Intuitive and Mindful Eating for Seasonal Affective Disorder

Yes, I’m just about done beating the S.A.D. drum. You know by now I’m all about anticipating, preparing, and combining fierce gentleness with honest discipline. You know that I believe meditation provides the foundation to having a sane relationship with food, our bodies, and our minds. So, to round out my little campaign, I wanted to share some general thoughts on Intuitive and Mindful Eating for mood and energy during this rapidly changing season.

1. Still pay attention to hunger and fullness: That advice hasn’t changed. But staying in touch with our body’s requests to start and stop eating can become even more tricky when we feel a bit alienated from them or when temperature and light changes are screwing with our sense of “knowing.” Try to eat when you’re “gently hungry” and stop when you’re “comfortably full” and choose foods that appeal not just to the momentary mental cry of “I WANT CARBS EVERY SECOND OF EVERY DAY,” but also to your intuitive and historical sense of what energizes, satisfies, and sustains you.

2. Choose nutrients that support mood and energy: Often when we talk about mindful and intuitive eating, nutrition is the last topic covered. But when we need to eat to feed our brains, it probably should come closer to the beginning of the conversation. Nutrients that contribute to a sunnier mood and sustained energy levels include:

  • Healthy fats like monounsaturated fats (olive oil, avocados, peanuts) and omega-3 fatty acids (salmon, sardines, chia seeds, hemp seeds, and walnuts)
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, whole oats, millet, amaranth) that boost serotonin and help regulate blood sugar levels
  • High-quality proteins (chicken, grass-fed beef, eggs, tofu, beans, peas, and lentils) that keep you satisfied longer and act in the synthesis of hormones and neurotransmitters
  • Brightly colored fruits and vegetables (berries, melons, dark leafy greens, winter squash, red cabbage) that provide carbs, antioxidants, and fiber
  • Sources of vitamin D (fortified dairy and dairy substitutes, swordfish, salmon, tuna, sardines, and eggs), which is also known as the “happy vitamin”

3. Move your body in some way every day: When the air grows colder and the days shorter, our ursine tendencies might try to keep us inside, wrapped in a blanket, or under the covers (or maybe it’s just me!). But having the awareness that hibernation only contributes to our suffering and giving ourselves permission to move our bodies in any way possible (a walk, a new type of exercise class, yoga, or stretching, even if it feels awkward or bad) can help us shake that wooden feeling. Not requiring that our bodies feel the way they did just a few short months ago on the beach is a way of working with the present moment; acknowledging that what worked for us yesterday is under no obligation to work today empowers us to meet ourselves exactly where we are.

4. Drink enough water: Though the outside temperature may not encourage us to get our 8 glasses a day, our bodies still need that water to function on a very basic level. Thirst can contribute to bodily stress, can confuse our bodies into thinking we are hungry, and saps our energy and mood! Drink iced or hot herbal tea, carry a pretty water bottle, invest in a SodaStream, do what you have to do to get it in.

5. Decrease or give up alcohol: Believe me, I know this is a hard sell. The thought of a glass of red wine curled up on the couch as the wind whips outside sounds good to me even after quitting drinking almost 7 years ago. But the reality is that alcohol is a depressant, screws with our sleep patterns, may cause us to eat more (or at least differently), and can even interfere with our best-laid plans for activity and self-care. If you’ve ever considered eschewing the booze, now would be the time to give it a go.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Things that have or have not worked for you in the past. And if I can help you in any way! Just reply to this email or comment below. And stay warm!

I have no idea who this dog is (apparently his name is Louie) but this photo was too cute to pass up. Doesn't he make you want to play outside?
I have no idea who this dog is (apparently his name is Louie) but this photo was too cute to pass up. Doesn’t he make you want to play outside?