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Does Your Appetite Change With the Seasons?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Even though summertime is the season for backyard barbeques and treats at the local creamy whip (my favorite!), I find that I’m not as hungry when the temperature rises.   Maybe it’s just that I don’t like that heavy, full feeling when it’s hot and sticky outside.  Maybe it’s that I’m busy chasing the kids around the yard and don’t have as much time to think about food.  Or maybe it’s that my brain is hardwired to increase my appetite when the weather turns colder.  Research shows that when the days get shorter and darker, our appetites tend to increase.
One study out of the University of Georgia "tracked how much people ate from season to season and how quickly they ate it. Turns out, the study subjects consumed about 200 more calories a day beginning in the fall when the days grow darker."  Another study explained that human beings are very sensitive to light.  When there is less of it, we seem to eat more and eat faster.
But not all experts agree with this theory.  Some say that it’s not instinct, but environment that causes us to eat more.  Being inside all day with less to do (and fewer opportunities to exercise) and the holiday season are contributing factors to the increase in consumption.  One expert suggests that cravings are linked to memories.  For example, thinking about your Grandma’s apple pie that you ate every Thanksgiving makes you more likely to indulge. 
So what can you do to avoid packing on the extra pounds when the temperature drops? 
  1. Try not to confuse hunger with boredom.  If you’re stuck inside with nothing to do, drink a glass of water and find something to keep you busy.  If you still have those hunger feelings after 20-30 minutes, then you probably are hungry and could use a small snack.  But if you find that keeping busy keeps you from snacking, then you probably weren’t that hungry to begin with. 
  2. Stay consistent with your exercise routine.  That might mean an extra layer of clothes to bundle up for an outside walk.  Or it could require you to get creative about your indoor workouts.  Try some of the workouts on SparkPeople, or check out a new video from your local library for variety.  Don’t let the weather be your excuse to sit on the couch instead of getting up and moving!
  3. Don’t deprive yourself of the foods you love.  If you really enjoy Grandma’s apple pie, find a way to fit it into your calorie budget.   It’s a much more enjoyable way to eat, and also helps prevent binges on "forbidden" foods. 
Looking for ideas of What to Eat This Winter?  Here are 10 Cool Ways to Beat the Winter Blues.
What do you think?  Does your appetite change with the seasons?  If so, why do you think that happens?   

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FISHGUT3 2/27/2021
thanks Report
:) Report
Definitely when it's cold & wet outside I want to get warm. I have learned a little trick. Instead of coming in from the cold and wanting to fill up my tummy, I jump in the shower, get warm and make a large mug of tea. usually that does the trick until I'm ready to prepare my dinner. Report
I definitely crave warm, hearty foods in the winter and cool, lighter foods in the summer. I feel like I do get hungrier when it's cold--I always figured it was because my body needed more energy to keep warm. Report
I live in New England. In winter it is so hard to get motivated, cold, dark. I want warm food. Potatoes, meatloaf, hot bread. I always feel hungrier in the winter. i am a totally different person in the other three seasons. It is amazing what a little sun and warmth does for me. If I lived in Florida, I would never go in my house. I would be walking in circles. Report
I eat whatever fruit is in season. That means grapes and berries in the summer and apples, pears, and citrus in the winter. In the summer I think nothing of grabbing a handful of berries or grapes whenever I get nibbly. I'm a lot more active outdoors in the summer, also. In the winter you don't grab a handful of apple or pear, you grab the whole thing. Well there's quite a few more calories in a whole apple than in a handful of berries. In the summer I'm digging in the garden and raking and mowing. In the winter I may shovel snow (we haven't had any this winter though) and ??? Yep, there's a big difference in the energy expended in the summer vs the winter and there's a great difference ingested in the summer vs the winter. Report
Not so much eat more as do less. I, like a pr. poster, want to sleep till spring.

On the plus side, I cook more (and more carefully) in the winter--soups, stews, good stuff!, so I eat better. Report
I feel the need to hibernate in the winter. Plus, I'm drawn to comfort foods like mac and cheese (full of fat and calories) to help keep me warm. I wonder if people in northern climates gain more weight than someone in a warmer climate.....say Florida???? Report
No 3 is so important (they all are actually) but I never go without foods I love, I just fit them in. Report
Yes, my cravings do tend to follow the seasons. I only crave watermelon in the summer and definitely crave chili and soup more in the winter. I like foods like spaghetti and spinach all year round as well as oatmeal! Report
Definitely, if it is cold and snowing, I am not going to go outside but tend to hibernate inside in front of the tv with coke and chips. In the summer we walk more, have yard work and garden and like to get outside in the sun away from the tempting foods. Report
i agree. my body is better in hot humid weather. i'm less hungry, i'm more positive, i feel better, my skin is better, my hair is better etc.

as opposed to alaska, that is dry and cold and i have eczema, i exericse, but I have sad, etc, etc.

for me, weather in the summer like in oregon or when I went to mazatlan, mexico for vacation, its very healthy for me.

unfortunatley, i have to try and cope in living in a place thats unehealthy for me.

