Daily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by The Conversation
imageThe colder months of the year don't inevitably lead to an expanding waistline.bark/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Colder temperatures and all the extra time we spend indoors during winter provide a good excuse to eat more, and indulge in a few extra glasses of wine. But does the weather really influence what we eat, or is it merely a fig leaf for our inherent gluttony?

The good news is that the dreaded winter coat is not inevitable. Changing energy demands for activities like hibernation, migration and reproduction among some mammals mean seasonal cycles of body weight are normal. But the absence of some of these seasonal behaviours in humans, along with modern conveniences such artificial lighting and climate control, mean the influence of cold weather on our eating behaviours may be overstated.

Unclear boundaries

When we look at the average body weight of adults between seasons, not all studies report a difference. In research reporting changes, the differences are actually quite small: between around 500 grams and two kilograms between summer and winter.

But most of this research doesn’t tell us if the changes were actually increases in body fat (remember body mass comprises muscle, water, bone and fat). However, one study of healthy Dutch adults reported waist circumference (a good measure of abdominal obesity) was higher in winter than in summer, among both men and women.

Research has produced mixed results on seasonal differences in diets among different groups of people. Some studies have not observed any daily energy intake changes with the seasons. Others have found that people tend to consume more kilojoules (calories) per day in the cooler seasons compared to warmer months.

A Spanish study of seasonal variations in food consumption, for instance, found intake of cereals and alcohol was higher among men in winter than in summer. But women had higher intakes of dairy foods, including ice-cream, in summer. Fruit and vegetable intake also varied according to season, more likely due to seasonal availability.

imageThere’s a popular belief that the attraction to heavier foods such as stews leads to weight gain during winter.Ewan Munro/Flickr, CC BY-SA

Reflecting the findings about small weight increases in winter, research that has found changes in energy intake between seasons didn’t find a very big difference: the range was from 360 to 930kJ per day. This is roughly the equivalent of adding an extra roast potato at dinner, a few biscuits with your cup of tea or a couple of extra glasses of wine to what you’re already eating and drinking.

Feeding myths

It’s commonly thought that we feel hungrier when it’s cold and this leads us to eat more in cooler weather. Research that showed seasonal difference in nutrient intake found meal size was biggest in autumn, and this was related to greater overall energy and carbohydrate intake during that season.

Another study showed that some people experience a drop in their serotonin levels during winter, which may make them crave carbohydrate-rich foods. It also found people tended to eat their meals more quickly in cold weather. In an interesting twist, these same people actually felt hungrier after these larger meals, suggesting alterations in appetite responses to meals during the cooler months.

There’s also a popular belief that we tend to eat foods described as “lighter” and “cooler” during summer – think salads and grilled meats – and “heavier” stuff during winter – such as rich slow-cooked curries and pastas – and that this makes us likely to gain weight when it’s cold.

More time spent indoors during colder months means less physical activity, which is a common excuse used to explain weight gain in winter. A US study, for instance, reported a small reduction in physical activity in winter compared with spring. But unless your exercise habits are regular and your routine changes substantially in the cold, the impact on energy balance and body weight is likely to be small.

We have very few sources of direct evidence as to whether the temperature causes weight gain. It may, in fact, be the food myths of winter that are feeding into expanding waistlines. The key message then is that you shouldn’t use the changing seasons and colder weather as an excuse to eat badly and forgo healthy lifestyle habits.

imageEating lots of vegetables will help avoid weight gain any time of the year.Take Back Your Health Conference/Flickr, CC BY

Tips for healthy living

Here’s what you can do if you’re concerned about gaining weight during winter:

  1. Eat home-cooked meals. Avoiding take-away food and restaurant meals is an easy way to avoid excess calories.

  2. Have smaller portions of food. Try a smaller plate or aim to downsize meat servings while increasing veggies (aim for vegetables to cover at least half your plate).

  3. Watch what you drink. Alcohol contributes to energy intake so stick to no more than two standard drinks a day. Hot creamy drinks are a great way to stay warm, but use reduced-fat milk and limit added sugar, or have herbal teas.

  4. Eat more veggies. Fill up with soups – a quick and easy way to add more vegetables to your diet.

  5. Keep moving. Reducing sedentary behaviours including time spent in front of screens may seem difficult when it’s cold, but use incidental activity, like taking the stairs, and exercise inside.

The best news is that eating habits for a healthy lifestyle in winter can be practised all year round. And it will mean you don’t have to panic about quickly getting healthy or losing weight as the seasons change.

The key to eating heavier winter foods and still keeping on the right side of the health equation requires being conscious of maintaining a balanced diet and being physically active. And if that’s not where you’re at, there’s nothing to stop you from starting now.

Kacie Dickinson does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/gaining-weight-in-winter-isnt-inevitable-unless-you-decide-you-will-40320


The Conversation

Politics

Prime Minister on the Alan Jones Show

ALAN JONES: Prime Minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan, how are you? Good to hear you back on the air.   JONES: Thank you. Thank you very much. Can I just - there's a lot...

Alan Jones - avatar Alan Jones

The Greens side with activists, not farmers

The Greens’ Agriculture Spokesperson, Senator Janet Rice, today made some disgraceful comments in relation to the Government’s tough new penalties for keyboard warriors who incite activists to inv...

Senator Bridget McKenzie - avatar Senator Bridget McKenzie

Scott Morrison interview with Alan Jones - 2GB

ALAN JONES: The Prime Minister's on the line from Melbourne, Prime Minister good morning. PRIME MINISTER: Good morning Alan ALAN JONES:  thank you for your time. I wish we had three hours but look...

Alan Jones - avatar Alan Jones

Business News

Tips To Ensure The Best B2B Ecommerce Customer Experience

The B2B ecommerce space offers an incredible array of opportunities. It is has registered growth at more than double the size of B2C ecommerce. These tips will help you greatly in improving your cu...

News Company - avatar News Company

Multi-channel Ecommerce And Its Unparalleled Benefits

With severe competition within the ecommerce industry nowadays, exercising measures for expansion has become crucial. When you’re planning to dive into areas of growing your business into a full-fle...

News Company - avatar News Company

Top 5 Reasons Businesses Are Shifting From Magento To Shopify

Although building an online business has been made simpler by the extensive use of the internet, maintaining its success is a journey rather than a destination. It involves critical decisions made a...

News Company - avatar News Company

Travel

DEAL: Kids stay and eat for FREE these school holidays!

Take these school holidays to the next level with the ultimate family escape at PARKROYAL Darling Harbour. What’s more, kids under 12 years of age, can stay and eat for FREE! ...

Liana Gardy - avatar Liana Gardy

How to Book a Hotel for Your Vietnam Trip

Finding a travel destination may turn out to be challenging at times. You may have a long bucket list, which leaves you spoilt for choice on where to visit first. Going through travel blogs and site...

News Company - avatar News Company

New Allianz data reveals the ‘forgotten’ European countries attracting Australian travellers this winter

FROM SPAIN TO THE UKRAINE - THE SURPRISE EUROPEAN DESTINATIONS BOOMING WITH AUSSIE TOURISTS Australian travellers are seeking new destinations beyond the Mediterranean when it comes to European...

Media Release - avatar Media Release

ShowPo