Now that we are officially in spring season, it’s time to get back to doing the things you promised yourself you would do! You may have noticed that your weight has crept up during the winter. Most of us tend to gain weight during this time and it is mostly because it is hard to keep up with our exercise with the shorter days. The cold weather makes it very difficult to keep up with our physical activity because you’d rather be curled up in bed, perhaps drinking a hot chocolate. We tend to eat a lot of comfort foods to keep us warm which includes soup, stews and crumbles. Research suggests that people have a natural tendency to eat more in winter. We have gained a survival mechanism from our ancestors as historically; less food was available in winter. This genetic trait has primed our body to eat more during this time as it thinks foods are in scarcity.
There is nothing wrong with putting on a little bit of weight. But the problem is, many don’t realise it until it starts to accumulate over the years. The change in our food habits and drop in our physical activity level results in weight gain. The lack of sunlight in winter can have a profound effect on our hormones, and it will affect some of us more than others. Some may experience Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) which is a form of depression with onset during the winter months. The symptoms include sadness, irritability, increase in appetite and can result in weight gain. While it is true that Australia experiences a milder winter compared to other parts of the world, many are still affected by SAD or ‘winter blues’. The good news is that these conditions will subside as the weather gets warmer during spring. But it may hang around for some longer than others. It is important to seek professional help if symptoms don’t improve. Mental health issues are just as important as any other health problem; one in five Australians will experience a mental illness every year. It affects more people than we think so make sure to seek help from a health professional. You can reach out to Lifeline or Beyond Blue for support.
If you have managed to overcome the blues, it’s time to transition back to our old habits. Gardening is a great way to do this because it will ensure you have fresh produce available. You should aim to begin incorporating more physical activity in your day. Aim to spend more time outdoors and do whatever it is that used to do whether it was used to a morning run or a walk after dinner. Exercise helps us fight depression because it produces endorphins (also known as happy hormones).
This is also the perfect season to ‘spring clean’ your kitchen. We get used to eating heavy foods in winter, so take out some of the heavy foods in our diet (just like how you would swap out the heavy clothes at the end of spring). There is a lot of fresh produce available in spring, create more colours on your plate with salads and veggie-based meals. Click here to see the local produce in your area.
Additionally, there are foods that have been scientifically proven to have an effect on mood. Here are five mood boosting foods you could try:
- High quality protein such as red meat and Atlantic salmon are building blocks for a mood boosting diet. These foods help fight off depression.
- Wholegrains such as grainy bread or legumes are a low GI food which means they keep your blood sugar stable by helping brain neurotransmitter reactions which in turn affects our mood.
- Aim to eat lots of fruits and vegetables as recent research shows that consumption may be inversely associated with risk of depression. The fibre content in fruits and vegetables also has a role in improving mood and protecting against depression.
- Ever ate a chocolate and felt happier? Research suggests cocoa may have a role in enhancing positive due to the polyphenols present (highest in dark chocolate). Remember to keep your portions small- a little chocolate goes a long way!
- Caffeine containing beverages such as coffee and tea may help the lower risk of depression. According to recent research, the most protection comes with about 2 cups of coffee.
Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. It has been a hard year for all of us with COVID-19. We have all had it pretty rough so don’t be so hard on yourself. Please reach out to a health professional if you require support.