so . . . the struggles goes on. Report
I so agree with the other theories. It's cold, it's snowing and you don't want to go outside. Therefore you stay inside trying to find something to do. Also, with the holidays, everyone is making baked goods and Thanksgiving and Christmas are right there together. Report
My appetite changes with the seasons because I grew up in a family with farmers. As the vegetables came into season, they were cheap and easy to get. So, it is just natural for me to want tomatoes more in the summer and butternut squash in the autumn because that is when I usually ate them. It's like Christmas cookies and pumpkin pie, I don't crave them for the 4th of July because I'm usually craving watermelon and corn on the cob. It's all about the rhythms of life. I usually try to include seasonal items in a responsible way to celebrate all that life has to offer. Report
Love the picture !! lol
Where's the "like button?" Report
Tend to eat heavier foods in the winter (stews, hearty soups, etc.) than in the warmer months. I think our appetite's a response to the temperature - is that instinctual? All I know is, I'm having a hard time sticking to my salads for lunch now, as it is colder outside. Report
Unfortunately I have a high appetite year round ;) Report
I always seem to more hungry when the weather cools off. I just think my body still thinks I am a caveman or a bear. lol I have to be much more careful about what I eat. Good article. Thanks for sharing. Report
I bike to work everyday, so I think part of my increased appetite has to do with maintaining my core temperature in cold weather, especially when there is wind blowing. I have lots of layers, but certain parts of my body (especially my legs) can get very cold when I'm out for an hour or more. Report
In the winter months with snow on the ground I'll sometimes eat hot cereal for my snacks. Report
Definitely love the heavier breakfasts during the winter. Report
I have trouble with the boredom/hunger issue. I find that if I sit down, I think I am hungry. I tend to try to stay busy from the time I get home from work until the time I go to bed so that I do not eat. This causes issues between my boyfriend and I because he wants to relax....I honestly feel like I can not relax or I will eat.... Report
I realize this has nothing to do with the article, but that stock photo has me laughing so hard. Could a prop fork not be found before the shoot? Report
Absolutely! I think it's the holiday/hibernation instinct. Oh, wait, is there a holiday instinct? Anyway, I deal with this with lots of hot decaf tea. It actually warms me up just as much as a good glass of red wine. I make a whole pot of tea with one teabag and all evening I fill up my mug with plain water, add a couple of splashes of tea, microwave for a minute, and sit by the Christmas tree or the fire. I probably have five or six cups of this every night, more if I happen to be home all day. And BTVMADS, yes, lots of cooked, flavorful vegetables - with fresh garlic, herbs, salt, pepper, etc. Tomato sauce on top of cooked spinach with a TBSP of grated parm cheese & some garlic salt & pepper - wow you could eat a ton of that for VERY few calories. Even pasta and bread - as long as you don't put butter or meat on it.

PS - my grandmother used to drink hot water all day long, so I think I got it from her. She boiled a pot, and put it in a thermos. Also, her weight never went over 133 and she died in her 80s - she was 5'5". Report
I have the opposite problem. My appetite goes down and my self control increases in the colder months. Plus, we don't tend to do things that revolve around food quite so's harder to pig out when you're ice fishing than it is when you're at a BBQ near the pool. Report
Oh my gosh, yes. I currently live in southern China, where, although the temperature doesn't really drop below freezing very often, there's also not really any indoor heating, either. So, apart from my living room, pretty much anywhere I go, inside or out, it's gonna be about 40-45 degrees F.

I've found that since winter rolled around, every time I go out for dish food with my friends (think like, family style meals where you share everything), I eat SO much, SO quickly. You'd think I'd never seen food before! I mean, it's pretty simple - eating makes you feel warm, and when it's freezing outside (and inside) and there's a bunch of hot food in front of you, what are you gonna do, let it sit? Heck no! Fortunately, I've also adapted the Chinese habit of drinking hot water all the time. That ALSO makes me feel warm, without all the oil and salt and junky calories.

But yeah, the temperature DEFINITELY affects the way I eat, but I only really noticed it since I moved to China, since it's such a dramatic difference from what I'm used to. Report
Oh gosh, it is absolutely instinctual. It's not that my appetite gets much larger in winter, it's just that the kinds of foods I want changes. I naturally gravitate towards more meat, fewer raw foods, more starch, and more complex, rich flavors and textures. I have mild Seasonal Affective Disorder, so I am VERY SENSITIVE to the changes in daylight. With that has come a craving for more carbohydrates and fat -- serotonin-releasing foods. (Luckily, I moved from Vermont to Tennessee so now SAD is far less of a problem!)

Of course, now that I know this about myself, I'm able to trick myself into thinking I'm getting decadent meals without the sugar and fat. I drink smoothies that have a rich, creamy texture (very filling, few calories, lots of nutrition), eat cooked greens instead of salad at lunch, and replace bread and potatoes at dinner with other seasonal tubers like sweet potatoes and parsnips. That way, I get what I crave while still giving my body the nutrition it needs. Report