Monday, November 12, 2012

Is Winter Weight Gain a Health Issue?

Many living creatures put on weight to prepare for winter, including black bears. Here are three ways you can keep winter weight gain under control.

A black bear in a tree.
Black bears more than double their body weight to prepare for winter.

Did you know that black bears more than double their body weight by late fall in preparation for winter hibernation? While this is probably not a good idea for humans, it raises an interesting point: Is winter weight gain a health issue?

Research shows that most of us gain approximately one to two pounds during the winter months. Less physical activity, overindulging around holidays and not to mention comfort eating all contribute to this potential poundage. Whether this poses a health risk lays in our ability to work the weight off come spring. So what are the top three things you can do this winter to prevent unwanted weight gain?

  1. Get the junk food out of the house. That means holiday pies, Christmas cookies and leftovers all need to be sent home with the relatives. Having these caloric temptations in the kitchen makes it all the more likely you will frequent the fridge multiple times a day.
  2. Get outside. Just because it’s raining and snowing doesn’t mean you can’t bundle up and go for a walk. While you’re at it, give snowshoeing, cross-country skiing or ice-skating a try. These aerobic exercises will get your heart pumping and your metabolism roaring, and help stave off seasonal depression.
  3. Drink water. Aim for half your body weight in ounces. For example, a 150-pound person should be drinking at least 75 ounces (a little over 2 liters) per day, and more if you are exercising. Cut out all the calorie-laden sweet coffee drinks and alcohol and switch over to herbal or green tea.

Maybe we should take a lesson from the bears and give ourselves a break this winter. Get some good sleep, enjoy delicious food with family and friends and be ready to take ownership for your health.

— Jocelyn Cooper, ND, naturopathic doctor and former resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.

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