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Winter, Get Thee Behind Me

April 10, 2017

 

I tend to put on a little extra weight during the winter—not a big deal, maybe 5 pounds or so, but enough to notice.  It’s super frustrating.

 

"Wow", you might think, "holy First World Problem".

 

(Yes, total First World Problem.)

 

Or "Ummm, I gained 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas".

 

(Well, hopefully you enjoyed that stuffing, pumpkin pie, and eggnog!)

 

See, the frustration stems from the fact that I didn't over-indulge AT ALL.  I gained weight while maintaining a fairly regimented diet (with built in treats, of course!) and an intense workout program.

 

The thing is…I have a mild case of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it really decreases my energy level and dampens my mood when the days are short and dark. 

 

So I just do less, move less, and sleep more.  Basically, my metabolism hibernates for 4 or 5 months.

 

Some years I’m hardly aware of it, but this year has been especially hard.  A lot of clients have told me they’ve struggled more this year with the winter blues, too.

 

The difference in my energy level mid-summer vs. mid-winter is striking....it's like I go from Energizer Bunny to snail (I would say slug, but slugs gross me out; snails are cute).

 

While I haven’t entirely resolved the problem, over the years I’ve learned to do pretty good damage control.    Here are some things that have worked well for me:

 

  • Stay active.  When it seems like it is dark all the time, it is so tempting to just hibernate at home, but getting a good workout really helps boost both your mood and (somewhat counter-intuitively) your energy level.

  • Go outside.  Wait for a not-too-horrible day or just bundle up and brave the weather…breathe in some fresh air and gain a fresh perspective.

  • Limit highly processed food.  I know, I know…eating comfort foods like pasta and pizza and yummy baked goods seems like it will boost your mood, but the reality is that highly processed foods can actually negatively affect your mood.  Sigh.

  • Embrace the Danish concept of "hygge".  Make yourself cozy—drink a steaming mug of herbal tea, wear comfy fleece socks, light candles, and sit in front of a roaring fire.

  • Don’t be hermit.  The cold, dark days can keep people isolated (especially in notoriously aloof Seattle!).  Make an effort to get together with friends, family, and community.

  • Lighten someone else's day.  It's a total win-win, not only will you make someone else feel better, but you will feel a bit lighter yourself.

 

Now, thankfully, I’m starting to feel the energizing influence of spring.  

 

I love how color starts popping out everywhere.  For me this is the perfect time of year to assess my diet and workout plan and make small tweaks that will allow me to almost effortlessly shed those extra winter pounds.

 

I am working on accepting this cycle of low energy/high energy and seeing the gifts that each brings.  Also, I am learning to accept that this relatively small seasonal variance in my weight is normal and part of the natural rhythm of the seasons.

 

How do you deal with the winter blues?  Any tips or insights that help you make it through the drearier months?

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