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Why is it So Hard to Lose Weight During the Winter? (Your Genetics are Guilty)

2018  is in full effect, and with that, the steam from starting your New Years Resolution goals are ready for another boost of motivation and vigor. By definition, a resolution is,

A FIRM DECISION TO DO OR NOT DO SOMETHING; THE ACTION OF SOLVING A PROBLEM, DISPUTE, OR CONTENTIOUS MATTER”. 

Eating healthier, starting to exercise, removing crappy foods from your cabinets, aiming for personal development or picking up a new hobby are all fantastic options to enhance living more. Your willpower can only be tested so far, so every few weeks, it is great to receive a refresher to keep the fire driving positive habits.

But despite peoples best intentions, the winter months can seem overwhelming to begin all of these new experiences, resulting in “failing” your goals, yourself, and feeling stuck in a hamster wheel that restricts enjoying life to its fullest potential.

It is Not Your Fault

If that is the first time you have heard that, then please read it again and let it sink in. You are not to blame. That wheel of restriction you feel is a result of your ancestor’s evolution, societal pressure, and being misled as to what is good and bad health information. But this is the turning point where you are exposed to the truth, and now can keep momentum in your favor. When it comes to weight loss in the winter, you cannot use the same approach as other seasons of the year. These 3-4 months are sometimes the most difficult for you to achieve an ideal body or habits, but you are about to learn why that is and how to work with the winter season to be successful.

Evolutionary Traits of Food Intake

The human body has evolved through years of evolution to accommodate for changes in seasons. Heavy calorie consumption during the fall harvest season has always been a survival trait. It was our ancestors prime mechanism to survive the scarce winter months of harvest and hunting.

Human genetics (your DNA) have not caught up to the fact we have unlimited access to plentiful food sources 12 months of the year, resulting in copious amounts of over-consumption and indulgence. Your great-great-great-great-great-great grandparents could not say the same, so when food was around, the goal was to consume as much as possible to store up the energy to survive the cold and lack of food supply.

Imagine your body like a solar panel; when exposed to the sun, it gathers energy and stores it before putting it to use. Each day when the sun is up, it gathers in some more energy and while the sun is gone during the night, it uses up what is has stored because it knows it can refuel again tomorrow. But what happens if the source of energy is now gone? It is going to try and over-fill itself on the sun as much as possible since when it will gather more sunlight is not guaranteed. Once it is good and full, the sun comes back out and, uh-oh, it is forced to fill up on more energy because it hasn’t learned to override the coding that wants it to take in sunlight as much as possible when it is around.

This is how your primal ancestors lived when it came to finding and consuming during the winter months to survive and thrive.

Well, guess what? Now, these solar panels are now so full of sunlight, they could not swallow another drop, so they are at rest overnight to decrease how much energy they let out, rationing as much as possible. Lone behold, next morning the sun rises and those panels think they are hungry for more since after today they don’t know when the sun is coming back, so they fill up to 110% now (bloated, lethargic, fat storage) and repeat that process for a few days, weeks or months, and the solar panels have gained a few pounds and need to change their behaviors if they want to change their body.

This is how living in 2018 is for us.

Not to mention, some of the most gluttonous holidays of food, alcohol, and abundance are back-to-back winter months (Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah). We have not outgrown those genetic traits yet, meaning that mental fortitude and the ability to say ‘no’ is a big contributor to resisting over-consumption in the face of food.

Evolutionary Traits to Avoid Feeling Cold

Guys, have you ever shaved your face or head during the winter seasons? You can instantly feel a difference when the cold air hits your newly exposed skin, fighting back your manly urges to shiver and bundle up. Ladies, what about freshly shaven legs, a haircut, or being underdressed when exposed to the cold? Your initial instincts are to put on more layers or quickly find cover from the elements.

Fat on your body is an incredible insulator to keep your muscles, joints, and organs warm. When animals head into hibernation, they increase their body fat tremendously to retain warmth more efficiently. Well, here is another check in the ‘damn you ancestors’ column.

Believe it or not, there used to be a time where we didn’t have oil heat in the house at 72°, a warming blanket, or Goose-Down filled jacket to wear. A large amount of warmth had to come from just the body (fat, breathing, cuddling and friction) since storing fat is an amazing insulator, nobody was afraid to pack on extra pounds to feel comfortable against the weather.

Maintaining a 6-pack, getting lean or dropping fat off of your body does not match up with your genetic disposition. Is it possible to? Yes of course, but is it more difficult to try and lose body fat in December versus July? Absolutely. My advice to you is to not get caught up in the numbers or body shape is right now.

Use what positive choices are realistic for you to maintain and stay consistent with, and once the warm weather emerges, you will have built a strong foundation of daily practices that will fuel your progress.

Evolutionary Traits to Save Energy

This will piggyback off of the first segment on how you are hardwired to desire more food/energy intake during the winter, so at any time please feel free to scroll back up to make some greater connections. Just like animals who go into hibernation, primal humans were very good at energy conservation.

More Energy In + Less Physical Activity

= Overabundance of Stored Up Energy

For that statement, you can replace the word ‘energy’ can be replaced with snacks, desserts, alcohol, food, etc. When it is cold outside, you do less outdoors because you don’t feel like freezing while playing, exploring, or physically exerting yourself. So, that results in more sedentary behaviors and activities.

Less Moving = Less Calories Burned = More Calories Stored = Weight Gain = Less Moving = Less Calories Burned… do you see the cycle?

It just so happens that while you are biologically engineered to consume more, you are also environmentally constricted by not being able to explore the outdoors as easily. Whether it is spring tasks around your home, keeping up with your kids, going on hikes, bike rides, swimming or physical thrills, those all are ways to be physically active!

There is more to a healthy lifestyle than just workout out at the gym, and to maintain outdoor activity in the winter takes a little bit of creativity, and some warm wool socks. Here are some to get your ball rolling;

  • Opt to shovel snow instead of only using a snowblower
  • Get out there and have a snowball fight
  • Gather some warm clothes, and take a local hike to see the beautiful mountain views
  • When there is a break in the frigid wind, go for a run. The cool air you breathe in will actually help you breathe more easily under fatigue and prevent overexertion; be sure to wear some gloves!

If you are looking for customized content, training, or lifestyle tips, connect with me on social media to see what other beneficial life-enhancements you can implement today!

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