Could February Be to Blame for Weight Gain?

The gradual creeping up of the scale and increasing trouble buttoning your jeans may seem as if it's come out of nowhere, but chances are, one of these cold weather problems is to blame. By Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.

You're programmed from thousands of years of history
When humans were hunter-gatherers, it was necessary to pack on weight for long, hard winters when food was less readily available. "When we were foraging, skinny people were less likely to make it through the winter," says Dr. Lawrence Cheskin, Director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center and Professor at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "There was a survival tactic of gaining weight in and before it." We still try to conserve energy when it's cold because it's our natural way to avoid burning more calories than necessary. However, given modern living conditions, stocking up on food is more likely to add a clothing size than it is to keep us alive until spring.

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You got off track during the holidays
Winter begins with Thanksgiving, Hanukah, Christmas, New Year's, and a slew of events involving more buffets, hors d'oeuvres and alcohol than you'd normally be exposed to. If, like most of us, you overindulged on these special days, you may have fallen into what psychologists call "all or nothing thinking." Instead of acknowledging that it was a bad health day, and tomorrow will be better, many people assume that once they've made one mistake, they may as well continue the pattern. "It may take until the spring for people to get back on track in terms of what they'd like to be doing in terms of health and fitness," says Dr. Cheskin.

You're watching more TV
The possibility of going out - whether to dinner, a movie, or to meet friends - is so much less appealing when the thermometer drops below freezing. Come winter, you're probably at home more often, and spending an increasing number of nights marathoning Homeland or catching up on movies you missed. Numerous studies have associated TV-watching with weight gain, largely due to mindless eating. So avoid bringing the entire bag of popcorn to the couch with you, and instead portion out a few cups into a bowl. Having to walk to the kitchen for a refill will add intention to your munching.

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You're exercising less

There's truth to the saying,"February is the cruelest month," according to Payal Kadakia, Founder and CEO of Classtivity, an online platform that helps people find and register for new workout classes. The site found that class providers report the highest attendance at the beginning of the year and in the fall, with the least number of people showing up in February. "People have lost their New Year's resolution motivation, and summer is too far away to think about a bikini-body," says Kadakia. But, this in-between time is actually the ideal moment to try a new fitness routine, and see if it works for you. From Wu Tao - an Asian dance-based practice - to acrobatic Cirque de Pole, you're bound to find a quirky workout you love.

The weather's got you down

There's nothing like waking up to bright sunshine and slipping on a pair of shorts - something that isn't happening right about now. Even on nice days, the sun is out for fewer hours, and walking out of your office to pitch-black skies at 5 p.m. is no fun. "The hypothesis is that we might eat more when we're not as happy or invigorated, and sunlight is a mood enhancer," says Dr. Cheskin. You're especially likely to reach for carbs when you're feeling down, which wake you up with quickly metabolized calories - but hold up before you eat that sandwich. "You're getting calories that make you alert, make you feel good, and are gone an-hour-and-a-half later, at which point you feel hungry again," says Cheskin.

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Fresh produce is harder to find
If there are no great strawberries around, you may replace naturally sweet fruits with baked goods. Fresh foods, particularly fruits, are less available in the winter, and when you can find them, they're usually imported from South America, and more expensive. However, eating in-season veggies - in the winter, try squash, parsnips, Brussels sprouts - is especially beneficial. Since the produce has just become fully ripe, it packs the most nutrients.

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