There are plenty of factors besides your desire to eat right and exercise that can affect the number on the scale. You know, things like how often free doughnuts show up in your break room or whether your partner has a penchant for keeping the freezer stocked with ice cream. (Having to tell yourself "no" over and over gets tough!)
And now you can add where you live to that list. Turns out that your location can have a significant impact on your weight in some pretty surprising ways. Here's a look at how your neighborhood, city or town can influence your eating habits, fitness routine and more.
1. You might weigh less if you live somewhere cold.
Sure, colder weather might make you want to hygge it up on the couch and eat heavy comfort foods like mac and cheese. But research shows that people in colder climates tend to burn more calories. When the mercury drops, your body expends more energy to keep you warm (shivering, for example).
Exposure to cold temperatures has also been shown to activate the formation of brown fat, a good type of fat that produces heat by burning calories, according to a 2017 study from Scientific Reports. How many more calories will you burn? It depends on your body type and how cold it is. But, for instance, one 2010 University of Maryland study found that participants burned close to 6 percent more calories in a day just by lowering the indoor room temperature from 75 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. But your weight might be more of a focus if you live somewhere warm.
One 2002 study of U.S. women found that, compared to those living in the Northeast, those living in the Southeast were thinner, more concerned about their body shape and more prone to disordered eating behaviors. Experts aren't exactly sure why, but it probably has more to do with climate than culture.
"When it's hot, you're wearing a lot less clothes and your body is more visible," explains mindful-eating expert Susan Albers, Psy.D. That can heighten any insecurities that you might have about your body — not to mention make it easier to compare yourself to how everyone else looks. As a result, you might try to work harder to achieve a certain weight.
3. You’re probably more active if you live near the coast.
Working out by the beach sure beats slogging it out at the gym. So it might not surprise you to learn that people living in coastal zip codes are 23 percent less likely to be sedentary and 38 percent more likely to report high levels of vigorous activity compared to those living inland, according to Australian research.
It makes sense: Coastal areas tend to be scenic, have more moderate climates and have more dedicated recreational spaces, the study authors say. And all of those things can make exercise more enjoyable and motivate you to be more active on a regular basis.
4. You might be thinner if you live in an urban area.
Being a city dweller won't automatically put you at a healthy weight, but it does up your chances. Only 34 percent of people living in urban areas are obese. That's compared to 39 percent of those living in rural ones, says National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey data from 2012.
Why? Rural diets often tend to be higher in rich foods like meat and sugary desserts, the study authors say. On the other hand, healthier foods might be easier to access in a city — whether it's the green juice shop near your office or even just the fact that the nearest grocery store with fresh produce is only a few blocks away. "In a rural area, those options might not be available," Dr. Susan Albers says.
5. Or if you live in a neighborhood that’s highly walkable.
City or countryside, there's a good chance you'll be at a healthier weight if the place where you live is pedestrian-friendly. A 2016 study shows that people residing in walkable neighborhoods really do hoof it more often, and not just for the sake of exercise. They're also more likely to walk to work or even just to run errands.
And that can all add up. Strolling a mile to and from the office, for instance, burns around an extra 1,000 calories per week. With those kinds of numbers, it's no wonder what moving to a more walkable neighborhood can result in pounds lost.
Read more: The Top 25 U.S. Cities for Fit Millennials
What Do YOU Think?
What kind of environment do you live in? Is it warmer or colder? Urban or more rural? On the coast or inland? Did you know that where you live can impact your weight? Do you pay attention to these factors? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments below!