DEC 06, 2017 6:15 AM PST

Is Winter Weight Gain All in Your Head?

Is holiday weight gain creeping up on you? Good news, it's not as bad as you think it is. Starting with Halloween candy and continuing through Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's some people may find themselves in a constant swirl of family dinners, holiday celebrations, cocktail parties and just plain overindulgence.
 
 
As it happens, the candy, turkey and champagne toasts are not entirely to blame. While the majority of National Institutes of Health employees that volunteered for an agency research project on winter weight gain reported they had likely gained between 5 and 10 pounds over the winter, the actual amount was much smaller. Weight gain from November to Marcin in the study participants ranged from 1 pound to 2.2 pounds. Researchers could find no concrete reason why study subjects thought they had gained weight but estimated that the perception was likely influenced by the holiday parties and events many had attended.
 
Weight gain in the winter likely has more to do with environmental and weather issues than it does with cocktails and cookies. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a problem for many residents in colder climates. Another National Institutes of Health study estimated that the incidence of SAD in New England and Alaska was about 9% of the population. Compared to Florida, where the number hovers at barely 1%, the theory that a lack of daylight and a colder climate can impact mood was validated.
 
Research conducted with SAD patients in Switzerland showed that in the winter, those who felt depressed or lonely tended to snack on more sugary foods and processed carbohydrates. In that research, it wasn't because patients were attending parties with sweets and alcohol, but rather than they chose foods with high carbs and high sugar during the long winter months.
 
Vitamin D levels could also be part of the issue. In colder weather, it's necessary to wear more layers of clothing. Beach days are long gone in the dog days of December in many northern states. Vitamin D deficiency can happen when there is less sunlight, so with the shorter days and more skin being covered up due to the cold, levels of Vitamin D can dip below optimum levels.
 
Those in warmer climates are not entirely off the hook on weight gain. In warmer weather, higher levels of activity can mean more sweating. If enough water isn't consumed on a daily basis, the kidneys will start retaining water to keep the body hydrated, and this can pack on the pounds as well. So, whether it's Christmas in Dixie or a winter wonderland in Vermont, weight gain can sneak up on anyone at any time. Nutritionists advise trying to get as much sunlight as possible in colder climates. Even 20 minutes a day can make a difference. As for holiday parties, rather than heading for the fruitcake and eggnog, try to munch on fresh veggies and sparkling water first to fill up and just have a smaller amount of goodies. The video below has more information on the unwanted gift of extra weight this season, check it out.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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