Why Do I Always Put on Weight in the Winter?

If you think you’re imagining an increase in your appetite as winter draws near, you’re not.

winter weight gainSome scientists believe, based on research from a study from 1991 out of the University of Georgia, that we are hardwired to our instincts dating back to our cave-dwelling days and these instincts are responsible for an average increase of 200 calories a day in the winter. Colder weather means a food scarcity.

The other culprit is light. The lack of daylight hours in the winter sends signals to the brain for us to stockpile on food and eat faster than normal.

But some scientists disagree with this theory and place the blame on the holidays and people spending more time indoors and less time exercising. During the winter months, our cravings for comfort foods escalate as does our caloric intake. The stronger the memories attached to your favourite foods, the higher the possibility that you’ll eat more of these foods. With every mouthful, these memories are enhanced. Eating already increases our production of the feel-good hormone, dopamine, and when it’s a favorite food, this sensation is even greater.

Unfortunately, most of our comfort foods are high in carbs and high in fat, which leads to more calories and an increased chance of weight gain. So, you can limit yourself by paying close attention to your portion control. Also, including a protein component to every meal you eat will fill you up faster and keep you full for longer.

For those people who are strict about their fitness regime, having a winter plan is always a part of their strategy. Planning ahead is always a good game plan, especially when the winter months are ahead of us. Don’t give in to colder climates and use that as an excuse not to exercise. Devise a plan that will keep you motivated and exercised all winter long.

Soda Pop and Video Games Adding to Childhood Obesity

If you’re a teenager and trying to lose weight, where do you go for advice?

Soda pop, video games and teenage obesityReportedly, 75% of obese teenagers are trying to lose weight, but when their methods were analyzed by researchers, it was found that certain habits and behaviors are holding them back.

These findings come from a study out of Philadelphia, where 14% of high-school students are overweight. This analysis from the Philadelphia Youth Risk Behavioral Survey, looked at about 44,000 high-schoolers to determine what kind of efforts are being made to help with weight loss and what kind of behaviors are lingering that prevent them reaching their goals.

Such behaviors as smoking, regular exercise, video game playing and the consumption of junk food were all taken into account.

Sadly, the obese weight group of female teenagers were also more likely to be smokers and even though most of these females were committed to 60 minutes of aerobic activity a day, their subsequent consumption of soda pop was standing in their way of success.

You need to exercise for 30 minutes of cardio to burn one soda pop.

Their male counterparts were less likely to exercise on a daily basis, giving up aerobic activity for video games – an average of three hours a day is spent on playing video games.

“From a health education standpoint, finding out that three-quarters of students who are obese want to lose weight is exactly what we want,” said lead researcher Clare Lenhart. “But the behavior they’re engaging in is puzzling; it’s counterproductive to what they’re trying to do.”

The researchers believe there is a lack of education amongst these teens and there needs to be a better system for raising awareness to help break bad habits causing weight gain.

“For example, among the girls who are exercising, they may not realize that one soda could undo that 30-minute walk they just took.”

Health-care providers can also do a better job at evaluating teen health with more accurate follow-up questions about their activity levels and nutritional habits.

“If a child is going to their pediatrician, and he asks them if they’re losing weight, an appropriate follow-up question might be, ‘How are you doing that?'” said Lenhart. “It could help guide those teens to more productive weight loss activities.”


Temple University. “Overweight teens want to lose weight, going about it the wrong way.”ScienceDaily, 1 Nov. 2011. Web. 5 Dec. 2011.

Cut Out Mid-Morning Snacking

There is so much confusing information out there about how to lose weight, it’s enough to drive you nuts.

cut out midmorning snacksHow many times have you heard that grazing throughout the day, dividing your calories into smaller meals, is the ideal way to stay full, curb cravings and lose weight?

Well, new evidence is saying that if you are a woman aged 50 to 75 and are trying to lose weight, you need to omit that mid-morning snack from your diets.

This new study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, took 123 women aged 50 to 75 who were overweight or obese and tracked their eating habits and subsequent weight loss. Their diets ranged from 1,200 to 2,000 calories a day and low in fat – less than 30%. Each woman engaged in 45 minutes of cardio exercise a day for five days a week.

The results showed that those women who consumed a mid-morning snack were lose an average of 7% of body weight compared to those women who did not consume a mid-morning snack who lost 11% of their body weight.

“We think this finding may not relate necessarily to the time of day one snacks, but rather to the short interval between breakfast and lunch,” says study researcher Anne McTiernan, MD, PhD. “Mid-morning snacking, therefore, might be a reflection of recreational or mindless eating habits rather than eating to satisfy true hunger.”

The study reports that once snacking becomes a regular part of your dieting regime, it’s easier to give into temptation and snack too often.

“Since women on a weight loss program only have a limited number of calories to spend each day, it is important for them to incorporate nutrient-dense foods that are no more than 200 calories per serving,” McTiernan says.

Having a high-protein breakfast will keep you feeling fuller for longer and you will probably forget all about your mid-morning snack. Another way to help you succeed in your weight loss goals is to measure out your snacks, so you won’t be tempted to eat more than you should. Grabbing nuts from a full bag or grapes from a full bunch will only lead to eating more calories.

Explaining Post-Diet Weight Gain

The biggest complaint amongst dieters who follow a calorie-restricted diet is that as soon as they stop the diet, they gain back most of the weight lost.

post diet weight gainWithin the first year, as many as 80% of dieters gain back the weight lost while on a diet.

