Winter weight gain

As we endure another Michigan winter, many of us are watching the number on our scales climb higher and higher.

“Although seasonal weight gain varies from person to person, there have been surveys that show an average of five to seven pound gain in weight in winter,” says Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore warns in the article, “5 Tips to Avoid Winter Weight Gain,” on

It is better to avoid gaining the weight in the first place than trying to burn it off when the days get warmer.

While there are many factors that contribute to winter weight gain, the two most prominent causes are lack of exercise, and the consumption of comfort food.

The first, lack of exercise, comes from our desire to stay out of the cold and avoid having to brave icy and snow covered roads to make it to the gym. Of course, sucking it up and going to the gym anyways or taking up a physical winter activity such as skiing or ice skating is the best option, but planning alternative home exercise routines can work just as well while keeping you inside and out of the cold.

Second, the urge to consume comfort foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates, comes from a bodily instinct to be constantly digesting because digestion creates body heat. Although it can be difficult to curb these desires, the best way to avoid weight gain is to make healthier snaking choices such as fruit, vegetables or any food that is high in protein but low in fat.

There is a common misconception that winter weight gain is an important instinctive body function
and that the excess body fat helps to keep people warm during the colder months.

While it may be true that instinct is partially responsible for winter weight gain and that digestion generates body heat, according to Ahmed Ahmed, consultant gastrointestinal and bariatric surgeon at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, excess weight actually makes people feel colder.

“When you put on fat from excess calories it is white adipose tissue; the only fat that keeps you warm is brown adipose tissue, which babies have and which is due to genetic programming,” says Ahmed in the article, “Why you get fatter in winter … even though you eat LESS,” for

According to the same article, the desire to consume more food comes from an instinctive association of winter with famine, but nowadays famine isn’t a concern to most of us since we live in close proximity to places that can easily provide us with food year round.

So instead of trying to fight the number that the scale reads back down when it gets warmer, it is a better idea to prevent it from climbing higher in the first place.

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