It’s not inevitable, but unless you’re a gym bunny, it’s very likely you’ll put on a few hundred grams over the winter months. Here’s how it happens.
Winter foods are comfort foods, and what makes them so comforting are the fats and sugars they contain. In our evolutionary history, calorie-dense foods were sought after because they contributed to the fat layers that helped keep our bodies warm. Unfortunately, no one has informed our survival instincts that, nowadays, we have heat pumps and warm clothes to keep out the cold! Added to the problem is that winter is the time for indoor socialising. Rather than meeting friends for a walk in the park, we tend to sit around the table – and eat!
Ever wandered around the supermarket in winter and found yourself craving a really tasty tomato rather than one of those semi-ripened imports from Australia? Or thought to yourself that the lettuces look a little worse for wear? It’s not just that fresh fruit and vegetables are few and far between in winter, it’s also that they are so expensive over the colder months. High prices, poor quality, and the simple unavailability of fresh food in winter means we reach more for canned, dried and frozen substitutes – and these almost always contain sugar. It may be only a little, but combined with other factors, that sugar helps us gain unwanted weight.
The big cover-up
We all love cosy clothes as the temperatures plummet. Stretchy, fleece pants and tops are a favourite and because they cover us up so completely, it’s easy to look in the mirror and not notice a very slow but steady weight gain. Research shows that almost 60% of women put on around 2 kilos over winter – yet those who cover up are unlikely to be aware of it. That’s why it pays to bravely step on the scales once a week – especially during winter!
Shorter daylight hours
There are only so many hours in a day, and in winter, more of those hours involve darkness! There’s simply no time to fit in an hour’s gardening or a walk after dinner, and unless we have to be out of bed bright and early for work, most of us like to lie in on a cold, dark winter’s morning. To compound the problem, many of our favourite club activities such as walking group or tennis, shut up shop for the colder season. The decrease in the amount of activity we do in a day over winter may be subtle but it slowly adds up – and the weight goes on as a result.
Understanding the reasons for winter weight-gain is to be on your way to solving the problem. Instead of rushing to solve it all in one hit, aim to change just one or two habits a week. Head to the pool if it’s too cold outside to walk in the park, decrease the portion size of your meals, and leave the bathroom scales where they’re sure to be seen!