To understand better why this is such a common occurrence amongst dieters, scientists out of the University of Melbourne studied appetite hormones to see if they were altered during the dieting process.

Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the results of this study showed that these hormones indeed were affected for about a year after a calorie-restricted diet. After dieting, the hormones were supercharged and working over time to regain the weight lost. The effect of these altered hormones is increased hunger and a larger-than-normal appetite.

“Maintaining weight loss may be more difficult than losing weight,” says lead researcher Joseph Proietto, PhD, a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne’s Heidelberg Repatriation Hospital, in Victoria, Australia. “This may be due to biological changes rather than [a] voluntary return to old habits.”

To test this theory, the scientists placed 50 overweight and obese men and women on a 10-week, calorie-restricted diet and then tested their hormone levels over a one-year period.

These blood tests showed that appetite hormones leptin, ghrelin and insulin were altered as a result of weight loss. Subjects also noted an increase in hunger throughout the morning, even after eating breakfast.

Even though the average weight lost was 30 pounds over the 10 weeks, the dieters gained back about 12 pounds over the course of the year. This was in spite of eating a well-balanced diet and exercising on a regular basis. The dieters again noted an increase in hunger pangs and blood tests showed that hormone levels were still unstable.

While these results may shock a few people, the scientists explain that this is a typical response of the body and one that has been hard-wired into our genetics as a survival technique.

“Multiple mechanisms have been developed over eons of evolution to get you to regain weight once you lose it, to tell your brain you’re hungry and to ensure that you don’t stop eating. If you don’t have those drives, you wouldn’t be alive.

Now that we live in a world where calories are so easily consumed and physical exercise—the best way to burn off those calories—is largely unnecessary for day-to-day survival, these biological drives are backfiring and contributing to obesity.” – Dr Charles Burant, Director of the University of Michigan Nutrition Obesity Research Center.

It’s not all a total loss though. Despite these increases in hunger pangs and cravings, dieters can still be successful if they arm themselves with a strong willpower and persevere to resist these cravings.

“That’s not to say that weight regain is inevitable, or that these drives can’t be overcome through willpower. Although the hormone changes noted in the study are very real physical effects, personality and psychological factors may play a role in an individual’s ability to manage chronic hunger. This may explain why some people maintain weight loss for longer than others,” he says. “Maintenance of weight loss requires continued vigilance and conscious effort to resist hunger.” – Joseph Proietto, PhD, University of Melbourne.

Researchers are using this information to develop new ways to help restore hormonal levels after dieting.

Columbia University has used leptin with great success in helping dieters to keep the weight they lost off.

“When diabetics don’t have enough insulin in their bodies, we give them back insulin in order to maintain their blood glucose,” Dr. Burant says. Researchers should be finding a way to do the same for people who have lost weight, he adds, “whether it’s with a drug, a dietary supplement, or certain nutrients—something that will stimulate the release of these hormones.”

Another Clue to How Obesity Works

With obesity gaining momentum, scientists are getting closer to understanding how the disease progresses, providing clues for future treatments.

Another clue into how obesity worksIn one study published in the journal Cell Metabolism, researchers examined the hormone leptin and how a resistance to it can develop. Leptin is a key hormone in the cause of obesity.

Lead author Professor Tony Tiganis, of the Monash Obesity and Diabetes Institute and Monash University’s Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, said our bodies produce leptin in response to increasing fat deposits.

“Acting on a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, leptin instructs the body to increase energy expenditure and decrease food intake, and so helps us maintain a healthy body weight,” said Professor Tiganis.

“The body’s response to leptin is diminished in overweight and obese individuals, giving rise to the concept of ‘leptin-resistance’. We’ve discovered more about how ‘leptin-resistance’ develops, providing new directions for research into possible treatments.”

Previous studies have revealed two proteins that inhibit leptin in the brain and Professor Tiganis’ team have discovered a third.

Tests performed on mice revealed this third protein as more abundant with weight-gain, exacerbating leptin-resistance and hastening progression to morbid obesity. The study showed that the three negative regulators of leptin take effect at different stages, shedding light on how obesity progresses.

“Drugs targeting one of the negative regulators are already in clinical trials for Type 2 Diabetes; however, our research shows that in terms of increasing leptin-sensitivity in obesity, targeting only one of these won’t be enough. All three regulators might need to be switched off,” said Professor Tiganis.

When two of the negative regulators were removed from the test mice, weight gain from a high fat diet was largely prevented.

“We now have to determine what happens when all three negative regulators are neutralised. Do we prevent high fat diet-induced obesity?”

Professor Tiganis said the more that is known about obesity, the better-equipped scientists are to develop drugs to support good diet and exercise choices.

“Humans have a deep-seated attraction to overeating and nutrient-rich food, inherited from our hunter-gatherer ancestors. Now that food is more readily available and our lifestyles are less active, our evolutionary drive to overeat is becoming problematic.”

“Simply telling people to eat less and exercise more is not going to be sufficient to reverse the obesity trend. There is a pressing need to develop novel drugs that complement diet and exercise to both prevent and treat this disease,” said Professor Tiganis.


Monash University. “Another clue to how obesity works.” ScienceDaily, 14 Oct. 2011. Web. 18 Oct. 2011.