How to prevent gaining weight this winter
Do you finish winter a few kilograms heavier than when you started? You probably know the feeling of an increased appetite and trousers that get tighter during the colder months, and while it’s easy to blame a more sedentary lifestyle and heavier foods, there are several other key reasons why you put on weight during winter.
The complexity of the human body is extraordinary, and many of the cues that regulate your body internally, from appetite to sleep, actually come from your environment.
So if you want to stay trim or even lose weight in winter instead of putting on a few extra kilos then follow these 4 important tips:
1) Stay cool to speed up winter weight loss
Most people these days have the luxury of keeping their environments warm when the temperatures outside gets cooler. We move from heated houses to heated cars to heated offices and back again which makes our lives more pleasant but is inherently unnatural.
Your body has been designed to withstand colder temperatures by shivering which, like throwing more logs onto a fire, increases your metabolism and burns more calories. So don’t keep your environment too warm in winter as it might be making you gain weight!
Research has shown that women exposed to an ambient temperature of 27 degrees versus 22 degrees used less energy to tune of 239 calories per day: that’s the equivalent of 30 minutes on a stationary bike or 1 hour of walking.
It’s also thought that the more we time we spend in temperate environments, the less brown fat (the special type of fat that chews up calories, turning them into heat and preventing them from ending up as body fat) we tend to have, which means that over time we are much more likely to store the energy from food than burn it.
Recent Australia research found that when men slept in rooms with a controlled temperature of 19 degrees, their brown fat increased by up to 40% compared to when they slept in a more moderate 24 degrees.
TOP TIP: Don’t overheat your environment
2) Too hot at night makes you hungry
Being too hot at night can cause a restless night of sleep or even make you wake up during the night. This poor quality sleep reverses your appetite hormones the next day making you feel hungrier than normal which, you guessed it, leads to weight gain. The optimum temperature for sleep is about 20 degrees.
This doesn’t mean that you should spend the winter feeling cold, but you might want to reconsider the electric blanket and turning the heating onto full.
TOP TIP: Keep your bedroom cool at night
3) Get the light right to stop winter weight gain
When light hits your eyes during the day it tells your brain to make serotonin which regulates your mood. When the light disappears at night your brain knows to make melatonin which makes you sleepy, your cue o go to bed. If you spend too much time inside during winter your body will make less serotonin which can make you grumpy and give you sugar cravings. If spend more time out doors, allowing sun to enter your eyes, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll help reduce cravings for more sweet and stodgy winter foods.
Research shows that early birds that get sun exposure first thing in the morning tend to be slimmer than those that don’t see the sun until later in the day. Interestingly this effect is independent of sleep habits.
TOP TIP: Get some sunlight first thing in the morning
4) Light at night might make you gain weight
When we are exposed to light at night, and in particular the blue light produced by television and computer screens, the hormonal cues that make us sleepy are impaired. This stops us from sleeping well which makes us hungry the next day. Not only will feel hungrier after a bad night’s sleep, your body is more likely to store the calories from food as body fat.
TOP TIP: Turn off your screens and dim the lights before bedtime
Top tips for winter weight loss
– Take your exercise outside whenever possible
– Avoid sunglasses especially during the morning
– Avoid watching TV and using computers at night
– Don’t over heat your environment especially in bed