I have heard repeatedly from clients that all they want to do is keep eating because they feel so blue this winter. So, barring a vacation in the tropics or moving, here are a few steps that can be taken to lift your spirits and hopefully help stop inappropriate eating that can go hand in hand with the winter blues or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD):
- Catch the rays when possible. Even the gloomiest areas in the Midwest will occasionally be sunny, so be sure to capitalize on it even if you need to bundle up to do so. Take a walk outside in those rays of sunshine and you will elevate your mood because the exercise and sunshine will affect the balance of key neurotransmitters such as serotonin, melatonin, and endorphins.
- Consider blue light therapy. Along the lines of catching natural light rays, researchers are aware that certain light spectrum, such as blue light, seems to help alleviate SAD. Many free-standing blue lights are available for easy purchase online. When it’s a particularly bleak winter, these lights can be of benefit.
- Check your vitamin D levels. Many Americans have inadequate blood vitamin D levels. Research supports that getting your blood vitamin D levels in the right range is ammunition in fighting seasonal affective disorder. Bleak days and lots of warm bulky clothes limit the body’s ability to make the so-called “sunshine” vitamin, which can be produced by the body when sun shines on a compound on our skin. If we cannot make it, we are able to supplement our diet with vitamin D. During winter months, dosages in the 1000-1200 IU range are probably safe for most people who have limited sun exposure.
- Control your eating environment. While waiting for spring weather and freedom from the winter doldrums, don’t undo previous successful weight loss with binge eating just because of SAD or depression. Control your eating environment at home by ridding it of high temptation and high calorie foods.
- Stock your kitchen with healthy, low sodium soups and entrees. They can nourish and “comfort” you appropriately through the rest of the winter. Increase your consumption of fruits, veggies, and lentils to increase your anti-oxidants and fiber. Don’t be afraid of opting for frozen fruits and veggies at this time of year. They are just as nutritious as the fresh varieties which are harder to buy in the winter. When the warm weather comes, you will be happy that you did not pile on the weight due to winter blues.
Here’s to wrapping up winter. It’s almost March! Remember, an once of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By watching your diet this winter, you will be in a better position both mentally and physically for spring when it springs!