What causes winter weight gain?

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You are not a bear. You are not required to overeat.
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Winter weight gain is not inevitable but probable if you don't exercise

Itís February and the pants are too tight and the flabby thighs are rubbing together. Yep, the dreaded winter weight gain. Why do people gain weight in the winter? Lots of reasons: People are not as physically active during the cold, winter months, except for those who love winter sports and are out on the slopes or at the ice-skating rink every chance they get.

There is also Thanksgiving and Christmas to contend with, both involving a lot of eating, including candy and desserts. During the holiday season, people drink more booze, which is filled with calories. 

Additionally, if the weather is frightful, you may choose not to go to the gym or to your exercise class, preferring to snuggle under a warm comforter, in front of a fire, with your hand in the buttery popcorn bowl. 

Not everyone gains weight in the winter, but a lot of people do. In fact, the average winter weight gain is five to seven pounds, according to Dr. Lawrence J. Cheskin, founder and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and an associate professor at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health located in Baltimore, Md.

Some people may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which means they become depressed when there isnít sufficient sunlight during the winter. Depression can lead to over-eating.

When you put two and two together óeating more and exercising less ó the inevitable outcome is weight gain.

It is dark when you get up in the morning and dark when you get home from work. For some people, this is very depressing, which can lead them to eat more, particularly comfort food that is high in sugar, salt and fat. Winter weight gain may be more of a problem for females than males because the metabolism of a woman isnít as efficient as that of a manís and women also tend to have less muscle mass, which means they burn calories slower.

It may be that we are predisposed to eat more during the winter months because historically, winter was linked to famine. As a result, we are geared to increase our fat storage in the fall and winter so that we can survive the cold months when there are no crops to eat. This is called the thrifty gene hypothesis and makes sense. The thing is, most donít face a famine in the winter. Food is plentiful. So people continue to eat as they did in the warm-weather months but donít move as much, which results in weight gain, explains the Daily Mail.

In the winter, melatonin, which is the hormone that makes you sleep and, which is triggered by darkness, increases. In humans, this reduction seems to raise hunger and weight gain although in other species the greater the melatonin level the less need to eat.

High calorie food is more appealing during the winter because it is sweet and full of fat and makes the eater feel more cheerful. However, this kind of food also causes a rapid decline in blood sugar levels, which makes the person want even more energy-dense, high-calorie  food and the cycle of over-eating continues. 

The best way to fight fat accumulation during the winter months is to keep moving. Go to the gym even when you would rather not. Be cognizant of the foods you are eating. Know that darkness can lead to depression and to over-eating. Eat snacks that arenít going to end up on your thighs. Strive to maintain your health and optimal weight during the cold weather months. 

Cheer up. Winter will be over soon. Okay, maybe not soon enough but there is light at the end of the tunnel, eventually. 

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