According to studies, people eat more during the winter months, and a few factors may contribute to this increased hunger. Heavy, high-carb meals, sugary treats, and creamy sauces are all staples of the winter diet. Many people also report feeling hungrier in the winter, with stronger cravings and an increased need to snack. Is this winter appetite just in our head, or is there a reason why we crave more food in cold weather and what can we do to avoid overdoing it?
The cold stimulates our survival instinct.
In the past – long before humans lived in air-conditioned, well-insulated dwellings, and could buy a dazzling array of foods at their local grocery store at any time – winter was a dangerous time. The autumn harvest determined the amount of food available during the colder months, and once these reserves were depleted, it was difficult to find additional resources unless you were very wealthy.
For this reason, the urge to gorge on food at the first sign of cold may be deeply embedded in our biological make-up. It’s a survival instinct from an earlier time when our bodies would have tried to store all the calories possible to help us survive in times of scarcity – the same way wild animals accumulate food. body fat to prepare for hibernation. This also explains why we crave foods high in carbohydrates, sugar and fat: our body hopes to set aside enough reserves to ensure its own survival.
Eating warms us.
Another factor to consider is that calorie consumption also serves to warm up the body, because you are essentially adding energy to your system. As the cold lowers body temperature, you may feel the urge to eat more. The problem is, if you satisfy that craving by indulging in foods high in sugar and fat, you’re going to cause your blood sugar to spike, followed by a dip that will leave you colder and hungrier than ever. before – the whole cycle begins again, and you risk gaining weight due to excessive consumption of calories.
Winter gives us the blues.
Shorter days and time spent indoors mean that many of us are exposed to very little sunlight in the winter, and therefore may suffer from vitamin D deficiency, as our bodies need the light. sunlight to produce this important nutrient. You may also experience lower levels of serotonin – a neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure and well-being – which is also generated by exposure to sunlight.
Both of these deficiencies have been linked to the onset of seasonal depression or SAD: a form of depression associated with the shorter days of winter that affects many people in countries where winter brings increased darkness. Studies have shown that people with seasonal depression tend to crave carbohydrates because carbohydrates help the body use tryptophan, an amino acid that can be converted into serotonin to increase flag levels in the body. blood.
However, for this process to work, it is thus important to eat plenty of tryptophan-rich foods. Like leafy green vegetables, poultry, seafood and broccoli – and not consuming so many refined carbohydrates that there is no room for these healthier choices.
Tips to avoid weight gain in winter.
If you’re worried about gaining weight in the winter due to overeating, here are some quick tips to counter the effects:
- When the urge to snack hits, stock up on healthy, low-calorie soups, stews, and other dishes that are high in fiber-rich vegetables and other healthy ingredients, plus protein to fill you up.
- Find healthier versions of your favorite comfort foods so you can treat yourself without going over your calorie budget.
- Eat healthy snacks regularly throughout the day to keep your metabolism going and stave off cravings for sugary, high-fat treats.
- Go outside during the day and try to get some sun exposure to boost your vitamin D and serotonin levels.
- If you think you have seasonal depression, take preventive measures and consult a professional if necessary.
- Continue to exercise regularly: it will help you improve your mood, stop thinking about food and burn extra calories.
- Find other sources of comfort without food when you’re stressed: catch up with a friend, play with a pet, or enjoy a hot cup of tea.