Seasonal weight gain varies from person to person, but certain phenomena during the holiday season tend to tip the scales in a less desirable direction for most. Surveys show people tend to gain five to seven pounds on average during the winter months, according to Lawrence J. Cheskin, MD, founder, and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center as reported by WebMD. Yikes!
Don't let worrying about winter weight dampen your holiday fun, though. By being aware of the factors that may put you at risk, you can improve your chances of coming out of the holidays with less guilt and frustration than usual. Here's why you usually tend to gain more weight in the winter—and what you can do about it. And for more advice, try out any of the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time to help you stay on course!
Too Much Sleep
When the sun is shining and the air is warm in the summer, it's much easier to hop out of bed and be productive. However, when the cold takes over and the sun starts setting at 4 p.m., all you want to do sometimes is stay in bed. "Consider buying proper clothing for the winter that's comfortable to wear outside so you can get up with the sun and get moving," says Isabel Smith, MS, RD, CDN, registered dietitian and founder of Isabel Smith Nutrition. For more smart tips to get up and at 'em, take a peek at these ways to motivate yourself for a morning workout!
Baby, it's cold outside! And if you're like many of us, you'd rather stay in and curl up by the fire. The cooler weather deters a lot of people from continuing with their active routines. "I find that clients struggle mostly because they're not outside as much and access to the outdoors is not as easy. They lose their summer running or tennis routine or discontinue walking with their buddy every few days routine," says Smith. If you need to call on your friend to stay accountable, then do it. It's not easy to stay active when it's freezing, but it's not as difficult when you have a partner in crime waiting for you.
Seasonal Affective Disorder
It's rather depressing to leave work and it already be totally dark outside. But it's not all in your head; the lack of sunlight in the winter can actually have a significant effect on your mood and health. A handful of people develop Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) in the winter, which is a type of clinical depression. Smith recommends making a concerted effort to wake up in the morning and take advantage of the sunlight in the morning to counteract the lack of exposure in the evening. Here are 13 Must-Know Things About Seasonal Affective Disorder if you think you are affected every year.
The holiday season brings with it an influx of parties and gatherings that are fueled by tons of drinking and eating. It sounds fun at the get-go—but by New Year's, you've probably gotten a little too used to that sluggish feeling that sets in post-holiday binge eating. And that holiday eating leaves a mark. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that people gain an average of a pound during the holiday season. "When it comes to holiday events, I think preparation is key," Smith says. "Don't arrive hungry and don't pretend like you can't eat the whole day before you go to one of these parties."
When the temperature plummets, we're not just reaching for scarves and mittens, but also for heavier, more warming foods. In fact, eating can help raise body temperature, which could be the reasoning behind our increased desire to seek out hearty stews and comforting bowls of pasta. So, if you're looking for something to warm you up, turn to these 31 Best Healthy Instant Pot Soup Recipes for Weight Loss.
Eggnog and hot toddies are a staple during the holiday season, but overindulging is all too easy and comes at a weighty price. Smith recommends drinking plenty of water before and during your festive get-togethers to avoiding drinking too many cocktails. It also helps to go into the happy hour or party with a set number of drinks in mind so that you pace yourself and don't go overboard.
Holiday Office Treats
If you're seeing your co-workers in person, they may start flooding the office with baked goods and candy that will now live at the end of your desk row for three weeks. Or perhaps they're sending some treats to everyone's homes since you can't be in person together to celebrate. Either way, it's time to channel all your willpower. What's more?
According to The New England Journal of Medicine study mentioned before, the majority of people don't actually lose most of the weight they put on during the holidays—which can mean packing on the pounds after a few years have ticked by. Rather than fight off your cravings, keep healthy snacks stocked in your desk drawer and allow yourself to have a treat every now and then.
Specialty Coffee Drinks
Before the first fall leaf changed color, pumpkin spice lattes had already made their return. And with each transition from fall to winter comes more sugar-filled, specialty coffee drinks. It's hard to ignore the tasty craze, but if you can resist the fancy lattes, you'll avoid tacking on unnecessary calories to your day. If you must indulge once in a while, go for the smallest size and ask the barista to halve the amount of sugar in the drink!
Instead, it's better to just sip on some tea! In fact, test panelists on The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse lost up to 10 pounds in one week!
Fido Gets Less Fresh Air
The cold weather not only inhibits your normal outdoor activities, it may also drive you to cut back on your dog's regular walks. But when he's not getting his exercise, neither are you. Every little bit adds up! All it takes is one look at that sad puppy face to remind you that it's not just about you and you've got to give the little guy his time outside. Bump up the burn with these 30 Tips for When You're Walking for Weight Loss!
