If you tend to gain weight in the winter, you’re not alone. And as annoying as it may be, you might not be able to help it. According to a study conducted by University of Exeter, people have evolved to have subconscious urges to over-eat and gain weight, especially during the colder months. This natural instinct comes from our past when during the winter being overweight indicated that you were less in danger of dying.
To conduct the research, scientists used computer modeling to predict how much fat animals should store. The study boils it down to the idea that natural selection gives animals (including humans) a perfect strategy to maintain the healthiest weight.
Basically, the amount of fat that animals should store ideally will be in response to the amount of food that is available and the amount of risk the animal faces. The model shows that animals should gain weight when food is harder to find, which normally occurs during the winter months. According to Ahmed Ahmed, consultant gastrointestinal and bariatric surgeon at Bupa Cromwell Hospital, this older idea creates a negative impact today, because finding food is usually not an issue.
“The problem is that we no longer need to store fat because we have an abundance of food available year round. The famine never comes, so we never use up the stores,” Ahmed says in an interview with Daily Mail. However, the issue of not realizing when we have eaten enough artificial food has emerged, which as we all know, is hard to resist.
“You would expect evolution to have given us the ability to realize when we have eaten enough, but instead we show little control when faced with artificial food. Because modern food today has so much sugar and flavor the urge humans have to eat it is greater than any weak evolutionary mechanism which would tell us not to,” lead researcher Dr. Andrew Higginson notes in the press release.
This means that our small splurge during the holidays or New Year’s might have more of an impact than we previously thought. You might be thinking that your food habits have remained about the same since the summer, yet you still find yourself struggling to button your pants. Well, according to another study, winter could cause you to pack on extra pounds no matter what.
According to Dr. Stephanie Dillon, senior lecturer in Nutrition at the University of Central Lancashire, the lack of vitamin D that your body gets in the winter compared to the summer could also be a part of weight gain. “Your body needs sunlight to synthesize vitamin D, but in winter there are fewer daylight hours, people go outside less and when they do they wrap up in gloves and scarves, so their skin has little exposure to light,” Dillon says to Daily Mail.
Interestingly enough, people who have lower levels of vitamin D are more often found to be overweight or obese. So if you are trying to lose weight, don’t get down on yourself because there are a lot of odds stacked against you in the winter.
However, a great way to avoid gaining excess winter weight is to keep your routine through the holidays and avoid processed foods. We know you might find yourself indulging, but getting to the gym, or even doing a short workout at home, could make all the difference.