973741 tn?1342342773

Cooler Temps create internal desire to add weight to stay warm. True or False?

So, I have a friend that swears that as temps drop (which is relative to where you are . . . hot climates, that may mean it goes down to 70 and in my area it would be down to freezing) . . .   but as it gets colder, she says we are hardwired for survival to put on pounds to stay warm.  

What do you think?  
4 Responses
134578 tn?1614729226
It's probably a little of hardwire and a little of learning, and a lot of just impulse, but I would argue that the impulse is not to put on pounds per se, but to get warm. German food sounds better to me when I'm cold and it's cold outside, and chilled gazpacho soup sounds better to me when I'm hot and it's summertime. Is it because of some long-term outlook in the body to put on pounds for future fuel needs? Or just because we're more likely to want to fuel up (for right now, to heck with putting on pounds against our future hour of need) when we are physically cold?
Avatar universal
Sounds false as stated, but here's how it might have worked historically:  at the end of the fall harvest you might eat more to store up some energy, but in any locale with a truly cold winter there wouldn't actually be much to eat so people would naturally get thinner until spring, as humans don't hibernate to save energy output.  As civilization changed, people changed as well, learning how to dry and ferment and therefore store food, but it still would have been much scarcer than in warmer months so again, probably less eating due to less food to eat.  Harder to hunt and gather, so more energy expended.  As civilization changed further, with humans migrating to colder and colder climates, no longer stuck in the tropics, sure, they changed.  Skin got white so they could better absorb vitamin D.  Less sun, fewer plants to eat, more reliance on animal food, but fewer animals around.  More fat consumed in these colder climes but again, much more energy exerted to find the food.  Civilization advances further to agriculture, with drying of fruits and grains and more year-round food, but not in the far northern areas where it was too cold.  Those people ate more animal, in hotter climes more plants and more abundance year-round except in drought.  To cut this short of the entire extent of human evolution, as we changed and moved all over the place, different cultures developed according to the climate.  There wouldn't have been the same effect on all humans everywhere.  And now, we have indoor temperature control, and have for a long long time, so we would have changed and are still changing.  Evolution doesn't stagnate.  Changes may be too small to notice, but they're happening.  I wouldn't put much stock in any theory of human nature, as it keeps changing with the cultural and climate and technological changes.  When a creature develops a cerebrum, it's pretty hard to tell if anything is really hard-wired or not, and since we don't hibernate, we don't really need to store that much energy.
649848 tn?1534633700
Being the researcher I am, I actually did a search to see what I could find.  

Traditionally, food was more scarce in winter, so the impulse was to eat and store fat when possible.  Because of this, most of us tend not to pass on the sweet, unhealthy foods for which this time of year is notorious.

Add to the fact that for many of us, it's cold outside and we're less likely to be out doing our normal/usual activities - sports, walking, gardening and other things that keep us moving and help keep off the extra pounds.  

I'm totally with AnnieBrooke - when it's cold out, I'm going to lean toward comfort foods, such as mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, etc.  On the other hand, when it's warm/hot, I'll lean toward a nice cool salad, etc.

I am learning to replace those comfort foods with healthier versions, so that's always something to look at, as well.

Barb, I believe the question on the table is, is this hard-wired, not, do some people today in our indoor world eat too much in the colder months.  This means you have to go back through the entire history of human existence to answer the question, and the foods those articles are talking about wren't around for most of human history.  One of them even disses white rice, which I don't eat either, but clearly it hasn't led to obesity in the billions of thin Asians who eat it three times a day but are now becoming obese by eating more meat as they get wealthier copying our bad habit, also dissing that article's claim about eating more protein, which might be shot-term true but not proven for the long term.  But these bad habits aren't very old given the thousands of years we've been on the planet.  We've also only inhabited the colder regions for a relatively short period of our history as well.  I'm still saying, and those articles seem to confirm this as they focus on what we eat now, not on what people ate for most of our history, that to answer this question about whether we're hard wired or this is just a recent habit in human history you'd have to go back and study every culture and the entire history, and you'd also have to account for the ability humans have to alter their environment in ways no other animal does -- we invented the cow and wheat, for example, two of the foods that account for a lot of our obesity.  We created refined sugar only recently.  We invented hydrogenated vegetable oil.  We invented agriculture and animal husbandry.  So we change, and will keep changing, which makes it, I think, harder to answer this question as asked.  Now, do we now in the US eat in the winter and exercise less?  Yes, because we've moved to a controlled indoor environment, but that's only existed for a tiny fraction of the time we've been here.  Personally, I eat the same in all four seasons, but that's just me and I can't generalize that to others.  It's a great question, and if there are any anthropologists on here who actually know let us in on your thoughts.  
Thank you for telling me what the question asked and I'm sorry you missed my answer.  I didn't really think it was necessary to go into great detail since I provided an answer, as well as links:  "Traditionally, food was more scarce in winter, so the impulse was to eat and store fat when possible."

My links in case you didn't have time to read them fully, explain further:  "It's very convenient to blame the holiday season for your weight gain — overeating at parties and family dinners is a perfectly viable culprit. But when February rolls around and you're still feeling full, could there be something more at play? Often the term "winter weight gain" is thrown out as a joking myth or quasi-excuse, but it's more real than we think. According to new research, natural evolution and lack of sunlight can heavily influence us to pack on the pounds when it gets colder.

The first study, from the University Of Exeter, examined the animalistic urge of eating as a means for survival. We have two natural forces at play; the desire to eat (and gain weight) for energy while avoiding starvation, versus gaining too much weight that would make us more susceptible to predators. Devising a computer model to determine the mathematical possibilities of these two forces, researchers uncovered that the desire to fight against starvation is far greater than the desire to prevent overeating. We fear starvation far more than we fear gaining too much weight, so the desire to keep eating is a stronger motivating factor. It seems that eating desire is so ingrained in us that it still drives us in our modern lives (where there is basically no chance of actual starvation). As such, this desire is heightened when food is traditionally more scarce, during the winter months, so we're more susceptible to our evolutionary urges during these times.

The second study, from the University Of Alberta, uncovered that our bodies' fat cells may have a positive reaction to sunlight. The findings, discovered by accident, suggest that fat cells which reside closest to the skin, when exposed to blue light (which the sun produces), actually begin to shrink, thus storing less fat. Researchers have inverted this finding to suggest that lack of sunlight, which we would experience during the winter months, can increase the cells' ability to store fat and make us more susceptible to weight gain. After this initial discovery, researchers intend to study exactly what amount of sunlight is needed to create this effect and if sunlight exposure in infancy could be a determining factor in our fat-making abilities as we age."

"Evolutionarily speaking, being overweight has never posed a serious threat to our survival. Being underweight has. In the winter, our natural instinct to maintain body fat is stronger than any other season because that’s naturally when food is scarce."

To me, that pretty much says that the winter weight gain many of us experience is ingrained; although you may interpret it differently.

Most of us have learned to eat the same year 'round because with modern conveniences, such as the ability to preserve and store food, cook whatever we want when we want it, etc we don't have to worry about hunting and gathering our food like our ancestors did when they had to gather berries, roots and other edibles when they could get them or kill whatever meat was available.

If you want to take it step further, you can theorize that air conditioning might have something to do with rising obesity levels, because people spend so much time inside when temperatures are warm that they don't get the necessary Vitamin D.  Before, you question, no - I haven't studied or researched the air conditioning issue,; it's merely an observation, so feel free to pick it apart.  Studies do show that many of us have Vitamin D deficiency.

I don't know how far back in history you want to go, but Alaska has been inhabited since approximately 14,000 B.C.  That's long enough for me.

Have a great day...
I'm more in agreement with your own reasoning about air conditioning than those studies, which are purely theoretical.  So here's the thing.  First, it really doesn't matter in real life which way this comes out, it's just fun.  Second, 14000 years is a very small time period in our history, and hard wiring would have occurred in the first homo sapiens in Africa, not anywhere else.  Those are the only ancestors we all have in common and they lived in a tropical climate.  Basically, your studies use modeling and theorizing, but let's just look at factual stuff we can actually see, which is that humans don't appear to put on a ton of weight in the fall, which is when they would overload the food if they were storing fat for winter.  Next, we also can't actually consume a lot of food -- a wolf can eat enough at one time to last a fairly long time, but we can't -- we'd throw it all up.  We'd get sick.  Wolves don't.  I'm admitting that I'm just theorizing because I'm not an anthropologist and don't know if they've studied whether our originators in Africa did this.  That would be hard-wiring by evolution.  Hunger gatherers today don't appear to do this -- they don't put on 10 or 20 pounds extra in fall to cover for winter.  Again, this is just my observation, but my main point is, hard-wiring occurs by evolution, not by habit, and my other point is that humans evolved to break the mold because they can and have radically altered their own environment at every stage in their history.  That makes us unique among all other creatures.  I really don't know the true answer, I can only say again that if you look around the world you just don't see people putting on the kind of extra weight in fall you'd have to see to truly be a reaction to scarcity.  You can see it in a bear and in wolf behavior and in the behavior of any animal that hibernates.  You don't see it in us.  So I'm just saying that in my opinion, it's an adaptation some have made because they can and because they like to eat -- very few people don't like to eat and we eat a tremendous variety of things, including things that aren't even food because we also sell things to one another and lie about what we sell, something no other creature does either.  We're just very different, and again, just my opinion, this makes trying to find human nature impossible.  You may very well be right.  I might very well be right.  Don't really know, but I do enjoy a good theoretical discussion.
"Basically, your studies use modeling and theorizing"... yep, they do and you admit that you, too are simply theorizing and expressing your opinion.  So let's just say that you have your opinion and I have mine and let it go at that.  The conversation was for discussion; it's not always necessary to prove someone wrong.
You're right about that, I wasn't trying to be right or prove you wrong.  What I was trying to do was say to people on here, it's very possible you're worrying yourself and limiting your enjoyment of life when you don't need to.  If we can't prove hard-wiring and it doesn't appear to exist in anyone alive as no society anywhere with living humans has anyone who puts on the large amount of weight you'd expect to see if they were storing up for the winter -- it's more of an individual thing, not something entire tribes are doing -- then it means this is within our control, not predetermined.  It also means that if that's true and that's enjoyable for you and you don't do it all the time but just once in awhile because it's enjoyable, then it's okay to do that because weight gain is based on long-term behavior, not on something you don't do regularly.  So if you and the others on here are right, you're doomed to do this every year and suffer some sense of unhappiness over it, however small that will be.  If I'm right, life will be more fun and less stressful.  That's the only reason I got involved, knowing I'd get creamed on here because I always get creamed on here.  I just want all of you to be happy.  Peace, all.
973741 tn?1342342773
I would guess at this point Barb, I'm very susceptible to predators.  LOL  (crack myself up).  I absolutely have some kind of internal something that makes me do the same as you . . .  I want hot, creamy, savory, rich and filling comfort food as the temps drop.  Throw me a piece of toast on  plate, add roast beef and smother with mash potatoes and gravy on it!  Now, I'd never eat that in the summer when I long for salads and fruit plates like you do.  :>))  We must be animalistic in our urges.  (stll cracking myself up).
You're right, SM, I am susceptible to predators... lol  I need that hot creamy comfort food, like mashed potatoes with rich brown gravy or creamy mac and cheese, chicken and dumplings, etc... but sometimes, I will eat them in summertime. Don't forget, we have air conditioning and can eat whatever we want year 'round, now...All we have to do is turn the air conditioning to freezing and it feels like winter... how's that for animalistic urges?  I can crack you up too, huh?  LOL
Ha.  We are hilarious.  

I've heard it and read it and your links are proof it is true.  LOL  We are predisposed to chub out for winter.  
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