Slim Down

Why We Gain Weight in the Winter, According to Science

Ever feel like your stomach becomes a bottomless pit when it’s cold outside?

Why We Gain Weight in the Winter, According to Science
Slim Down

Why We Gain Weight in the Winter, According to Science

Ever feel like your stomach becomes a bottomless pit when it’s cold outside?

The winter season consists of parties, family gatherings, and snow days that all have one thing in common: Food. These long months often feel like endless days of eating, eating, and…well, more eating. You can’t seem to stop eating once you’ve started, and you always seem to put on weight during those cold times. Sure, you can employ these 24 Ways to Shrink Your Belly in 24 Hours to be the bloat, but it might only be a few days until you’re dipping into some warm spinach artichoke dip for the tenth time.

If you feel like winter makes you hungrier, you’re not alone; research has discovered that it really “must be the weather.” Here’s why: Back in the day, being underweight was a real worry. Food was scarce, and it was natural to gather more during the winter season when it was the shortest in supply. That makes sense, but what else is new?

Well, research was done using a computer model that predicted just how much fat an animal (including us humans) should be storing during the winter months in order to maintain optimal weight. The target body weight that was discovered for the animal was over the level in which it loses weight—but below which it tries to gain weight. Since there weren’t any stimulations insisting that there is a negative effect on energy when the weight goes above that level, we subconsciously lose control of fighting that urge to eat the extra cupcake or another slice of pizza. Translation: Our basic instinct is to worry about not having enough food, but never to worry if we’re having too much. We naturally fear starvation more than obesity when it was cold out because “too much food” wasn’t a problem for most of the 200,000 years homo sapiens have been around.

Back to winter. We’ve come to a point where people accept that the winter equals weight gain and unhealthy habits—but that shouldn’t be a reason to morph into human vacuums around the appetizer table. Now that you know this chilly season has an appetite of its own, you can learn to build up your willpower when it comes to overindulging. Try upping your protein intake and cut out some of those greasy trans fat belly bloaters. Go for the veggies and hummus instead of the smorgasbord of cold cuts and cheeses. Be realistic, stay active, and take action on eating wholesome, nutritious foods—and turn to these 40 Tips for Motivation when you need some extra help.