people blame their weight on the weather and feel that winter weight gain is unavoidable. However, this is not true; although the weather has some part to play in appetite and fat stores, it is the lifestyle choices that it is tempting to make over the holiday period that are often to blame. Any biological reason for increased weight gain is negligible and can be easily overridden by good habits to avoid weight gain.
- BUPA. (2014). Managing Your Weight in Winter. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.bupa.com.au/health-and-wellness/health-information/az-health-information/managing-your-weight-in-winter
- National Institutes of Health. (2000). Holiday Weight Gain Slight, But May Last A Lifetime. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://www.nih.gov/news/pr/mar2000/nichd-22.htm
- Office of Dietary Supplements. (2014). Vitamin D. Retrieved November 10, 2014, from http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/