6 Ways to Keep Away The Winter Blues
Your pants feeling a little snug this winter? Feeling a little sluggish and demotivated? Slacking on your fitness regimen? If this is you, learn how you can keep those winter blues off your waistline and improve your mental, physical and emotional health.
1. H2O H2O H2O - Drink & Repeat!
Yes! Make sure your drinkin' enough water!!!! I often ask myself, are you really hungry or are you really thirsty? - especially this time of year when we are less likely to drink water. When it is hot out, our bodies remind us more clearly to drink water, and so in the winter time it can be easier to slack on the hydration front.
2. SLOW Down!
While our lives are crazy and constantly running, our food is not going to run away from us. You can take a few bites, eat until your satisfied and then save the rest for later. You can eat whatever you don’t finish later in the day. Not only will your digestive system thank you, but you’ll keep your metabolism kickin' in high gear and you'll avoid those highs and lows in blood sugar! And while you are eating, be present. Take a few deep breaths before digging in. Set everything else going on aside for 10 minutes while you enjoy your food, chewing each bite fully, and drinking some water in between bites.
3. Eat Within an Hour After Working Out!
Yes! Your metabolism is rocking at this point, ready to refuel and rebuild so this is a great time to eat! Make sure to get some lean proteins. Most animal proteins are loaded with cholesterol and can be hard on your digestion, leaving you feeling sluggish. Opt for something lighter, and maybe try a plant-based protein. I recently found these awesome black bean noodles from Trader Joe's. In one serving, they have only 1.5 grams of fat and 14 grams of protein! (Finally, an excuse to eat some pasta!) ;) Boil them for 5 quick minutes, add some garlic and extra virgin olive oil, and wahlah! Healthy, easy deliciousness.
Note: that added garlic will help with inflammation and symptoms of arthritis that you may experience after a workout - just don't cook it for more than a minute or two! Garlic is most beneficial when eaten raw. You can also add some onion (also best eaten raw) which supports bone and joint health. This is because onions have lots of sulphur content which is an important part of the connective tissues in our joints.
4. Vitamin D?
Yes! I never thought it made that much of a difference until I replenished what my body was deficient in. Wow! A little Vitamin D can go a long way, especially in the beautifully Pacific NW! 😊 Start with a supplement, but also make sure you spend 30 minutes outside everyday. If it is rainy, bundle up and sit somewhere under cover. The fresh air and nature sounds will do you good. Nature sounds calm the nervous system and natural light will improve your body's stress response and help your brain maintain a circadian rhythm. If you don't have 30 minutes, commit to at least 10 minutes of fresh air and natural light each day.
You can also boost your vitamin D by eating mushrooms. Researchers have reported that by eating mushrooms you can get as much or more vitamin D than you'd get in a supplement. Portobello, Maitake, Morel, Button, and Shiitake mushrooms are all high in vitamin D, and research has found that if you set them out in the sun for even 15-20 seconds, you can boost their vitamin D content - crazy I know! Cook them very lightly in some coconut oil to get some of those healthy medium-chain triglycerides (MCT), also known as fatty acids. Coconut oil will help you reduce plaque deposits in your blood vessels, which makes it easier for your body to absorb nutrients being carried through your blood. Remember, a little goes a long way, so just add a little dime-sized dollop.
According to research conducted by Stephen Ilardi, PhD, omega-3s are vital for maintaining a chemical balance in your body and brain. Most Americans are getting way too many omega-6s. His research shows most Americans are getting a 16:1 ratio of omega-6s to omega-3s. This ratio should be closer to 2:1.
When we don't get enough omega-3s, our brains don't process serotonin as well. This is important because serotonin helps our brain turn off it's stress response, which can trigger the onset of depression. It also messes with our dopamine function. Dopamine's job in the brain is to activate the frontal cortex. With poor dopamine function, we may experience low activity in the left frontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that helps put us in a good mood and pushes us to go after the things we want.
AND as if that wasn't reason enough - too many omega-6s leads to inflammation. Although inflammation is healthy as a short-term reaction to a specific injury or to infection, chronic inflammation can reek havoc on our bodies. Researchers have identified that chronic inflammation is a common denominator underlying many diseases, such as diabetes, heart disease, atherosclerosis, allergies, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and many types of cancer. Inflammation can also impair the hippocampus, which we use for memory, and can ramp up our body's cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone, that is good in small doses, but too much can lead to adrenal fatigue and depression.
I'll do an expanded post on this in the coming weeks, but for now, Dr. Ilardi says to start with an omega-3 dose of 1000 mg of EPA and 500 mg of DHA daily, in the form of fish oil. Spirulina is also a good thing to add into your weekly routine - just throw the powder in a smoothie, or take a capsule. I have a link to one of my favorite brands in my shop.
6. Regular workouts that vary!
As if you didn’t know this this one!!!! Weights, BARR class, Spin, Yoga, Hot Yoga, Pilates, Dance, kickboxing, walking, running, boxing, gymnastics, Zumba... Whatever gets you motivated and moving! I recommend 5 days a week, and if you can’t do 5, do as much as you can! And most importantly, find activities that you enjoy. As it turns out, whenever we are caught up in enjoyable, meaningful activity, our tolerance for exercise goes up dramatically! That exercise will increase the activity of important brain chemicals discusses above (dopamine and serotonin). It will also stimulate the brain's release of a key growth hormone (BDNF) which assists in the reversal of the toxic, brain-damaging effects of depression. You'll also notice improved memory and focus. All around good stuff!
So that is my best recipe for staying healthy and happy during the winter months!
Do you have anything else to add. Share below.