Food Matters: Beat the winter blues

December 16, 2011 

To some, this is a time to eat hardy, drink extra and party. To others, it is a time to stay indoors and write Christmas cards. Still, others find it a depressing and stressful time. Some eat for comfort, others scrape by. No matter what, we eat and drink differently now than any other time of the year.

The endless stream of dips and chips and casseroles are high in fat and calories.

It is tempting to say, "This is a special occasion and I should be able to eat what I want and as much as I want."

It's easy to fool yourself into following impulses.

For those wanting to watch their waistline, it is important to keep in mind the principle of energy balance. The amount of energy you take into the body from food must be equal to the amount of energy burned up with activity. If you eat more than usual, you must do more activity than usual to keep from gaining weight. Most people do less activity in the winter but don't eat less, so they already are prone to gaining weight. Try adding extra activities in your normal day, like parking at the end of the parking lot instead of next to the entrance of the store. For those finding the cold, dreary days of winter depressing and lonely, take heart. There are some simple things you can do to make the season brighter and more appealing. It is understandable that those who have lost loved ones find this time of year especially hard. Being alone is difficult and they should make efforts to find activities they can do to get out and about. For seniors, there are senior centers that usually have meals, social activities and field trips or weekday getaways. Family members, neighbors and friends should stop in and call on them more frequently at this time of year. Eating alone is not fun, so bring some snacks that you can share with them when you visit. Try to have healthy snacks too.

Sometimes winter blues are related to a depressive disorder, called seasonal affective disorder or SAD. Along with other symptoms of depression, SAD can cause significant weight loss or weight gain or a decrease or increase in appetite. There may be an unusual craving for sweets and other carbohydrates in the evening. Special light therapy can be used to treat this disorder, so check with your doctor to see if you think you might have this problem.

Chuck Newcomb, MS, RD, CDE is a consulting registered dietitian currently providing medical nutrition therapy services for Memorial Hospital Los Banos. He has a masters of science in clinical nutrition from New York University. Email questions to the attention of ChuckRD at: or on his Web site

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