The week of Thanksgiving is when the chaos typically starts. Families in town, holiday get-togethers to attend, household chores and every day duties that refuse to be put on hold, and then someone inevitably gets a cold and you get it too. Suddenly the comfortable routine you set in the early fall months has gone right out the window. You look back and it’s been 3 weeks and you aren’t sure what you’ve actually accomplished. Now it seems like the winter blues are knocking at the door just waiting to take up residence in your home until spring.
A part from the joy of the holidays, winter can be a kind of depressing time if you let it. The weather is cold and daylight is short. The stress of the holidays can run high and take a toll on your immunity. Colds, flus and other illnesses threaten to take all your time and energy. All of these things, combined with the very real physiological effects of cold weather and lack of sunlight, can contribute to low mood and even depression. In addition and related to this, body image is at an all time low for many people.
Even if you manage to make peace with food during the holidays, if you are able to enjoy all foods in moderation, honor your hunger and respect your fullness; If you’ve worked on replacing negative thoughts that say you’re good for eating one way and bad for eating another, winter time still puts you at risk for poor body image. And poor body image puts you at risk of falling for a quick-fix diet come January and a cycle of weight loss, gain, guilt and shame come February. I’m guessing these things are not on your Christmas list…
But why is our body image so low in the winter months?? Aside from the increased rates of low mood and depression partially attributable to the lack of sunlight, we also have to contend with paler skin, natural weight fluctuations, and decreased physical activity. Feeling a little down just reading this? Don’t worry, you can totally beat the winter body image blues, and I’ve got some tips on how below. But first, let’s address a couple of fallacies.
Fallacy # 1: People gain 7-10 lbs over the holidays
No. This is a random statistic the media came up with to scare people towards diets and weight loss products. Research published in the New England Journal of medicine looked at weight gain in America from before Thanksgiving until after the New Year (into March). The research actually found that the average weight gain was less than 1 lb. So let’s just all take a deep breath and take that into perspective.
Fallacy # 2: Winter weight gain is unhealthy and you will keep the weight gained, forever.
Geeze people, let’s be a little more dramatic. Okay but really, weight fluctuations are totally normal during the wintertime. According to a study done at Maastricht University in the Netherlands our metabolism increases during the colder months making us hungrier. Putting on a little weight or eating a little more is our body's way of making sure we have enough energy, considering it takes more energy to keep us warm. This doesn’t mean eat until you are stuffed because “Aubrey told me I use more energy in the winter”, no. It means continue eating when you are hungry and stopping when full – you can trust your appetite.
We’ve already mentioned the increased rate of colds/flus/yucky bugs during the winter months. Let’s not let the stress/fear of weight changes drag our immune system down. Just rest and continue on your intuitive eating journey, trust the process.
Okay, so now that we’ve got that covered, what can we do to protect/improve our body image during the winter months? Here are 10 tips for just that:
10 Ways to Beat the Winter Body Image Blues
1. Buy winter clothes that fit and flatter you. Choose clothes that work for your body type and that you feel comfortable in right now. Beyond that, choose colors that flatter your skin tone (this is especially important in our ‘pastier’ months).
2. If you really don’t like being pale – try a sunless tanner. Here’ a list of 10 under $20 . You could also get a spray tan.
3. While we’re on the topic of sunlight, try to get some when you can, especially earlier in the day, but really whenever possible! Try going outside for a brisk walk during lunch for a double-punch of movement and vitamin D-soaked-rays.
4. About vitamin D – you knew I’d get there. You may consider taking a vitamin D supplement, especially if your levels are low. As I alluded to above, less sunshine means lower vitamin D levels and lower vitamin D may contribute to winter blues. I get mine from Trader Joes.
5. Get up each morning, get dressed, and do your hair and/or makeup. There is truth to the saying “dress for success”. Dressing up and just overall personal hygiene are surefire ways to make you feel better in your skin.
6. On that topic, for the ladies, try painting your nails. I don’t know why, but sometimes a little color on my fingernails makes me feel like a million bucks.
7. Find an at-home workout video or program you love. I’ve mentioned these before, but I love Fitness Blender and Yoga with Adrienne (both free programs). You can also do paid programs as well (like beach body on demand and others, ask around). At-home workout videos are great to get you moving and feeling better in the wintertime. It can be hard to get outside and/or go to the gym in the dark and cold.
8. Try your hand at warm, nourishing soup and crockpot recipes. Warm foods are comforting and satisfying for the body and soul :) . Plus, learning how to prepare new recipes (or any new skill) increases self-confidence!
9. Take advantage of the increased in-doors time in the evenings to read a book, journal, start a Pinterest project, or just sip some warm tea and chat. The idea is to get your focus off of your body and onto new things, ideas and others.
10. Finally, go on coffee and lunch dates with friends or start a dinner club where you alternate host houses. Remember that other people are struggling with the winter blues too. Helping others is at the heart of getting our focus off of our body!
I'm interested to hear from you guys. How do you beat the winter body image blues??