The winter season may also affect our mood negatively. This generally happens due to seasonal affective disorder, more commonly known as SAD. It’s a form of depression characterized by a recurring seasonal pattern and happens specifically during a certain time of year. It is believed that the winter season’s short days and lack of sunlight are the main triggers for SAD.
SAD makes us feel gloomy and sad, which may lead to overeating, as well as a more sedentary lifestyle throughout the winter months. Before long, this becomes a habit and you realize you have added a few extra pounds by the end of the season.
3. We eat more comfort foods
Winter is the time for gorging on many delicious holiday foods, isn’t it? While enjoying food is perfectly fine, many of us can go overboard with it during the winter months. Cold weather makes us reach out for our favorite comfort foods more often. The dip in the temperature makes us yearn for heavier and warming foods like bowls of pasta, roasts, hot puddings, creamy sauces, and red wine. These comforting warm foods help lift our mood and also raise our body temperature, however, they are also loaded with carbs and fats, and indulging in them too much leads to weight gain.
See Also: 14 Surprising Foods You Can Indulge Without Gaining Weight
4. We produce more of the 'sleep' hormones
Do you tend to feel extra sleepy or groggy in the winter months? That might be because of the lack of sunlight in the winter season. According to health experts, inadequate sunlight can affect our hormones, particularly those that regulate sleep. Our pineal glands react to the lack of sunshine by producing melatonin, the hormone which controls our sleep-wake cycle and which is believed to be increased during winter.
That feeling of sleepiness, especially when it’s not your actual time to sleep, can make you feel groggy, lazy, and unmotivated. Moreover, the higher melatonin levels are known to increase appetite and we may find ourselves eating more and moving less during the winters. When controlled poorly, this usually results in an increase in weight.
5. We drink less water
In the summers, we can’t do without drinking water often. However, our water intake decreases drastically in the cold months as we don’t feel thirst as easily. That is a problem because we need sufficient water to combat cold dry air as well.
More importantly, drinking less water in the winter season becomes a habit and can cause dehydration. Being even just a little dehydrated, in fact, can take away the thirst signals and send hunger signals instead. In other words, our brain mimics feelings of hunger when we are dehydrated and makes us reach for foods when our body actually needs water. Moreover, when the body is dehydrated, it loses energy. To replenish that energy, we end up eating more and ultimately gain weight.
Tips to avoid winter weight gain
1. Set up an exercise routine
This may sound obvious, but it is the most essential step you have to take if you wish to get rid of your winter bloat. Pushing yourself to exercise when the weather is so cold outside isn’t easy. This is why it's important you set up an exercise routine. When you know you have a regular fitness schedule you must follow, then you are less likely to skip it, despite the feeling of laziness.
If you can’t go to the gym right now because of the pandemic, there are plenty of other options you can choose from. Just adding a 20-minute walk to your day would be a great kick-start. Even moderate exercises like biking, jogging, or yoga can prevent you from adding those extra pounds during the cold months.
Write down your exercise schedule on a note and stick it somewhere where you can see it every day first thing in the morning. That way, you will be reminded to follow it even though you might be feeling sleepy.
2. Have more high-fiber fruits and vegetables
While it’s okay to enjoy your favorite comfort foods during the winter season every once in a while, you should also be mindful of your diet if you don’t want to put on weight in this season. Dietitians recommend eating high-fiber, low-glycemic vegetables and fruits with every meal. Options like apples, pears, grapefruit, peaches, grapes, onions, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, peppers, salad greens, and cooked greens are all great.
Even a handful of walnuts, which are packed with fiber, would help in keeping you full. This is essential as it will prevent the temptation of unnecessary brownies or cookies. If your schedule requires you to always be on the move, you can keep a bunch of baby carrots, a big salad, or an apple in a tiffin box and have them in short breaks so that your desire for going for any unhealthy snacks is curbed.
3. Avoid alcohol. Drink more water instead
Many holiday celebrations involve drinking and alcohol intake can increase significantly during the winters. Unfortunately, alcohol is loaded with calories and you might well be increasing your calories in the cold season without even realizing it. Thus, try and avoid, or at least limit, alcohol consumption if you are more prone to weight gain during this season. Simultaneously, increase your water intake. As we mentioned above, dehydration during the winter months can be a reason for weight gain. Having plain water before and during meals should be a must. If you can't cut out alcohol altogether, then have a glass of water before and after each drink to pace yourself and to dilute calories.
4. Avoid those “low fat” foods
A lot of us associate the term “low-fat” with healthy foods. While some nutritious foods such as fruits and vegetables are naturally low in fat, you should beware of items that have a fancy label screaming 'low fat' to get your attention. During the winters, since we exercise less and eat more calorie-laden food, many of us might get the urge to go for these “low fat” foods to feel that we are eating something healthy. However, nutritionists warn that many of these products which claim to be 'low in fat' are low in nutrition and high in unhealthy ingredients.
Low-Fat Sweetened Breakfast Cereal, Low-Fat Flavored Coffee Drinks, Low-Fat Salad Dressing, Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter, Low-Fat Muffins, and Low-Fat Frozen Yogurt are some of the stuff you should certainly avoid during winters. Instead, maintain a diet that’s rich in whole foods and low in preservatives.
5. Don’t overstress
The least productive thing you can do to beat the winter bulge is stressing about it. So, you put on some extra weight. But will worrying about it constantly help you shed it? On the contrary, excessive stress may lead to elevated cortisol levels that stimulate your appetite and thus cause weight gain. You shouldn't be too hard on yourself for putting on some extra weight during the winter. Don’t start panicking and depriving your body in the hope to achieve quick results. This will only make things difficult for you.
Instead, try to understand what’s suitable for your body and make a realistic health plan accordingly. Keep in mind that de-stressing should also be a priority. While exercise and a healthy diet are important, so is relaxation and mindfulness.
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