You may lose more weight in cold weather… if you’re a mouse

A small brown mouse outside in the snow

Congratulations, blog readers!  You’ve made it through the minefield of New Year’s Resolutions, including all of those articles promising ways to lose weight this year.

However, now that we are settled into real winter (in the northern hemisphere), the writers of those weight-loss articles need a new angle.  And they have one: the role of cold weather in weight loss.

a thermometer with icecicles, surrounded by snowflakes

Honestly, I didn’t know this was a thing until I started googling, and found a bunch of articles touting the idea that we burn more calories in cold weather, or we can harness our shivering reflexes to burn more calories.  I’m not kidding– check the article out here. Or better yet, (re)read Sam’s blog post about hot vs. cold on exercise and weight loss here.  The advice never ends:  we are supposed to be able to use the cold to activate our brown fat to burn more calories (read about it here).  If you’re pressed for time and can’t read the rest of my post, here’s my two-word analysis of these methods for weight loss.

the words

 

Of course, this blog has been ever vigilant in documenting the hot/cold weight loss/gain silliness; see Sam’s posts on this issue here and here.  I was reminded of this seasonal phenomenon while looking at the weekly email digest I get in my inbox, called Obesity and Energetics Offerings (thanks David Allison, for your continued compiling of this). It compiles articles on everything from basic science to meta-analyses on topics related to body weight and weight loss. One of my favorite parts of the newsletter is the “Headline vs. Study” feature. It illustrates why we would do well not to take sensational news stories about diets or weight-loss at face value.

This week, the cold-weather-weight-loss meme was back.  First, the actual scientific article, from the journal Cell:  Gut microbiota orchestrates energy homeostasis during cold [for mice]. The tests were done on mice, and the results were illustrated like this:

a description of the process of insulin uptake after introducing gut microbiota into mice

It’s kind of pretty, don’t you think?  But also pretty complicated in such a way that doesn’t make for a catchy headline.  But fear not, for the news media will happily remedy that problem.  Like so:

Headline saying Study: cold weather helps you lose weight

You can find the article here, which does in fact mention the mice, but also suggests that this might work for humans:

The study states that its findings on the role microbes play in obesity should be useful in finding treatments in the future. For now, while you’re shivering outside, remember that it could lead to that perfect beach body.

Okay, I get it that news outlets are always looking for anything that will get more page views.  And any story that says “If you do X you may lose weight” is bound to be popular.

Just for fun, I decided to google losing weight in spring/summer/fall, and I found articles for every season, saying that it was the best time for weight loss.

Spring is the best time for weight loss because:

  • you can run outside (so you run longer, burning more calories)
  • you just happen to burn more calories in spring (yes, this keeps coming up but still isn’t true)
  • Bathing suit season (with impending fat shaming) is coming, thus motivating us through fear to lose weight (yeah, that always works)

 

Summer is the best time for weight loss because:

  • the weather is nice
  • we’re all in better moods (okay, I give them that one)
  • the damn bathing suit thing again (we’re wearing bathing suits, so are afraid of eating lest we be judged; thanks for that!)

 

But wait, Fall is the best time for weight loss because:

  • Fall produce is yummy and good for you
  • It’s slow-cooker season (I didn’t make this up; look here but there’s no explanation)
  • The gym is not crowded

I have an idea:  we can fight back by figuring out which season is the best season for loving our bodies.  Here’s me:

Winter is a great season to love my body because it knows how to cross country ski and glide around.  Also, I love the feel of gloves and hats and scarves. And the crunch of snow under my boots.

Spring is a great season to love my body because I start to bare a little more skin and also spruce up with brighter colors.  And I ride my bike more, which my body and I love.

Summer is a fantastic season to love my body.  One word: water! I love the feeling of being in and moving through water.  And sweat, too– I do plenty of that on the bike and elsewhere.  And I love summer produce– yum yum yum!

Fall is a great season to love my body, with cool nights and feel of putting on a jacket after months of bare arms.  There’s fall riding and hiking, and festive rides, and the promise of eating more yummy orange foods.

Do you have a favorite season for loving your body?  I know, it’s hard to pick just one.

 

 

 

About catherine w

I'm an analytic philosopher, retooled as a public health ethicist. I'm interested in heath behavior change, particularly around eating and activity, and how things other than knowledge affect our health decisions.I'm also a cyclist (road, off-road, commuter), squash player, x skier, occasional yoga-doer, hiker, swimmer and leisurely walker.

4 thoughts on “You may lose more weight in cold weather… if you’re a mouse

  1. […] You may lose more weight in cold weather… if you’re a mouse – And any story that says “If you do X you may lose weight” is bound to be popular … There’s fall riding and hiking, and festive rides, and the … […]

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If cold weather helps weight loss then how come I always put on about 5 pounds each Christmas season, lol?! I agree – BOGUS!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. […] You may lose more weight in cold weather… if you’re a mouse – The tests were done on mice, and the results were illustrated like this: It’s kind of pretty, don’t you think? But also pretty complicated in such a way that doesn’t make for a catchy headline. But fear not, for the news … […]

    Like

  4. […] You may lose more weight in cold weather… if you’re a mouse – The tests were done on mice, and the results were illustrated like this: It’s kind of pretty, don’t you think? But also pretty complicated in such a way that doesn’t make for a catchy headline. But fear not, for the news … […]

    Like

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