Causes & Solutions: Winter Weight Gain
Most people put on a few pounds in the winter. But why? What is it about winter that makes us tip the scales? This is an area often explored between coaches and clients. A lot of people need a coach to help them get on or stay on their health plan.
Let’s look at why:
- It’s cold, and it’s dark.
There is less sunlight, which means folks tend to sleep more, plus it’s harder to get out of bed because it’s cold outside of the covers, but not under them. (My daughter is nearly impossible to rouse!)
Most holiday celebrations revolve around the dinner table. When we’re celebrating, we tend to forget about portion sizes.
Snuggling up with a huge bowl of buttered popcorn, candy, or a huge bowl of some starchy treat is tempting in the evenings when we’re under a blanket enjoying some leisure time that, during warmer and brighter weather, is spent outside or at least in some non-supine position.
- Seasonal Affective Disorder
This is a sad reality for a lot of people, and I’m not trying to be “punny”. It’s depressing that it’s already dark when you get off work. Our bodies are created to cue the internal melatonin factory when the lights go down. Those things work together and create a seasonal phenomenon that results in depression, and could lead to overeating, and other unhealthy choices.
- Treats and drinks
There are more baked goods and sugary treats at the office, at school, and in random places with seasonally- themed candy bowls.
On average, people drink more alcohol during the winter. It is part of the celebratory spirit that led to the cupcake you devoured in record time. I like a hot toddy as much as the next girl, but it’s just not a good decision.
Comfort foods like super cheesy macaroni and sugar cookies are warm and carry a certain nostalgia about them. We reach for them much more often in colder times simply because they are warm and cozy.
- Your Metabolism Is Faster
While this may seem like a good thing, it can actually spark weight gain. When your metabolism zooms, it cues you to eat more so it has more fuel to turn into energy. Your metabolism heats up to help your body stay warm. While it’s doing this, you may be sitting there eating a bowl of warm soup, or a starchy or sugary comfort food treat. Either way, you’re not active, and all that extra fuel won’t be needed for heat generating activity so you pack it on for extra fuel later. (That’s what fat is.)
According to research from The University of Exeter, we are biologically programmed to eat more during the winter. Think of “feast or famine.” When we were hunter-gatherers, food was more scarce in the winter, so we needed fat stores to make it through times of slim pickin’. Since we don’t have to worry about a lack of food in that way, it’s even more important in the winter to be proactive and mindful of your dietary choices.
- All Bundled Up
Who doesn’t love sweater weather? When we pack on layers of clothes, coats, scarves, etc., we lose the visual cues that are evident in warmer weather when we ‘re not wearing full-coverage clothing.
- Less Fresh Produce
Any produce that is available is not the best, and it’s more expensive than during the warmer months, so we buy and eat less. Less produce usually means more carbohydrates and starch.
As a coach, I focus on the future, so let’s move on. To lose weight, most people go on a diet that focuses on deprivation or food avoidance. Y’all, this doesn’t work. The weight comes back. Let’s look at what will be a now and forever solution: instead of watching what you eat, let’s examine how you eat.
Sleeping too much is bad for weight management, but sleeping the normal advised amount helps. Being fueled up with sleep helps reduce cravings and binge eating during your waking hours.
- Watch the clock.
Don’t eat after 8pm. It’s not because of the myth that your metabolism slows at night. It’s because people who are habitual late-night eaters are more prone to binge eating and poor decision-making.
- Reward yourself.
Track your progress and reward yourself with something other than food. Working to have healthy habits includes the understanding that while that donut tastes good for a bit, it’s really one of the worst things you can do. Sugar tastes good and is as addictive as cocaine (some studies show it is more addictive than cocaine). If you’re thinking of reaching for a sugary snack, stop and think “Why don’t I just have a nice hit of cocaine?” and then realize how ridiculous that is. Reward yourself with an experience, or something that does not involve your pie-hole. This topic is an entire blog post on its own!
- Eat without distractions.
Put down your phone, tablet, and turn off the TV. Pay attention to your food. If you’re alone, enjoy some rare silence, take deep breaths, be mindful of everything around you, and take the time to really taste each bite. You’ll eat more slowly, and you will eat far less than if you were invested in a T.V. show, movie, or something else being electronically generated for you.
People who stand when they eat are not eating without distractions. Take the time to sit down and enjoy. Usually if you’re eating while you are standing up, it’s becuase you’re in a hurry. This is a recipe for disaster, because you’re not taking the time to pay attention to portion size and the quality of your food decisions. Even if you are in a rush, grab something, and go sit, take one breath (one breath will not make you any later than you already are!) and then eat.
First, if you take the time to prepare any type of meal, you’ll appreciate it more, and will appreciate the work and care that goes into it. That’s just some friendly advice. Where weight management comes into play is sodium and fat levels. Chefs love for you to love their food. It keeps you coming back. That said, they are not worried about your waistline, thighs, hips, and flabby arms. If you cook at least half of your meals at home, you know that the negative ingredients are controlled. Oh, and don’t use boxed meals or anything like that. Really cook. It’s not hard. If you’re bad at it you will indefinitely remain so without practice. Cook, be kind to yourself and find new ways to enjoy your favorite ingredients.
- Don’t drink.
“Don’t drink” doesn’t mean just alcohol. Americans drink far too many of their calories. Fruit juices, sodas, designer coffee drinks, and alcoholic beverages all contain more calories than you’re betting on. I’ve heard people say that they have “plenty of fruit” because of the juice they drink. Well, folks, numbers don’t lie. The two things are not equal.
Out with the old and in with the new. Take time to clean out your pantry if not twice a year, at least once. It’s called “spring cleaning” for a reason. The way this helps with weight loss and maintenance is by keeping you honest. If you’re cleaning out your pantry, you know what is in there. Honestly, there shouldn’t be much in there if you are paying attention to fresh ingredients and clean foods.
ALSO– researchers have found that people reach for whatever food is closer whether it’s an apple, popcorn, or candy. Convenience counts, so make negative foods very inconvenient.
Health and dietary goals are just one thing a coach can help you achieve. Click here to start the process with a free initial session!