Health & Environment

Weight control tips during freezing cold days

The chilling season may not be the right time to lose but gain weight. Watch out!

The temperature is dropping as winter gets closer, yet the lamentable fact is your body weight may be going up.

Despite claims that the human body's increased metabolic rate in cold weather makes winter the best time to lose weight, some experts say that is only part of the truth.

Dr Francis Chow Chun-chung, president of the Hong Kong Association for the Study of Obesity, said it was more difficult for people to lose weight in winter for dietary and environmental reasons.

"During winter, human beings need to conserve more energy to keep themselves warm. They will have a better appetite and thus it is harder for them to control their diets," Dr Chow said.

He added that people tended to eat more to maintain their body temperature when they felt cold; however, due to the strong wind and cold weather in winter, it was much more difficult for people to exercise or go out for a walk than in summer time.

What make people fat is no rocket science. If one takes in more energy than he consumes, the excessive energy would turn into fat.

"It is super hard to lose weight in winter than in summer because somehow I just want to eat more during winter time," said Ms Kwan Pui-ting, 21, who has tried losing weight in both seasons.

"And because of the cold weather, I'd rather stay in bed than exercise," Ms Kwan added.

Dr Chow said although it was true to say the metabolic rate would increase a bit in winter compared to summer, the slight increase did not help one to lose weight.

Our body needs more energy to keep ourselves warm under cold weather. Our daily energy expenditure at rest or sleep would increase by 10 per cent, approximately 100 to 200 calories – which Dr Chow described as "a modest increase that a can of coke would cover that energy lost".

Sharing the same view with Dr Chow, Dr Yeung Chi-keung, specialist in Dermatology said that the slight increase in basal metabolic rate during winter made no big difference.

Nonetheless, there are people who use such weird method as ice bath to try to increase their metabolic rate instead of doing exercise to spend more energy, said Dr Yeung.

People claiming ice bath can help them lose weight – in some cases as much as three kilograms a month – soak themselves into ice water for 10-15 minutes a day.

Dr Chow explained that if you find yourself losing weight after ice bathing, the reason would be you had fallen sick already.

"True, your body needs to burn more energy to keep yourself warm during ice bath, yet it is easy for you to fall ill. Also, people may feel hungry after the ice bath and would then eat more," Dr Chow added.

He said there was no scientific basis for ice bath and it would not help people lose weight.

Worse still, Dr Yeung pointed out ice bath might even cause frostbite as our skin could not adapt to severely low temperature.

To those who insist on losing weight with low-temperature techniques, Dr Yeung suggested using coolsculpting method, which uses a machine to freeze and kill the user's subcutaneous fat cells directly, sparing the skin the chill.

The damaged fat cells would be dissipated after a few days, while ice bath only cooled the whole body down, he explained.

Lose weight by soaking in cold water may be a novelty, but obesity definitely is not.

According to the latest government data, general obesity rates among primary-school students rose to 22.2 per cent in 2009-2010, a 5.5 per cent increase from 16.7 per cent in 1996-1997.

Although the figure is by no means jaw-dropping, the problem of obesity would be significantly exacerbated when these kids grew up, said Dr Chow.

Ms Chung Yuk-king, nutritionist at MSL Nutritional Diet Centre, said it would be harder for people to lose weight in winter as they tended to eat more hot dishes and food containing fats, such as hotpot and drinks like hot chocolate that contained high calories and large amount of sugar.

"People would less likely exercise as well. Therefore, the energy consumption is lower," she said.

She added that losing weight in winter indeed required more motivation as well as determination.

In this festive season with all sorts of parties and potlucks going on, Ms Chung suggested that people followed the eating sequence: from water to vegetables, mixed grains, cold dishes, hot dishes and fruits.

The eating sequence helped you feel full by drinking certain amount of water before the meal so that you would not overeat afterwards, she said.

She added that besides high-energy food, people should avoid alcoholic drinks since the calorie of a cup of cocktail was way higher than that of a can of coke.

 

 

Reported by Jessica Lee

Edited by Joyce Cheung

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