It seems like the minute the weather turns colder, we crave more to eat. If you feel hungrier as winter draws near, you are not alone. So, is there a reason why we may want to eat more in cold weather and what can we do to avoid overdoing it by eating rich, heavy carb, sugary and hearty foods?
Eating makes us warmer. Consuming calories also serves to warm the body up, as essentially you are adding energy to your system. Because cold weather makes your body temperature drop, you may feel an urge to eat more. So, if you respond to this urge by indulging in high- sugar, high- fat foods, you are going to cause a spike in your blood sugar levels followed by a dip which will leave you feeling colder and hungrier than before, causing the entire cycle to start again – and you at risk of putting on weight due to excess calorie consumption.
Winter gives us the blues. Shorter days and more time spent indoors means that many of us are exposed to very little sunlight in winter, and as a result can suffer from vitamin D deficiency as our bodies require sunlight to produce this important nutrient. You may also experience lower levels of serotonin (neurotransmitter linked to feelings of pleasure and well being) – which is also generated by exposure to sunlight.
Our culture associates rich food with Winter. Even though there are biological reasons why we may crave more food in inter, part of this tendency is psychological too, and deeply rooted in our culture. From childhood, we are taught to associate Winter with heavy, rich dishes also known as “comfort foods” – rather than with salads and other lighter dishes. Christmas and other Winter holidays are traditionally linked to feasting and self- indulgence, which when combined with the prevalence of special treats that may not be available at any other time of the year, leads us to consume far more than we would on a normal basis. Hence cultural expectations and traditions, as well as deep- seated mental associations, all contribute to our urge to eat more during the winter months.
We stay in when the weather is bad. A final point to consider is the fact that we tend to stay indoors more in cooler weather, often skipping workouts to lounge in front of the TV or computer instead. This can make us more inclined to snack endlessly out of boredom, or because we’re conditioned to eat while doing certain things, such as watching a film. Because this extra eating is coupled with a decrease in physical activity, it can lead to the much dreaded Winter weight gain.
7 Tips to avoid Winter weight gain:
- Fill up your pantry with healthy soups, stews and other low-calorie dishes that contain plenty of fibre- rich vegetables and other healthy ingredients, along with protein to keep you feeling satisfied.
- Find healthier versions of your favourite comfort foods so you can indulge without blowing your calorie budget.
- Snack regularly throughout the day on healthy options to keep you metabolism burning and help avoid cravings for high- fat, sugary treats.
- Get outoside during daylight hours and try to get some sun on your exposed skin to top up your vitamin D and serotonin levels.
- If you think you’re suffering from SAD (Seasonal Effective Disorder, a form of depression associated with the shorter days of Winter) – take preventative measures and seek professional help if necessary.
- Continue to exercise regularly – it will boost your mood, take your mind off eating and burn up some of those extra calories.
- Find other sources of comfort when you’re stressed or have the urge to munch that don’t involve food. Think catching up with friend, playing with a pet or savouring a hot cup of tea.