Three Ways to Avoid Seasonal Weight Gain

Even though summer technically extends until September 22nd, we start to embrace fall the minute Labor Day weekend ends. The leaves start to change, the air is tinted with a cool breeze, and pumpkin spice lattes are back. You might not notice it at first, but another seasonal change occurs with our appetites.

It is scientifically proven that we eat more during the fall and winter seasons.

“We have a tendency to eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall,” says University of Texas professor John de Castro. This caloric increase is attributed to an average weight gain of three to four pounds per person over the season.

There are three major reasons why we eat more in the cooler months than in the spring and summer: lack of sunlight, dehydration, and negativity. In short, we tend to eat more because we’re cold, thirsty, and depressed. Though these reasons might seem easily avoidable, they are not always obvious due to their subconscious nature. With a little intentional action and self-awareness, we can combat the seasonal blues.

Lack of sunlight.  The sun starts to set earlier come autumn and we find ourselves trapped indoors. Our bodies crave carbohydrates as a way to balance out the drop in temperature. We also tend to work out less often when the days seem shorter. The solution?  Find a routine. Instead of dreading your workout at the end of a long, cold workday, opt for a mid-day sweat session during your lunch break. Take a walk around the block or check out a new walking trail; your body will appreciate the exercise and your mind will thank you for the extra exposure to afternoon light. Additionally, instead of carbo-loading with junk food that will wear you down and make you tired, eat seasonal harvest that is both hearty and bountiful with fiber, protein, beta carotene, and vitamin C. 

Dehydration. We all know the importance of drinking water for a healthy immune system, skin clarity, and bodily regulation. But did you know that proper hydration is essential to our energy supply? When we don’t drink enough water we find ourselves feeling listless and unmotivated to do much of anything except binge Netflix. The solution? Drink a glass of water first thing in the morning, even before your coffee has finished brewing. Use a clear water bottle so you can see how much you are drinking and make sure to refill two – three times per day. Often times when we think we are hungry, it’s actually just the first sign of dehydration. Drink more water and you’ll find yourself eating less passive snacks and feeling full of energy and vigor. (And if you do find yourself squirreled away binge-watching season two of Stranger Things, here’s a resource for you. Don’t forget your water bottle!)

Negativity.  Many of us unwillingly welcome seasonal depression into our lives during this time. We find ourselves eating to feel better emotionally and to pass time in the darkness. The solution? Be mindful of what you are allowing into your body. Stray from processed, refined foods and opt for natural, supplement-rich foods instead. Vitamin D (the “sunshine vitamin”) is your friend. Salmon, egg yolk, orange juice, and shiitake mushrooms are all great sources of vitamin D that can be found in your fridge. If you have trouble fulfilling the Recommended Dietary Allowance of 600 IUs of Vitamin D each day, add a daily supplement to your morning routine — but natural foods are always the best choice.