The winter can be an extremely difficult time for dieters. In fact, most of us gain a pound per winter. And while this may not sound like a lot, those who gain during the coldest months typically keep the extra weight on and add more over time. Over the long run, this helps explain why our weight tends to creep up as we age, despite an active lifestyle.
Several factors are to blame for winter weight gain, but the cold weather is the No.1 factor. When temperatures drop, we tend to stay inside. Our metabolisms slow to a crawl and we pack on the pounds. Additionally, during the winter, we forgo low-calorie snacks for prepackaged, high-fat delights like chips, sweets and high carbohydrate comfort foods, which make us feel better.
Biology plays a role
Our body tries to hang onto the extra insulation (fat) during the colder months because traditionally, being able to keep warm with those few extra pounds helped keep us alive. The hormone CCK tells the brain when we’re full, but in fall and winter it’s suppressed, making us want to eat more. Research also shows that a slight increase in weight increases immune function as well. Although we now have other ways to protect ourselves such as indoor heating and plenty of warm clothing, nature still works to protect us with the extra weight during the colder months.
How to Fight it
The good news is you can keep the winter weight gain at bay – try these simple tips:
- Get Some Sun
Too little sunlight can trigger cravings for high-calorie, fatty carbs like cakes, cookies, ice cream and chips. This is because diminished sunlight in winter reduces the brain’s production of serotonin, the mood-boosting brain chemical that helps suppress food cravings and overeating. Because we don’t get as much sun exposure in the winter, our serotonin levels tend to plunge, and cravings kick in to combat the blues.
- Catch Your Zs
If you’re still having trouble losing weight even though you’re doing everything right, hitting the snooze button may help. In a decade long study, Canadian researchers found that men who reported getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night were 16.5 pounds lighter than those who said they only caught five or six hours of shuteye nightly. Women who got a full night’s sleep were more than 11 pounds thinner than those who didn’t.
- Plan to Eat Right
Eat regular meals and don’t skip meals. Starving yourself during the day inevitably leads to “feasting” or overeating at night. Anytime you allow yourself to get too hungry, it’s easy to overindulge. Increase the fiber in your diet to between 25 and 30 grams per day because it fills you up and has zero calories.
- Drink Enough Water
We often mistake hunger for thirst – especially in winter when drinking enough water can be a real challenge. Make sure you set yourself a goal for your water intake and keep that water bottle handy throughout the winter months.
- Eat More Soup
Eat more soup to stay full longer. Those who eat soup before meals consume about 100 less calories than those who don’t. Researchers are not sure why, but one possible conclusion is that when water is incorporated into food (as opposed to drinking it straight), your stomach empties more slowly and keeps you feeling full longer on fewer calories.
- Think Before You Drink
There’s nothing like a piping hot beverage to warm you up — or pack on the pounds. Fancy coffee shop drinks can add several hundred calories to your diet. In fact, sipping a Starbucks Grande Cafe Mocha will cost you more than 360 calories. Opt instead for low calorie basics like regular coffee, a low-cal hot chocolate or tea.
Follow these tips during the winter months and you can combat the winter weight gain and remain slim and trim for spring.
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