Cooler temps, fewer daylight hours, and more time spent inside can all have a significant effect on when, how much, and even what we’re hungry for. It may be part of our biology thanks to the winter months triggering biological changes that make us more inclined to eat more, and more high-calorie food and can have an effect on your effort to lose weight.
And there are also other factors, such as food-focused holidays and potentially spending more hours at home, which can contribute to different eating patterns, too.
But just because we’re more likely to crave mugs of hot chocolate and bottomless bowls of chili or cheesy pasta from Autumn to Spring doesn’t mean we necessarily need all those extra calories.
Here’s what everyone should know about how winter
affects the food we want to eat — and how to satisfy those cravings with the
winter foods we actually should eat, so you can feel your best all winter long.
Winter May Actually Make You Hungrier
Are winter’s colder temps and fewer daylight hours changes that affect
eating and food cravings? Cool weather may trigger an evolutionary relic inside
us to fatten up to survive tough environmental conditions, the way many other
animals do. One study found that participants did consume an average of 86 more
calories per day in Autumn, compared with Spring, and ate more fat and
saturated fat in the winter months. Another theory is that the change of season
may change the balance of some of the hormones that control hunger and
appetite. A review which looked at data both in people and in animals, found
that seasonal changes did affect many hormones related to hunger and appetite,
including glucocorticoids, ghrelin, and leptin. Carbohydrate intake also
increases serotonin levels — and research suggests that people thus may crave
carbohydrates as a way to improve mood, particularly in people with seasonal
depression, who may have lower serotonin levels and mood because of reduced
exposure to sunlight.
Might Be More Likely to Crave Comfort Food During the Winter
Of course, just because we might be more likely to crave chocolate cake, croissants, and cheese in the winter months, doesn’t necessarily mean we should indulge those cravings with reckless abandon. Those cravings are “hedonic hunger,” and while you can indulge in moderation every once in a while, it’s important to note that a lot of wintertime overeating may be a result of opportunity and mindset more than pure physiology. Cool weather and when it gets dark earlier make you tend to stay home more. And early evening is a vulnerable time for a lot of people who tend to mindlessly snack then. That window is bigger in the winter.
Winter Foods You Should Be Eating
To satisfy both your body and mind, seek out comfort foods that fill your belly, warm you up, and make you feel good — but are also good for you… In our next article we will unpack which comfort foods are healthy and how you can incorporate in into your weight loss journey.