The End of Winter Emotional Eating

It almost goes without saying: our relationship with food is influenced by our mood.
 
When we’re feeling confident and happy, we’re more likely to make choices that align with our goals. When we’re feeling sad, irritable, or upset, we’re more likely to find ourselves making choices that we don’t actually feel so good about. 
 
That leads to the negative spiral of bad mood —> Self sabotage —> worse mood —> more sabotage… you get the idea.
 
The truth is, we will never always be in a good mood. In fact, our moods can change based on a lot of different things. One often overlooked factor in our mood is the weather: January through March can be the worst time of the year for those of us who live in the Northern hemisphere (if you’re reading this in the sunshine, please keep your smugness to yourself). 
 
The sun goes down early, and is nearly nonexistent during the day.  
It’s freezing cold and you’re cooped up in the house all day. 
Your kids are screaming to play outside and don’t understand why they can’t go to the playground… “because it’s covered in snow, baby!” (oh, is that just my kid?) 
 
November and December are deceiving. The cheeriness of the holidays trick us into thinking that winter is romantic, and cozy, and fireplaces, and hot cocoa, and crackling logs and ugly sweaters. 
 
Then the festivities all ends and we’re left with: winter.
 
Just, plain, winter. 
 
And the “Winter blues” isn’t just a description of my finger tips after attempting to take a cabin-fevered toddler on a walk. The frigid cold, lack of sunshine, early nights, no fun outside can leave our mood pretty blue as well. 
 
According to the great google machine, Seasonal Affective Disorder affects 3 million people annually… but what if you don’t have a diagnosed condition? Can you still feel blue in the Winter? 
 
Absolutely. We humans all experience very similar emotional experiences. Some experience it more intensely than others. What would be SAD in one person, is a slight case of the blues in another. We all have our own range of reactions. 
 
And if you think you may have SAD, please see a therapist… and stay tuned here too. These tools are proven to help with depression (however, disclaimer, I’m not a therapist, and I don’t treat any diseases.) 
 

Winter comes every year, so let’s learn how to deal with it.  

Short of moving to the sunny places where our smug friends are right now, how do we get through this season of blah? 
 
The trick is actually all in the mindset. 
 
In Carol Dweck’s book Mindset, the New Psychology of Success, she dives deep into the science of a growth versus fixed mindset. 
 
A growth mindset means we recognize that we have the ability to grow and improve. 
A fixed mindset means we believe our abilities are fixed and we don’t have the ability to change. 
 
This growth mindset can determine success in a lot of fields including nutrition and fitness.
 
For example: I often will go out to eat and eat just two bites of desert, or four. However many it takes to feel satisfied. And I always seem to get a comment: “oh I could never do that.”
 
Never? Have you tried? Have you practiced? Because I have. For years. I’ve developed skills through practice and consistency. 
 
When we are stuck in a fixed mindset, we believe our current ability is our limit and we don’t have the capacity to  grow, improve, or learn. We either have it or we don’t. That’s it. 
 
When we’re in a growth mindset, we recognize our ability to grow and develop new skills, and we see our current weaknesses as areas that can become strengths when we put forth the effort. 
 
So how does our mindset help us get through the winter blues? 
 
In Dweck’s book, she discusses her research in which she studied depression on college campuses, which spikes dramatically in (surprise!) February and March. She wanted to understand why different students handle depression differently. She found that those who had a fixed mindset would let things slide, would give up easily, and sink into a deeper depression. And those with a growth mindset would actually double down their efforts and work harder. They knew that they would feel better at some point, and wanted to be on top of their game for when the gloom dissipated.
 
The recognized their foul mood as a weakness that could be overcome, rather than a life sentence. They still felt crummy, but they worked harder to stay on top of their school work and relationships.  
 

So the trick to getting through the Winter blues? 

Recognize that it will get better: This time of the year can be rough, but it’s not permanent, it’s not how you will always feel. 
 
Stay consistent: keep working towards your goals even though right now you’re not feeling as excited or enthusiastic about it. 
 
Adopt a growth mindset: you can grow, you can learn and improve. 
 
Which brings me to another point:
 

How do we adopt a growth mindset? 

How do we change our thinking when we think we can’t change? (um, that was not meant to be a riddle… you know what I mean)
 
In my coaching work with clients, I’ve found the most useful tool for breaking free from a fixed mindset is this: develop self confidence and improve your competence. 
 
Meaning we focus on creating change first, and as you start seeing yourself change in areas you didn’t realize you could, more belief and trust in yourself will follow. 
 
Start with action, then the belief and mindset will follow. 
 
And we’re going to do it together. 
 
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking a look at two crucial skills for a nourished life from a growth mindset perspective. You’ll get tools and resources to do two of the things that most people say “I just can’t do that.”
 
Together, we’re going to create a growth mindset by proving that you can learn new tricks (and not just tricks, actual usable tools for your nutrition journey).
 
Here’s what’s in store:
 
— You’re going to get the best tools to create your own system of planing, preparing and cooking food that feels second nature (99% of Youtrition readers have expressed a struggle with this aspect of nutrition)
 
— You’re going to get a step by step strategy to walk away from extra dessert and master moderation.  Yes, you can eat just one bite, or two…or however many you want and stop at exactly satisfied, without being compelled to eat more.
 
 If you’re not already getting updates from me via email, Click Here to get in on the action of this series. 
 
If you are already getting email updates, stay tuned, you’ll be getting more awesome stuff very, very soon!  

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