When it’s cold, it means that it’s time to eat. And not healthy food either.
It’s being trapped indoors with the heat turned up and the hot chocolate and comfort food flowing to the point where you wake up unaware that six hours have gone by and you’ve fallen asleep in a heap on the couch watching countless films and series that you can’t even remember.
But is this true?
Many people do believe that when it gets colder, everyone gets hungrier, but like every hive mind works – when everyone believes it, is it just a self-fulfilling prophecy that turns from myth into truth after every bite?
Well, research does point to humans consuming more in the colder months of the year, and it is supposedly down to a myriad of factors that must be considered.
Metabolism and Energy “Conservation”
Your metabolism could be playing a key role when it comes to feeling the urge to eat more when it’s cold. Through an understanding of metabolism, when your body is warmer your metabolism speeds up, whereas when it is colder your metabolism tends to slow down. This may trigger feelings of hunger because your body is urged to eat in order to compensate for the need to conserve energy. It is also linked to a primitive instinct based on storing more food and gaining more calories during colder months in order to survive if there isn’t food readily available. The body will then use the fat stores to burn as fuel, as understood in a study that analysed the behaviour of soldiers in different climates.
Self Inflicted Boredom
Another possible reason is that you spend more time inside, and not being active due to the cold. Although this doesn’t apply to everyone, some people do feel less inclined to train if they are cold as they’d rather stay indoors under a blanket. This can cause you to become bored, more sedentary, and distracted by television and your electronics, your latest series, Netflix. Once you’re in the loop of not doing anything you’ll be tempted to cheat on your diet and binge while you binge. You eat to fill the gaps in time you’re spending consuming media and not putting an effort into staying active. Whereas you’d possibly be at the gym, or outdoors taking a run, walking your dog, or exploring the city, you’re trapped indoors and the food is so accessible it’s almost impossible to resist such temptation.
The Gluttony of Holiday Season
It’s the holiday season – and, if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s bound to be colder. But that isn’t to say that it being cold is the reason that you’re eating so much. The reason, more than likely, is that there is so much food, and leftovers, readily available that you can’t not take a bite out of everything, with a lot less guilt than when you’re “summer ready”. Holiday season, apart from the food, also means that you’re going to be a lot more wrapped up, and less likely to be flaunting off your new abs and toned butt. For this reason alone, you aren’t as inclined to care much about what other people think. Yes, many people train and stay fit for their own benefit, but a lot of people also get toned specifically because they want to look good when comparing themselves to other people. And under all those layers, it’s pretty comfy too.
Although there is not a wealth of research that conclusively proves that people do, in fact, get hungrier when the weather is colder, there has been research to do with eating behaviour and the type of foods consumed seasonally. Studies have shown that more animal fat is consumed during colder months. Researchers found a significant increase in the intake of selected nutrients in winter as compared to summer as well as an increased intake of animal fat-containing foods such as meat and dairy products. Significant correlation coefficients were shown between the increase in dietary intake of saturated fat and the increase in BMI, serum total and LDL cholesterol. The increase in dietary cholesterol was significantly and positively correlated with the increase in serum total and LDL cholesterol.
The research is definitely not conclusive, as everyone is different and reacts differently to the weather, as with everything in their lives. Many runners love putting a few layers on and taking crisp runs in parks that have been transformed into a winter wonderland, while others grudging drag themselves indoors to train. There is no exact way to correlate eating behaviour with it being colder, but there is evidence that when it is colder there is an inherent desire to consume more food in order to stay warmer.
Let us know what your preference is, and if you get hungrier when you’re colder. We’d love to hear your feedback!