While I thought for a long time that the cold makes you fat, it has now come to the attention of science that this may not be the case! Living in Tasmania, and now the Southern end, we are exposed to a very long, cold and often icy winter that come sometimes stretch into our spring and autumn time of year. And while I love the four seasons, it can certainly be more pleasant coming home from work to daylight and waking up in the morning to put on shorts not a Kathmandu.
So what is it about the winter that makes us ‘stack it one’. To be honest it’s not the cold itself, its actually the hormones and the way the cold makes us ‘feel’ and in turn our reactions to these feels. You know those people that when they are stressed, sad or overjoyed they eat? Those that eat to emotion are also those that this can influence the most. Not to mention the media, they just love to influence us in our choices of food!
And it all comes down to that, the food! When you think winter what springs to mind? Warm hearty soups, think potato and minestrone filled with carbs, starch and pasta and what goes with soup? Hot crusty bread, with butter – yum! Then there are the one pot wonders, when you come home from a long day at work and its dark already why would you want to slave over a stove? Coming home to a steaming hot dish is one way to warm you us! But these dishes can often include the fattier cuts of meat to maintain their tenderness – thigh fillets, shoulders and the bone. And what mops up the sauce? Serves on top of creamy butter mashed potato and bread? How about a steaming hot flaky pot pie straight from the oven – chicken and leek sounds divine? Filled with cream and then comes dessert, who wants cold fruit salad and ice-cream? I think the better idea is a hot milo or chocolate, with marshmallows by the fire or a chocolate self-saucing pudding? Have I made you feel fatter yet? And this is exactly what is marketed to us on all the magazines, because it makes you drool thinking about it!
Then there comes the exercise, if you keep your normal summer routine but then swap all your cold salads for foods like above don’t expect to remain as you were. And REALLY don’t expect to remain as you were if you change your food AND slack off on your training schedule. Sure it’s darker outside but technically there are still as many hours in the day just find what works for you whether that means over and done with in the morning or after work as you appreciate your 8hrs.
After all of this it had now been tested the effect of the cold on your body and its ability to retain fat in cold vs hot weather.
Basically in the cold weather the body can be stimulated to create a special type of tissue that is known as brown fat which under the right conditions burns energy to help keep us warm. White fat is the fat we are familiar with the stores around or tummy and bulges our waste lines which is a storage site for the excess calories that we consume.*(1)
This ‘brown fat’ is stored around the neck/collar bone area and sometimes down the spine *(2) so not in large quantities and works in the cold to stimulate heat to help keep us warm, but it is only stimulated in the right conditions and if exposed to the cold frequently enough. It has also been found that those with lower BMIs do tend to have a higher portion of brown fat then those that have higher. Not only this but as mentioned the undoing of the extra energy burnt from this brown fat is easily undone by poor food choices.
One thing that scientists are trying to do though, is find ways to manipulate the body into having more of this brown fat and while not a cure for obesity the additional calories burnt can add up to some weight. This doesn’t mean exposing yourself to ice baths on a daily basis either but looking into how this may be developed into pill form for weight loss ability. * (2)
* (2) http://www.livescience.com/49652-what-is-brown-fat-facts.html