As we approach the shortest day, in the middle of a pandemic, it can be hard to focus on the positives! Warming soups and stews and the puddings with custard serve to make us feel warm and provide the ultimate comfort. But remember to get the balance right so you’re not left with unwanted weight gain and low mood. Here, I discuss some thoughts to help you eat well and stay well this winter.
It’s boring but ‘balance’ is the name of the game. It’s not a time to be starting restrictive diets that eliminate entire food groups. This just leaves us feeling hungry and deprived and can set up negative thought patterns and behaviours that can lead to overeating. Foods should not be labelled ‘good’ or ‘bad’! Nourishing yourself properly with regular meals that provide complex, wholegrain carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and oats to sustain energy levels throughout the day; a protein source such as meat, fish, beans or pulses; plenty of fruit, salad or vegetables and a dairy source will give you a good balance of nutrients to support your overall health. Snacks can help to fuel our day and offer a useful boost to our overall nutrient intake, but the key is to plan them! Unplanned snacking can result from skipping meals and over-restrictive diets and then the foods chosen are often high in fat and sugar and over consumed. This can then lead to feelings of guilt and fuels a negative thought process impacting on our relationship with food. Build the foods you love into your diet and enjoy them in moderation and guilt free.
The winter months can see an increase in depression and if you already struggle with your mood then it can worsen symptoms. Eating well when you are struggling mentally can be extremely difficult. Feelings of guilt and shame if you’re unable to prepare meals will make things worse so it’s important to show yourself compassion and kindness during these times. Planning ahead for this by having good store cupboard and freezer supplies can help you grab a healthy snack or meal when the going gets tough.
Food is so much more than just nutrients! It can offer pleasure, comfort and invites social interaction which can help us keep a positive relationship with food. If you are struggling with your mood the thought of socialising can be extremely difficult. Usually, cosy winter evenings can be the perfect time to socialise with friends and family over a meal and a drink or meeting a friend for lunch can boost your mood on a gloomy day. This is difficult under our current pandemic restrictions, but we can still be creative in how we do this. So, why not share an online meal or drink? Or grab a takeaway coffee and go for a walk with a friend in an open space.
Colder days mean we don’t feel as thirsty and can often forget to drink. Dehydration can leave us feeling tired, sluggish, irritable and light-headed. Remember to drink regularly, at least 6-8 glasses, throughout the day and more if you’re exercising.
We all know exercise is good for us but fitting it in when the days are short can be challenging. Every little helps! It is recommended that adults should have a mix of aerobic and strength based exercise every week (see https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/ for actual guidelines). The benefits of physical activity are cumulative so if you aren’t meeting current guidelines then build up gradually in 10-15 minute blocks. If you’re working from home, make time during the day to see some daylight. It’ll boost your physical and mental wellbeing.
If you would like inspiration, support or motivation then do get in touch here or at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find also find me on Facebook and Instagram @lydialnutrition.