Why are we hungrier in winter?
The weather is getting colder and the nights darker, but are you feeling hungrier too?
Let’s face it, as soon as the horizon is aglow with the twinkling lights of Christmas most of us turn our thoughts from summer salads and al fresco dining to those of sweet festive treats and indulgent dinners indoors. But is there any specific or scientific reason for that?
Are we biologically pre-programmed to seek out more food in winter? Are our modern lifestyles at odds with remnants of some calorific cultural nostalgia? Or is it all in our minds rather than our stomachs?!
Well, let’s take a look!
Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
It won’t come as a shock when we say humans didn’t always live in heated homes, perfectly designed to protect us from the elements. Nor is it news that our ancestors didn’t have supermarkets, convenience stores and online delivery - all presenting a mind-bending variety of fantastic foods all year round. Winter was indeed a difficult time for our ancestors and the amount of food available would depend completely on the Autumn’s harvest.
This historic inclination to binge when the temperatures drop is now deeply rooted in our biological makeup. It’s a survival impulse from ages past, an instinct in which our bodies try to store calories to help prepare us for times when resources are limited. This would also explain why we tend to crave carb-heavy foods, both sweet and fatty.
So, don’t feel bad next time your appetite resembles that of an animal preparing for hibernation – it’s perfectly natural and not too far from the truth. But that’s not the only reason we eat more in Winter…
Eating = Heating
The short and simple science of this point is that ‘the more we eat, the warmer we get’. This is because, by eating more calories, you are introducing more energy to your system. So, when the wintry weather causes our body temperature to drop, the response is a natural desire for warmth and therefore a natural craving for food.
The issue is that we often try to satisfy this natural hunger with ‘unnatural’ foods that our bodies aren’t prepared for at this time of year. Foods too high in sugar or bad fat will result in spikes in your blood sugar levels…followed swiftly by an inevitable dip in energy. When this happens, you’re left feeling colder and hungrier than before, restarting the cycle and leading to binges and excess calorie consumption.
It’s for this reason that maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is important all year round. You can still alter your diet to incorporate the rich, hearty foods this season is famous for, but mindful eating and high-quality ingredients will help you through to Spring without overdoing it. See our seasonal Spanish recipes for inspiration to help you weather Autumn/Winter in style!
We love festive food
Why are weighty, carb-laden dishes, sugary treats and creamy sauces too tasty to resist? Everyone knows that no Winter menu would be complete without such staples – but why?
In addition to our body’s biological tendencies there is also a psychological influence at work. Deeply ingrained into our culture is the idea of ‘comfort food’. From an early age we are taught to associate winter with heavier and richer (and ‘comforting’) dishes – rather than typical Spring/Summer foods.
Also, the holiday season holds strong traditional links to feasting, relaxing and self-indulgence. These cultural expectations and timeless traditions, plus the abundance of exciting foods on offer, make it even easier for us to eat more than we normally would
So should I eat less?
With so much of the above beyond your control, many of you may be resigned to the seemingly-inevitable increases in appetite. Perhaps it would be easier to embrace it and accept those extra pounds spent and extra pounds gained. But resistance doesn’t need to be bleak – there’s a way through winter that doesn’t involve cold salads and rumbling tums.
The solution is knowledge. Now that you’re aware of the reasons behind the cravings, it should be simpler to plan for them. Introduce those rich, hearty foods into your meal planning. The goal is balance and moderation, not abstinence. After all, it is nearly Christmas and we all deserve a treat.
Remember, you can visit our seasonal Spanish recipes for inspiration, including these fan favourites: