Have you noticed that you feel hungrier in the winter? Do you find you tend to want to eat more and eat heartier foods in the colder months?
For example, during the warmer months, my usual eating routine is a light meal between late-morning and early-afternoon, followed by a substantial dinner of a hearty salad, some protein, and perhaps something else. However, during the winter, I find myself hungry more frequently and earlier in the day, and wanting soups, stews, and crockpot dishes, instead of salads.
This conundrum of seasonally increased hunger caused me to reflect on my earlier studies of Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda.
Chinese Medicine definitely laments a poor appetite in winter, and often along with other syndrome differentiation, treats for it. During the winter, TCM also recommends warming, heartier foods and drinks, while avoiding cold and raw. This, of course, reflects the seasonality in balancing actions against the tendencies of the season.
We’re encouraged to consume heavier, more substantial warming foods like mutton and other meats, walnuts, peanuts, and black beans, all of which warm the body. Yet, they must be easy on digestion and nutrient-dense, so the nutrients can be properly absorbed when the metabolism becomes more sluggish. Chinese lore also suggests that people tend put on weight in the winter as a method to protect against the winter cold and the low availability of fresh foods. Some sources suggest hunger does increase during winter, but that seems to be largely a matter of the individual person (though, it should not decrease substantially).
Ayurveda teaches that digestive fire is at its strongest during the winter months. That heartier foods should be eaten to satisfy the strong digestive agni and to help nourish the body for the rest of the year. A strong agni is usually correlated with increased hunger, better digestion and absorption, and more energy.
This notion that we should feel hungrier and eat more in the winter is troubling to me. Sure, it was great for our ancestors who needed to store fat to get through long winters with minimal food, but it doesn’t serve use well now.
Why? Because we are cooped up, staying indoors, sleeping more, generally feeling lethargic, and burning less calories. When you eat more and burn fewer calories, the body tends to store the excess. This is frustrating for anyone, like me, who wishes to stay lean and fit year round: my natural hunger sensation drives me to eat heavier foods more often, yet I don’t want to go out in the cold and rain to burn off the excess, especially when I’m already feeling quite lazy.
It is quite the dilemma. And each spring, I feel like I’m starting over on my path getting ripped, envy-worth abs. :/
Let me know in the comments below, do you feel hungrier during the winter? Do you have a tendency to eat more? What do you do about it?