Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sweet Survival Secrets to Pre-Winter Blues

by Cal Orey, The Writing Gourmet

“One reason a dog can be such a comfort when you're feeling blue is that he doesn't try to find out why." -- Anonymous

Imagine: It’s snow one day, sunny skies the next, and slush or black ice are lurking outdoors morning and night. It’s pre-winter at Lake Tahoe and around the nation, and you may find yourself with unwanted winter body fat, irritable, and fed up with the upcoming zero temperatures. It’s enough to make a person feel blue and out of whack, but you don’t have to be miserable during the change of seasons with its shorter days and longer, colder nights...

Welcome to the World of SAD

Seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a pesky condition that causes those nasty blues, packing on pounds, and anxiety—especially in the pre winter months and can wreak havoc on your mind and body. Here's some quickie sweet tips that can give you a jumpstart for surviving the change. These tried and true remedies come to the rescue and may help you, and me, to lighten up during the "hump month" before Old Man Winter arrives.

* Eat a Happy Diet
While light therapy may ease pre-spring discontent, nutritional experts believe that happy foods are important, too. Dietitians believe people with depression often have low levels of serotonin—a neurotransmitter believed to be involved in modulating mood and appetite. By eating tryptophan-rich foods we can naturally boost levels of serotonin. Low-fat milk and cottage cheese are good but so is the Mediterranean diet, which includes plenty of seasonal fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, and more monounsaturated fats—like olive oil and nuts. And dark chocolate, which contains the compound serotonin, can help to boost your mood. Baking with dark chocolate and all natural products--including olive oil--can warm you up, too.

* Try Olive Oil

Speaking of oil, cozy up with extra virgin olive oil—a healthful monounsaturated fat. It's not the cure-all for SAD, but it can help you become energized again if you team it with a dark, leafy green salad with plenty of fresh vegetables. If you eat lots of veggies teamed with vinegar and olive oil (in moderation), which can fill you up, you’ll be less likely to fill out. And don't forget, yes you can cook and bake with EVOO. Plus, flavored oils, warming herbs and spices paired with all natural whole grain flour, pastas, and breads can make your holiday dishes healthier and you happier.

* Get a Move On
Like light therapy, exercise is another mood enhancer and way to dump extra pounds during the seasonal change. Feel-good endorphins are one of the ways exercise is beneficial. To stay clear of black ice and falls, walking or running on a treadmill indoors is a good alternative. And swimming in a heated indoor or outdoor pool is a great way to keep physical during colder months.

* Change Your Environment

While most people with winter doldrums need not escape to a tropical island, a change of environment can certainly lift your mood. Sure, taking a trip out of town with a warmer climate is tempting, but even going to a place in town with a different environment (i.e., an exotic-type indoor swimming pool, theater, walk in the woods or downtown) can give you a mini vacation and uplift your spirit.

* Warm Up, Cheer Up

Try enhancing light levels at home or in your workplace by installing more lights on the ceiling or placing more lamps in the room. For some, warming up may help, too. Warmth strategies to try include turning up the thermostat, enjoying a crackling fire with real firewood, using electric blankets (or a toasty waterbed which is like a giant heating pad), drinking flavored herbal teas--infuse coffee or hot chocolate--and layering on more clothing.

And sometimes, ancient remedies are best. Live in rooms full of light; indulge in cheerful conversation and amusements; and listen to music. And don't forget chocolate--in cooking (think a warming, spicy mole over pasta), solo, and cocoa--can be the perfect Rx to surviving the winter blahs.

For more tips on how to ease into wintertime, grab a copy of the new self-help health books, The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, The Healing Powers of Vinegar (trade cover and 2009 mass market format), and The Healing Powers of Chocolate (published by Kensington) by Cal Orey. Available on online booksellers' websites.


  1. Plumber just left. He said it was -9 last night? Kitchen pipe froze; bathroom yesterday. Are we having fun yet?