I always assumed it was just me. Year after year, I tend to be a good 5-lb. heavier in the winter. Doesn’t sound like much, and it really isn’t, but I can feel the difference in my body and I don’t like it! It almost feels like my body is preparing itself to hibernate…
I’m not alone apparently: According to research from John Hopkins University, people tend to be 5 to 7 lb. heavier in the winter months.
I often thought the subtle weight gain was due to the fact that I sweat more in the summer and spend more time outside moving around. Or maybe because I’m less likely to throw on a bathing suit after lunch, so I’m more likely to eat a bit more.
But it occurred to me recently maybe there’s more to it than that! So I decided to ask Andy, who just always seems to have trustworthy knowledge about just about everything:
“Well, we are mammals, and the amount of light we receive from the sun changes our hormone profile,” he said.
Interesting. I decided to dig a little deeper…
Here are three theories I stumbled across:
1. Thrifty Gene Theory
Long ago, winter months were associated with famine, and there’s a theory called “thrifty gene hypothesis” that suggests that we’re genetically programmed to increase fat stores in the autumn to help us survive a potential food shortage in the long winter ahead.
2. Melatonin Production
Many people report they feel hungrier in the winter than the summer. This might be true: Melatonin plays a role in appetite, and melatonin is triggered by darkness.
Studies show we produce more melatonin during the spring and summer months than during the colder months. So maybe we really do feel hungrier, which leads to eating more.
3. Vitamin D
Though the flip side might be skin cancer, Vitamin D—aka the sunshine vitamin—can allegedly affect weight gain. Low levels of Vitamin D are believed to reduce the breakdown of fat and trigger increased fat storage. And in fact, multiple academic studies have suggested low levels of Vitamin D are linked to obesity.
On top of this, common sense says comfort food that we’re drawn to in the winter tends to be high in calories, as are those pumpkin spice lattes and rum and eggnogs. Not to mention, THE ENTIRE MONTH OF December is essentially dedicated to overeating and over drinking at holiday parties…
So considering biology, and the looming month of holiday eating, let’s make the rest of November a clean month to combat that yearly 5 to 7 lb. weight gain that doesn’t make you feel so good this winter.
Who is with me??