According to research from The University of Exeter, it's ingrained in our biology to want to eat more in the winter months. Yes, really! Researchers suggest that we have a natural tendency to overeat in the winter because, historically, food was more scarce. While we're not doomed to binge at the first snowfall, it's good to be aware of more subconscious factors such as these. The best thing to do is to be proactive about your diet and more mindful of portion sizes.
Sugar is Everywhere
Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah—you name it, most holidays revolve around food and the majority of them give special attention to dessert. The key here is to analyze your options and settle on one that you really can't live without. "Choose what you really want to indulge in and stick to that. Try your hardest to think about it ahead of time and plan where you truly want to spend your calories," says Smith.
You're Already Overweight
This may be a tough pill to swallow, but if you're already overweight or struggling with your weight, you may be more prone to gaining more weight over the span of the holidays than your leaner counterparts. According to a study published by Tufts University, overweight individuals gain five more pounds during the holidays, while the average person tends to pack on one pound. The best thing you can do is be diligent about your portion sizes and try your best to stay on track with your regular eating and exercise schedule.
You're Extra Groggy
The lack of sunlight in the winter can have a profound effect on our hormones—particularly our hormones that regulate sleep. During the winter months, we produce more of the sleep hormone, and feeling sleepy can hinder motivation to go to the gym or move around. Try working out in the morning when the sun is out and you haven't felt the obvious effects of the shorter days set in yet. And speaking of hormones, find out the 32 Foods That Turn Off the Stress Hormone That's Making You Fat.
Although this may seem like a positive thing, a jump in our metabolism may actually lead to weight gain instead of fat burn, if you're not careful. According to research from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, our metabolism increases in an effort to burn more energy to help us stay warm. Translation: we need more food to meet our body's increased energy demands. So, while you may feel hungrier, keep in mind that your metabolism isn't revved up enough to completely counteract that second helping of mashed potatoes.
Less Fresh Produce
In the warmer months, a greater amount of produce is in season and easily accessed. When the seasons change and the air cools, you might find yourself reaching for more comfort foods simply because the fresher items aren't around for you to pick from in the grocery store and farmers' markets aren't around every other corner. There is a simple solution here: Opt for frozen fruits and veggies! Often times, frozen produce is actually more nutritious because they are frozen at peak freshness. Here are 17 Surprisingly Delicious Things to do with
Frozen Produce, so stock up!
You're Bundled Up
Who doesn't love sweater weather? It's so nice and cozy, we'll admit it! But when you're hiding your body on a regular basis, you lose the visual cues of weight maintenance and management. Take a moment every now and then to check in with how your clothes are fitting and make a continued effort to stay on top of your regular workouts.
It's not news that we tend to consume far more calories when we dine out than when we cook at home. The cold weather tends to move date night to restaurants for a number of months when your more active ideas are limited. As a result, more nights spent trying new restaurants puts you and your honey in a position to overeat more frequently. Try splitting your entrees or going without snacks at the movie theater to avoid excess calorie intake.
Holiday Spiced and Flavored Foods
The holidays tend to send people into a pumpkin spice and apple cider-fuelled tizzy. Recipes for muffins, breads, cakes, donuts, and drinks start cluttering your news feeds and inspiring new creative baking endeavors. However, this seasonal hobby may contribute to seasonal weight gain if you don't control portions carefully. Rather than trying a new recipe every week, pick one and invite friends and family over to enjoy it with you. This way, you won't have all of those delicious leftovers staring you in the face.
Increased Salt Intake
Those comfort foods that settle in for the winter might feel good going down, but heavier foods usually have higher sodium content. This means more bloating and immediate feelings of weight gain and discomfort. Be diligent about drinking plenty of water to try to minimize the bloating effects and keep portion sizes of heavier foods at a minimum. If you simply can't turn down that salty mac n' cheese, then at least familiarize yourself with these 15 Best (and Instant) Anti-Bloating Foods!
One of the great joys of the holiday season is getting to indulge in all of the delicious foods. What's Thanksgiving, or any of the holidays, really, if you're not continuously eating for three hours straight? In an effort to keep diets in check, many people tend to skip meals in anticipation of bingeing later. However, this is not advised. "Pretend like the overeating is not even going to happen and you'll be able to control it better," Smith says. "I think you need to stick to your schedule as much as possible so that effectively you're eating just another meal and not making it into any super special event. The less special you make it in your head, the less of an effect it is likely to have on your body."