Shutterstock" />
People get fatter in winter -- it seems like a natural law. Whether it's because of allthe feast-based holidays, the ton of comfort food needed to contend with the cold anddark, or the reduced amount of exercise, we all feel like we've put on about five poundsbefore spring shows its fat face. The fact is that we tend to overestimate how much weightwe've gained. A 2000 study published in the New England Journal ofMedicine suggests that we probably only gain about a pound or two during the winterseason. The trouble is that this extra weight accumulates through the years and can be amajor contributor to obesity later inlife. Granted, it's only a pound, but winter doesn't have to be a bulking phase.The Dark Side

In nature, winter was always a time of low food supply when all animals would rely on thefat pad that they had built up during the summer months. Those with low fat stores wouldbe at higher risk of starvation and death, so our bodies evolved an acute insulin responseto efficiently store carbohydrates. Long summer days meant continuouslyelevated insulin to store sugars from fruits, starches from tubers and caramel from yourmocha latte. To mammals, including humans, continuously elevated insulin meant only onething: winter was coming.Winter was cold, dark period when we would empty ourstored sugar from our livers and muscles, and, moreimportantly, our accumulated body fat. Come summer, the entire cycle would repeat itselfand our insulin would remain sensitive for the next four or five months.It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia

Through the miracle of technology, we've eliminated our traditional famine period.Light bulbs and computer screens provide the artificial daylight, and year-round access tocarbs provides the food security. We have confused our bodies into thinking that summer isstill here, and, frankly, you can't blame us. Summer is a time of feasting, frolicking andfornicating. Who wouldn't want that to last all year?But Mother Nature isn'teasily fooled. In return for banishing darkness, we suffer from weight gain, seasonalaffective disorder, depression, lower immunity, higher stress, and fatigue, all of whichfalls under the scientifically accurate term "winter blues."Follow these fivesteps, and you'll not only avoid putting on a few pounds, but you'll likely lose a few.Let the abominable snowman transform into an abdominalone.Step 1: Feed Your Hunger For Sleep

Light and dark cycles control insulin through carb cravings but also, more directly,through your stress mechanisms. When the lights are on, your cortisol levels stay upbecause you need the ability to fight, run and get stuff done. Cortisol mobilizes bloodsugar, which means that insulin also stays up to disperse that sugar to your muscles. Sostaying up to watch Letterman keeps your insulin up longer than nature intended,and that means one thing: You get fat just by smelling a cookie. As aresult, we crave carbohydrates only when we're tired, not when we need food. More and moreresearch shows that chronic sleep deprivation leads to weight gain. So turn off the TV by9 p.m., get to bed by 10 p.m. and try to get as much sleep as you can without gettingfired or divorced.Click to find out what everyday foods you should cut out of your winterdiet...RELATED VIDEO:How To Avoid Weight Gain This Winter Continue Reading ]More...[/url]