Have you ever noticed that you put on some winter weight? You might not have known, but there are scientific reasons for this winter weight gain. Some of you might find these few pounds a simple part of staying warm for the winter—and that is cool! But, it might be helpful to learn about three of the causes and solutions to winter weight gain. This might keep you feeling happier and healthier this winter.
Winter Weight Gain Reason #1: Lack of serotonin
The chemical serotonin, which is mostly responsible for mood and appetite, is produced at a greater rate when exposed to direct sunlight. Thus, less sunlight and being inside much of winter lowers serotonin. Less serotonin lowers your mood and messes with appetite. To make up for this, it is common to increase carbohydrate and sugar intake—looking for that sugar high. This can contribute to weight gain.
Try this: One of the healthiest ways to increase serotonin production is exercise. Running and biking work best to increase serotonin, but staying active in general will make you happier.
Winter Weight Gain Reason #2: Surplus of melatonin
The main hormone that governs your internal clock—melatonin—comes out in full force during the winter. Melatonin, at night, works to prepare the body for the upcoming day. Increased melatonin production makes you tired. As it stays darker longer, melatonin might occur at the wrong time—making you drag. Sometimes to counteract this sleepy feeling, you might crave sugar to increase your energy. This could add some winter weight gain.
Try this: You can try eating foods that are melatonin-boosting such as oats, corn, rice, and bananas. There are Melatonin supplements available so your body doesn’t have to work so hard.
Winter Weight Gain Reason #3: Lack of Vitamin D
Direct sunlight stimulates the body to make vitamin D. It is important to the process that informs your body that it is full. Less direct sunlight in the winter usually means less vitamin D synthesis. At the molecular level vitamin D works with the hormone leptin to control body weight. However, without sufficient vitamin D your body may not signal your brain that it is full.
Try this: The best way to increase your vitamin D is getting more direct sunlight (20 minutes a day). However with the temperatures dropping it can be harder to get outside, but bundle up and try to get as much as possible! Eating foods such as oily fish, mushrooms, and certain orange juices can also help. Supplements are also an option.