Seasonal Weight Gain

I was reading through a couple of my old diaries last night as I packed away some of our stuff for storage. These were diaries from two and three years ago and I found it fascinating to revisit all of my feelings of frustration and hopelessness as it pertained to my body weight. However, as I flipped through days and months I couldn’t help notice a pattern in my weight gain that I had never noticed before.

As I read I noted without a doubt that my weight gain has always spiked up during the winter months. Then, when spring and summer hit my weight either stayed the same or I was elated to be losing. I was surprised to make these observations and had to explore my apparent “Seasonal Weight Gain” a little closer.

Fall and winter weather can strongly influence seasonal weight gain, particularly for those living in norther climates.

Fall and winter weather can strongly influence seasonal weight gain, particularly for those living in norther climates.

Of course, like many people I have always found it difficult to stick to a diet when the winter holidays come around, but it appears that dieting and choosing to start a diet can also be influenced by the different seasons throughout the year. For example, how many of us have headed out in the spring for the much dreaded bathing suit shopping experience to prepare for summer? I know I have. Oh, the torture of being sausaged into a skin tight piece of revealing clothing was at times almost too much to bear, but I would leave the dressing room with a new focus on losing weight.

Winter is one of the times when people are most likely to experience seasonal weight gain and I  think there are two main factors that cause this. The first factor may only apply to people who live in climates farther away from the equator and that is shortened daylight hours combined with cold temperatures and rain/snow. These seasonal changes, that begin in the fall and last till spring, make it more difficult to get outside for exercise. Even a short walk can be painful when the temperature is minus 30 degrees. The second factor is seasonal moods or depression, which are common during the winter months. Seasonally depressed moods and seasonal depression, also known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), can lead to people eating more types of comfort foods that are typically high in carbohydrates. Combine these poorer food choices with large holiday meals and you have winter seasonal weight gain that may be very difficult to overcome.

It is important to mention that depression can strike at any time and those that have long-term depression may struggle with weight gain throughout the year. However, there is also a large portion of people who suffer from SAD in the fall and winter months. There are also other causes for seasonally depressed moods, including stress before or during the holidays.

Winter is not the only time seasonal weight gain is common. Fall can be a time for seasonal weight gain as well, though it is not quite as problematic as the winter months. Fall is a time of great beauty in the eyes of some. They see the changing leaves and the orange pumpkins, and they feel content. Temperatures are not that bad and there is no snow. They still feel relatively good. Others, however, see these things as signs that thing are dying and that winter is just around the corner. When that happens, seasonal weight gain in the fall can occur.

I was surprised to read that some people can experience SAD during the summer months and symptoms can involve insomnia, poor appetite and weight loss (For more information about SAD visit here: Seasonal Affective Disorder) . If you feel that you have depression you should see someone to talk about how you are feeling and get the help and support that you need. Even when it is seasonal depression during any time of the year, you may benefit from some extra help. See your doctor to find out what can be done to stop the unnecessary weight gain and to improve your overall mood.


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6 comments to Seasonal Weight Gain

  • payday advance online

    Great post I to have this same problem of gaining weight in the winter and then in the spring I do everything possible to lose weight for the summer.

  • Niall

    I suspect that there is more to seasonal weight changes than just activity levels and food intake. I have always had seasonal weight fluctuation in the 5-10 pound range since I was a teen and nothing I do seems to change that. It never bothered me as, even at the extremes, I never went more than a pound or two over or under my ideal weight range, I am just curious about the reasons. I think I am just as active in the winter as the summer, I sure do not eat any more and yet, as sure as god makes little green apples add five to ten pounds every winter and just as surely it melts off come spring. When I moved from the Northeast to CA with milder winter weather and longer winter days I thought that might change but it has not. My guess is that this is genetic and a throwback to times when the food supply was much sparser in winter than in Summer and that your body added fat as a reserve. In modern western life food availability is seldom an issue and even if it is it is not a seasonal one but our genes remember. That is my theory anyway.

  • Niall, I like your theory about how our genes may be controlling seasonal weight gain. Perhaps shorter daylight hours are an evolved trigger for our bodies to conserve fat stores. I imagine that there are many reasons seasonal weight gain may occur. It is important to make the changes you can with diet and exercise to minimize this type of weight gain if you are prone to it.

  • Joni

    I started to experience a problem with weight gain a few years back when I started menopause, was diagnosed with hypothyroid and was in the hospital with pleurisy, pneumonia and lung infection all at the same time. Ever since it’s been a battle where each spring and summer I lose 20+ pounds and then gain them back each winter.
    I have all the equipment balance balls, stationary bike, elliptical machine, stepper etc but it seems that they only seem to work in the summer no matter how focused I am on exercise & diet…. I anyone has any suggestions they would be greatly appreciated!

  • Dr Riyaz Quereshi

    Well i read all the perspectives.
    I know this to be a fact that people gain wait in winter.
    One of the Main Reason as far as i know scientifically1 is
    1. In the Summer the body does not hold as much water as in winter. i.e. the body is in a partially dehydrated situation in summer whereas in winters the body had as much possible as water which is reason the frequency of Micturation (urination) increases in winter because the water levels are way up the body can store. All this can some up to alteast 4-5 pounds ..
    2. This one can also be a additional factor to the above accroding to me :The Muscle mass or the protein content in the body also increases in the winters. i.e. the body is in more anabolic state in the winters as compared to summers.
    3. another possibility. As we all one of the main function of fat in the body is to protect the body from too cold temperatures by creating the sheet between below the skin and thus protecting the organs. so even if you dont see any noticeable change in your body shape. a thin deposit of fat all across the body can still contribute to 2-4 change without making you look too fat.
    i hope you guys agree with all this .

  • Kayla

    Also this could be due to the fact that most fruits and veggies aren’t in season, which means they have to be picked before they are ripe and sent from a tropical country. Not to mention they are way more expensive! Interesting..

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