Worrisome Winter Weight Gain: Myths, Facts and Prevention

It begins at Thanksgiving but lingers throughout the coming months. Then, when it’s finally warm enough to wear short sleeves or shorts, you notice it: the weight. Most of the time, it’s not a lot. According to most studies, it’s about a pound or two for the normal weight American and up to five pounds for those who are overweight or obese. But it’s enough to put a damper in your wardrobe and your day, to say the least.

On the other end of the spectrum, one, two or five pounds may not bother you that much – especially if you tend to lose it during the summer. But if you typically don’t lose the weight, it can be a problem. One or two pounds won’t affect you in the present, but it will in the future. Twenty years of gaining weight incrementally can still lead to heart disease, type II diabetes and other health ailments.

The Science of Winter Weight Gain

Foremost, it’s not just Americans who over indulge around the holidays – it’s a global phenomenon. Scientists, doctors and psychologists have figured out that winter weight gain is more than a physiological process. It’s not just your metabolism slowing down to store more fat; it’s your subconscious driving you to eat more. According to Dr. Andrew Higginson, our bodies have a target weight they biologically programmed to achieve and maintain in the winter months. This is why we easily gain weight, but it’s hard to lose.

Social pressures, stress, broken routines and emotional associations with holiday meals also make winter weight control difficult. We tend to eat when others are eating and most of the time, we even eat the same amount as others.

Preventing the Weight Gain

Since we know how difficult it is to lose the weight, the best course of action is prevention. Here are a few tips to offset your holiday hunger:

  1. Make realistic eating strategies. Eating a sugar cookie or piece of pie here and there isn’t going to undo your diet. It’s when you give up on your diet after one slip-up because you think your one cookie ruined everything. So don’t be so hard on yourself; allow some wiggle room.
  2. Open your blinds to let in light. Less daylight equates to less energy, so combat this fatigue by opening your curtains! You’re more likely to work out and move if you’re energized.
  3. Don’t let yourself get hungry. Staying properly satiated throughout a gathering prevents you from overeating. So, don’t starve yourself all day in anticipation for a large meal to try and offset calories. You’ll just ingest them anyways.

Most importantly, remember what the holidays are about: family, friends and love. It’s not about the meals. This is all easier said than done, of course. But taking the right precautions in the holiday season can help you down the road when it comes to your overall health.

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