4 Reason Why We Eat More When It’s Cold + Tips To Help
There’s nothing like delicious comfort food on a cold winter's night. If you find it hard to control yourself with said comfort food during winter, you’re not alone!
Many experts actually hypothesise that the reason this happens is because it’s ingrained in our biological makeup.
It makes sense if you think about it. Back in caveman years, our bodies stored up calories to survive the scarcity during the winter months. Much like animals do during times of hibernation. This also explains why we crave rich foods high such as carbs and fats, as they are easily over eaten and stored in the body. Our bodies want to ensure we have plenty of energy stored in our fat cells for self preservation, because back in the day, once the Autumn harvest foods were eaten, up the food was scarce.
Ok enough of this history lesson, let's get into other reasons we eat more during winter, and tips to help combat these cravings.
We’ve covered the first reason why we crave more food during winter, the next reason is because it simply keeps us warmer! Our body temperature drops, which means our appetite gets stimulated because eating helps generate internal heat, leading to a rise in body temperature. The catch 22 is that your body starts craving high fat / high sugar foods to keep you warm, so you spike your blood sugar levels and then the blood sugar level dips which leaves you colder, and most likely still hungry!
The third reason we reach for comfort foods is seasonal affective disorder (SAD) also known as winter depression. This is described as a mood disorder that affects people with normal mental health at particular times of the year. Experts say that this happens due to the reduction of sunlight, which results in a drop in serotonin (a brain chemical that stabilizes our mood, feelings of well-being). Studies have shown when we suffer from SAD, we tend to crave high carb food as these help the body use tryptophan, an amino acid which can be converted into serotonin to boost levels in the blood. So really our brains are working against us when dieting in the winter!
Last but not least, winter results in the return of Netflix and chill - no pun intended. As it gets colder, we go out less, we sit at home and watch movies with popcorn and other goodies. We also make excuses for not going out for a walk because ‘we don’t want to get sick’ or 'it's too cold'. This reason is more of a behavioural one that comes with winter time, which means it can be fixed!
Let’s discuss some ways to fight these winter cravings and stop the winter weight gain!
- Eating regular meals and snacks containing protein and fibre to keep you fuller for longer
- When the urge to treat yo’self takes over, fill up on healthy soups, stews and other low-calorie dishes that contain plenty of fibre rich vegetables and protein
- Include foods in your diet rich in tryptophan (the amino acid mentioned above), such as leafy greens, poultry, seafood and broccoli
- Go outside during daylight and try to get some sun exposure to top up your vitamin D and serotonin levels
- Exercise regularly, even if you do an exercise class on YouTube in your lounge room. Movement will help boost your mood as well burn up some extra calories
- Find other sources of comfort for when you’re cold and stressed that don’t involve food. This includes catching up with a friend, facetime friends, playing with a pet, or making a delicious hot cup of tea.
- Find healthier versions of your favourite comfort foods so you can indulge without blowing your calorie budget. Check out our recipe section for delicious low calories snacks that will satisfy your cravings.
Also, before anyone asks about whether we actually NEED more calories when it’s cold… i'm sorry but as myfitnesspal explains…
“Even when we are exposed to colder temperatures and we burn calories through shivering or nonshivering thermogenesis (that is, our body keeping itself warm in ways other than shivering), most experts agree these calories are insignificant. Thus, you don’t need to alter your calorie goal depending on the season.” , Christine Byrne, MyFitnessPal