Increased Hunger in Winter

by | Jul 26, 2023 | Binge Eating, Health, Weight Loss

As we embrace the chilly season in Australia, it’s time to focus on a common issue many of us face during Winter – increased hunger and cravings. It’s completely normal to feel hungrier and crave more carbs during these colder months. Understanding increased hunger in Winter will help you reduce worry and fear. 

Let’s dive into the intriguing reasons why hunger and cravings tend to increase during Winter.

5 Reasons for Increased Hunger in Winter (and Cravings)

Reason #1 – Seasonal Changes Affect Biological Rhythms

Research has shown that our bodies respond to changes in daylight and temperature, influencing our biological rhythms. During Winter, with fewer daylight hours and colder weather, our bodies produce more of the hunger hormone Ghrelin, leading to an increase in appetite. This biological response is a survival mechanism, dating back to our ancestors as Winter was a time of limited food availability or scarcity. They relied on stored fat and energy reserves to survive until spring brought fresh food sources. We no longer face the same evolutionary issues however, our biology is still influenced with increased hunger and desire for calorie-rich foods during the colder months.

Reason #2 – Reduced Sunlight and Serotonin Levels

Signs of Winter, reduced sunlight in Winter, reduced serotonin levels, seasonal affective disorder, serotonin levels and carbohydrate cravings, serotonin levels and hunger

The Winter season often means less exposure to natural sunlight. Sunlight is crucial for the production of Serotonin, the “feel-good” hormone that plays a role in regulating mood and appetite. Lower Serotonin levels lead to increased cravings for carbohydrates. Consuming carbohydrates temporarily boosts Serotonin levels and mood, providing a sense of comfort during the colder days.

Learn more about Comfort Eating here….

Reason #3 – Body Temperature Regulation 

When our body is exposed to cold temperatures, it expends more energy to maintain its core temperature. This thermogenesis, or heat production, can increase hunger as our body seeks to replenish the energy expended. As a result, we might find ourselves craving heartier, more calorie-dense foods during Winter to meet these increased energy demands as well as wanting to eat more often.

Reason #4 – Psychological Factors 

Winter often brings a change in our daily routines and social activities. Some people may experience “Winter blues” or mild seasonal affective disorder (SAD), which can lead to emotional eating, binge eating or cravings for comfort foods. These foods are often high in sugar, refined carbohydrates and unhealthy fats. They temporarily elevate Serotonin levels to provide relief from feelings of sadness, anxiety or stress but levels quickly fall again. The cycle repeats itself.

Reason #5 – Hydration: The Thirst vs. Hunger Dilemma

In Winter, we tend to feel less thirsty due to the cooler temperatures. This reduced sensation of thirst might lead to unintentional dehydration, which can sometimes be mistaken for hunger. As a result, we may eat more when, in reality, our bodies are just in need of more fluids.

Therefore, the increased hunger in Winter is a combination of biological, environmental, and psychological factors. Our bodies naturally adapt to the seasonal changes, triggering hunger and craving responses to ensure we have enough energy to brave the cold.

5 Tips to Reduce Winter Hunger and Cravings

Signs of Winter, reduced sunlight in Winter, reduced serotonin levels, seasonal affective disorder, serotonin levels and carbohydrate cravings, serotonin levels and hunger

Tip #1 – Winter Dehydration: The Hidden Culprit

Tips to improve hydration, Winter hydration tips, drink more water

As you don’t feel as thirsty during Winter, dehydration is a well known issue. Only 37% of Australians adequately hydrate. This not only leads to increases in cravings and hunger but also fatigue and mood issues. Check out more on this important and misunderstood topic by reading more here in Winter Dehydration. Proper hydration is crucial for overall well-being, so let’s make sure you’re getting enough water throughout the day.

Tip #2 – Embrace Good Fats and Quality Carbohydrates

Good fats, good fats improves fullness, good fats improves cravings during winter

During Winter, it’s essential to include sufficient good fats and quality carbohydrates in your diet. Good fats help you stay satiated and support various bodily functions. Opt for sources like avocados, nuts, and olive oil to keep your body fuelled and satisfied.

When it comes to carbohydrates, try to avoid refined ones and instead focus on whole grain options and legumes. These provide a steady source of energy, plenty of fibre, and keep you feeling fuller for longer. Plus, legume and pulse pastas are excellent alternatives to satisfy your craving for comfort foods.

Discover 4 common binge eating triggers

Tip #3 – Mind the Protein Intake

Including adequate protein in your Winter diet is essential for maintaining muscle mass and promoting a sense of fullness. Don’t skimp on quality protein sources like lean meats, fish, tofu, nuts, seeds or beans. They not only nourish your body but also help control your appetite.

Tips #4 – Add Crunch to Your Meals

Go nuts for nuts, add a crunch to your food to reduce the ‘slider’ effect, chewing increases Serotonin production, chewing increases fullness levels

While soups are delightful in Winter, they’re considered ‘slider foods’, which means they don’t make us feel as full compared to foods we need to chew. Boost your Serotonin levels (our fullness hormone) by incorporating crunchy elements into your meals. This could be as simple as adding nuts, seeds, or fresh vegetables to your dishes.

Tip #5 – The Sweet Truth about Chocolate

If you’re a fan of chocolates, you don’t have to give them up entirely. Opt for dark chocolate, as it satisfies cravings faster due to its quality and richness. Avoid excessive consumption of milk chocolates, as they may lead to overeating and bingeing behaviours. Combine this with some crunch with nuts, from the tip above and, you’ve just moved chocolate from being a ‘slider food’ into an amped up Serotonin hit!

Bonus Tip – Embrace the Sunlight

The Winter blues can also impact our hunger levels. Make it a point to spend time outdoors, bask in the sunlight, or at least gaze out of a window when possible. Sun exposure stimulates the production of Serotonin, which helps with feelings of fullness and hunger regulation.

Remember, it’s all about quality over quantity. Be mindful of your food choices and make sure you’re nourishing your mind and body with the quality nutrients.

There you have it, some valuable insights to understand and manage your increased hunger during Winter. Don’t stress over the changes in your appetite; it’s a natural response to the season. Instead, embrace these tips to ensure you stay nourished, hydrated, and content throughout the colder months.

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