Anxious about "Winter weight gain"? Intuitive Eating could help.

"Winter weight gain" is like a Winter warning sign put up by our fat-phobic culture.

It has this sinful connotation almost.


Why are we so scared of gaining weight in Winter and why is it a good option to actually let go of this weigh focus for an overall better well-being?


Reasons why we might gain more weight in Winter:

There are some biological mechanisms behind gaining weight in colder months.
Adiposity (fat) is valuable especially in the cold environments, which are vulnerable to fluctuations in energy supply
Seasonal weight fluctuations are common, historically due to seasonal food shortage.
It is also effective in maintaining a good immune system.

The cold can also have an effect on our psychological function which can then effect our eating behaviours.
In winter, the serotonin turnover in the brain is the lowest.
Later dawn in winter causes disruption in the circadian rhythm which is thought to affect a person's depressive state, so winter worsening of mood isn't a myth. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is an example.
(You can read more about this here and here).



Shifting our focus from weight to health:

We know from the Health at Every Size science that weight focus is actually ineffective in producing thinner bodies. 
The more you try to lose weight and diet, the more you'll gain back on. 

In the famous literature by Linda Bacon (here), it explains that dieting leads to reduced bone mass, increased risk of osteoporosis, eating disorders (a mental illness) and other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and rheumatoid arthritis. 
It also leads to increased chronic psychological stress and cortisol production. Furthermore, dieting is a strong predictor of future weight gain.

So pursuing weight loss and fighting against natural weight fluctuations through dieting doesn't lead to a happy ending, even though the weight loss industry tries so hard to convince you it does.



"But I know I HAVE to lose weight.
At least not put on any more weight during Winter."

This, I hear from many clients almost daily.
What's really behind your weight loss desire?
You may find the previous post on this useful to explore the background.




"Okay I know about the negatives of dieting. 
But my eating gets so out of control in Winter!!!"

Ah, so the worry is about the uncontrolled eating. 


This is where intuitive eating comes into practice.


Intuitive eating is the internal regulation of eating. 
It's about connecting with your body to understand what to eat and how much to eat, depending on the day's mood, feeling, appetite, energy levels, hunger/fullness levels, and pleasure.

Intuitive eating is a process, not a goal.
Learning the skills to practice intuitive eating is associated with improved nutrient intake, reduced eating disorder symptomatology, and not with weight gain.

It's not really about 'always eating only to 80% full" or "only eating when I'm hungry'.
Rather, it's about giving time for yourself to explore:

"I'm about 80% full now and still have some food left on my plate.
I can continue eating if I want to.
I can also wrap up here and keep this leftover until my next occasion.
I may be uncomfortably full if I continue eating.
Am I willing to bear this uncomfortable fullness or do I want to stay in this current fullness?"

"I'm a little hungry now but it's not lunch time.
I could push through without eating for another two hours.
But this might put me to a ravenous state.
I can also have a small bite of something satisfying now just to keep me going for another two hours so by lunch time I'm hungry enough for a meal.
What do I want to do?"



So, would you prefer to spend this Winter constantly fighting against your body, or would you rather take this opportunity to take a more compassionate approach to intuitively connect with your body for a long-term health benefit?



Diet vs. intuitive eating


Reference:
Bacon L and Aphramor L. 2011. Weight Science: Evaluating the Evidence for a Paradigm Shift. Nutr J. 10:9.
Seasonal Affective Disorder. An Overview and Update.
The circadian basis of winter depression.

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