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Here's Why It's Harder to Lose Weight Right Now, Says Expert

There's a reason why you've probably been feeling hungrier this season.

The next few months are typically some of the most difficult to get through, especially if you've set a weight loss goal for yourself. What it is about this season that makes losing weight so challenging? Have you ever wondered why as soon as the cold weather strikes, you find yourself eating larger meals and taking more trips to the fridge between work breaks?

Well according to Dr. Neal Barnard, board-certified psychiatrist and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, fall and winter weight gain is so common because your appetite actually increases during the cooler months.

"It is a common experience for bodyweight to increase as winter approaches, which is largely because our appetites increase as the days become shorter," says Dr. Barnard. "This is what you can think of as your 'inner squirrel' taking over, looking for food, and eating and storing it away in anticipation of winter."

Although nowadays it's easier to get access to all kinds of foods year-round (instead of strictly in season), Dr. Barnard says that we eat more and eat faster this time of year because we are still programmed to build up some body fat before wintertime.

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cracker barrel spiral ham with side dishes and pies
Courtesy of Cracker Barrel

Not only do you experience an increase in appetite this time of year, but you also may find yourself putting on a few extra pounds because of the typical shift in lifestyle.

"Your usual ways of dealing with weight gain are less available to you because it's harder to exercise outdoors when the temperatures dip," says Dr. Barnard. "Holiday festivities keep food in front of you almost 24/7: at work, in stores, and even on television."

It's important to not let this discourage you, because not only is weight gain around this time of year extremely common, but there are also ways you can stick to your weight loss goals if that's what you want!

Dr. Barnard shares a few suggestions for how to avoid holiday weight gain, which includes sticking to plant-based meals when you can, focusing on the "healthy" side dishes at holiday parties like butternut squash soup, greens, sweet potatoes, and salads, and not only counting on your exercise routine to keep off the pounds.

"It is far easier to avoid gaining [pounds] than to try to lose them later on," says Dr. Barnard.

So while growing hungrier in the cold months may be inevitable, weight gain doesn't have to be. Along with Dr. Barnard's tips, try cooking at home when you can, adding veggies to your plate, and enjoying a nice splurge on holiday treats from time to time!

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