Seasonal Depression: What’s Food Got to Do with It?

Seasonal Depression: What’s Food Got to Do with It?

The holidays can be an emotional time. While many people are out enjoying food-laden parties with family and friends, others find themselves alone and isolated. That feeling of aloneness can be amplified during the holidays, even amidst all the holiday cheer. One also needs to be aware of excessive alcohol consumption.


One of the challenges that people struggle with during the holidays is feelings of guilt when indulging in all the holidays “cheer.” Whether it’s iced holiday cookies made by the grandkids, an extra helping of stuffing or pie at the family meal, or too much champagne when partying with friends, the holidays are filled with temptations that can be tough to resist. It’s hard to enjoy the fun when you know what indulging is going to do to your waistline—and your state of mind. Overeating and eating all the wrong foods can do more than pack on the pounds, it can even affect your mental state to the point of depression.


Here are some ways to help you avoid eating your way into seasonal blues.


Eat before the party. One way to avoid the unhealthy grazing that comes with all the office snacks and evening parties is to eat healthy meals at home. Eat a healthy breakfast before leaving for work, plan a healthy lunch, and eat a nice meal before heading out for a party. A tummy that full of a good meal can help you resist the temptation of the bite-sized appetizers that look so appealing, are so easily consumed—and are so full of calories.


Feeling full from a meal can also help you resist the string of cocktails you may encounter. Whenever possible, opt for water, a seltzer, or a nonalcoholic (preferably no or low-sugar) beverage. Not only will you feel more refreshed, but you’ll save on calories and be more alert for the drive home.  


Plan ahead. If the party invite includes bring your own, then plan to make up healthier snacks that others might also enjoy. This is your opportunity to help others see that less sugar, salt, fat, and preservatives doesn’t have to mean less flavor.


Resist stress eating and sugar for energy. With all the anxiety that can come with holiday expectations can also come unhealthy or binge eating. It’s all too easy to try to drown fear of crowds, loneliness, or sadness in a slice of pie or plate of cookies—after all, there seem to be an abundance of sweets this time of year. But remember, not only will all that sugar pack on the pounds, it can also put you in a worse frame of mind. Sugar “rushes” are the result of spikes in insulin. But after the high wears off comes the inevitable crash. And those blood sugar highs and lows can make you moody—at a time of year when you want to be at your best. Low sugar can also lead to brain fog, so if energy is your goal, then protein and fiber are better choices.

Healthy fats, such as the omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids found in sardines, salmon, trout, walnuts, and flaxseeds, can also reduce symptoms of depression.

Realize that while alcohol is typically available at holiday gatherings, do not feel that it is required to drink alcohol at every gathering. Remember, men should not consume more than two alcoholic beverages per day, and women no more than one.

Share with others. Overly blessed with gifts of cookies, candies, and other eats—courtesy of well-meaning friends or by your own desire to bake away the blues? Consider sharing with others that maybe don’t have such an abundance. What better way to beat the holiday blues than giving? Some local organizations welcome visitors bearing such gifts—imagine the smiles when you show up with a plate full of colorful holiday cookies to a local senior residence.


Remember: Beating the holiday blues is something you can overcome by being more mindful of what you eat and drink. The best holidays are those you remember fondly, and that begins with taking care of yourself.


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