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Why Do We Gain Weight During Winters? - MyHealth


Why Do We Gain Weight During Winters?


Medically Reviewed By
Dr Sohini Sengupta

Written By Kirti Saxena
on Feb 3, 2024

Last Edit Made By Kirti Saxena
on Mar 17, 2024

Winter weight gain

There are a lot of reasons why people gain weight during winter. As the temperature drops, physical activity declines, which is a major factor in gaining weight during winter. The winter brings a lot of good food options, holidays, wedding seasons, and festivals, which encourage overeating and a sedentary lifestyle, and calorie-rich food makes you more prone to weight gain. Moreover, lack of vitamin D, missing out on daily exercises, and low body temperature can easily contribute to increasing your weight in a short period.  This blog will explain the causes of winter weight gain and health issues. Also, we will give you some tips on controlling weight gain during winter to prevent health problems. Let’s get started- 

What Causes Weight Gain in Winter?

Here are some factors that work in combination to influence weight during winter. Understanding these causes and adopting healthy habits is important to maintain a balanced lifestyle throughout the season.

  • A sudden drop in Temperature – As the days become colder, people often avoid going outside and spend more time indoors. Due to missing out on exercise and gyms and overall less physical activity, people started gaining weight.
  • Holiday feasting: Winter coincides with holidays like Christmas and New Year, which often involve rich meals, treats, and increased alcohol consumption, contributing to weight gain.
  • Sleeping more than usual- The colder air makes you feel dehydrated, and sometimes people misinterpret it as hunger. This can lead to unnecessary snacking and increased calorie intake.  
  • Decreased Physical Activity- Cold weather and shorter days discourage outdoor activities, and due to less exercise and reduced calorie burning, the chances of weight gain increase.
  • Comfort food cravings- The calorie-rich food like carbohydrates and fat increase in colder seasons. These comforting foods may significantly increase weight gain if consumed in excess. 
  • Less exposure to sunlight-  Studies show that sunlight affects fat cells. The sunlight limits sun exposure and allows fat cells to store more fat. However, the lack of sunlight in winter supports weight gain by keeping more fats in the body. Moreover, limited sunlight exposure can make you feel more fatigued, reduce activity, and increase your cravings for comfort foods. 
  • Unhealthy Eating- The desire to eat comfortable and warm food increases with seasonal changes, and decreased physical activity and increased calorie intake contribute to weight gain.
  • Winter hormonal changes-  Short days and long nights trigger hormonal shifts, decrease serotonin, and increase melatonin levels, affecting appetite, mood, and energy levels and contributing to weight gain. 
  • Sleeping more than usual:  Hibernation in some people causes increased sleep duration, reducing energy expenditure and potentially leading to weight gain.
  • Metabolism increases- Although positive, it can lead to weight gain instead of fat burn.  According to research, your metabolism increases to burn more energy to help you stay warm. 

Common Health Issues Due To Weight Gain in Winters

Weight gain is common during winter; people gain extra kg due to a sedentary lifestyle, overeating habits, and less physical activity. But did you know gaining weight might be a health alarm? Here are some of the most common health issues  during weight gain:

  • Increased risk of heart disease- Excess weight can increase the strain on your heart and increase your risk of developing heart disease. This is because extra weight and fat in the body cause high blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglycerides, which are major causes of concern and factors of heart disease.
  • Diabetes- Being overweight or obese increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to process sugar, leading to high blood sugar levels. This may also cause serious complications such as nerve damage, vision loss, and kidney disease. 
  • Joint pain-  Winters may cause a deficiency of Vitamin D, which may cause the joint pain to worsen. Moreover, additional weight puts extra stress on your joints, on your knees, hips, and ankles. This can lead to pain, inflammation, and stiffness, making it difficult to move around.
  • Sleep Apnea- Sleep apnea is a sleep disorder that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. Generally, people who are overweight or obese face sleep apnea disorder. The disorder may disrupt your sleep and make you tired, causing headaches and irritability.
  • Mental Health Issues- Feeling unhappy and depressed can cause weight and other mental health problems. 

Additional Health Issues

Excess weight gain might increase the risk of developing health problems like- 

  • Cancer
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Osteoarthritis 
  • Gallstones 
  • Sleep apnea 

Tips To Prevent Weight Gain During Winters

There are various ways to prevent or lower the risk of weight gain in winter. Here are some of the tips to help you-

  • Maintain a healthy diet and control portions- Limit processed food, sugary foods, unhealthy fats, and processed carbohydrates. Also, whatever you eat, control the portion size and avoid overeating.  Add salads to your meals to ensure you consume healthy, fat-burning calories each meal.
  • Exercise regularly- Make an effort to stay active throughout the winter and engage in indoor activities like going to the gym and walking. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.  Find a workout companion and stay motivated about your workout routine. 
  • Stay hydrated- Drink plenty of water to avoid interpreting thirst for hunger. 
  • Prioritize your sleep- Sleep regulates hormones and energy levels; thus, sleeping 8-9 hours daily is important.
  • Seek natural sunlight- Get some sunlight exposure during the day to improve your mood and reduce excess fat storage. Wear warm clothes and protect yourself from being cold. Natural sunlight helps fulfill vitamin D requirements and relieve joint and bone pain.
  • Manage stress- Find healthy coping methods like yoga, meditation, or time in nature.
  • Regular health checkups- A slight weight change is normal, but if you notice any abnormal changes, it might be due to hidden health issues. Consult your healthcare provider and take Smart Plus full body checkup with vitamin Screening & free heart risk assessment (HsCRP) from Redcliffe Labs to know your health status. 

Embrace the Season, Not the Pounds

Winter gain is common, but it can cause concern if neglected. The cold weather often discourages outdoor activities, leading to decreased physical activity and further hindering calorie expenditure. The good news is that winter weight gain is not inevitable. By adopting healthy habits, we can overcome these challenges and maintain a healthy weight throughout the season.  Therefore, avoid the risk of developing severe health problems and stay on top of weight goals by following the prevention tips. However, if you notice anything abnormal, consult with your healthcare provider on priority to avoid any inevitable health issues. Get regular health checkups to know your health status from time to time.

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