Gaining weight in the cold months is not fun, but totally normal

By Charlotte Hilton Andersen
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Don't blame lack of willpower for those pounds you gained over the holidays. We joke about needing to put on extra winter weight for padding, but a new study published in Proceeding of the Royal Society B suggests that rationale is legit.

The culptirt? Evolution, of course. Researchers used a computer model to see how much extra weight an animal would need to survive a harsh season outdoors (so one without Netflix and takeout), and why this extra weight was necessary. See, along with animals, our human ancestors also needed to survive long, harsh winters with scarce food, so our bodies developed the ability to gain extra weight in the winter as a sort of insurance policy against starvation. At the time, starvation was a much bigger risk than, say, heart disease and obesity. Of course, we don't experience a scarce supply of food in the winter today, but our bodies haven't exactly wisened up to that fact yet.

Not only do we not experience scarcity, we usually have more food during the holidays. A lot more. Wintertime is now a months-long buffet of fattening foods and sugary treats. This baggage from our ancestors combined with the addictive nature of processed foods makes a perfect storm for seasonal squishiness.

With this in mind, the researchers aren't surprised many winter diets fail. New Year's Day is the worst possible time to start a new diet, Andrew Higginson, Ph.D., a professor at the University of Exeter, and lead author of the paper said in a press release. (That's why we made it easier! Check out the only 3 recipes you need.)

So while you suffer through the cold, dark months ahead, don't beat yourself up if you put on a few pounds. Instead, focus on your healthy goals, and do the best you can-without guilt. If you need a little inspiration, keep in mind these key rules for cold weather weight loss. And chilly weather doesn't mean you need to miss your workouts; in some cases, it can even be better for you. (Want proof? Check out these five reasons why running in the cold is good for you.)

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