I was interviewed last night for the HuffPost LIVE segment on Beating The Holiday Blues. They had several people online talking about the fact that SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) is real. Athletes may call it lack of motivation, off-season duldrums, blahs or depression. Having suffered with it personally, I was able to share some of my experiences in how I overcome the condition every year. and yes, I do mean, every year. It does mimic depression but seems to go away in the Spring when the days get longer again. To see the interview, go here.
I remember when they first came out with SAD in the early 1990’s. I went to my Mom and told her : “Mom, I have SAD!!”. Her response: “My kids do not have SAD. That is just ridiculous”. But I knew I had it. And I get it every year. I renamed it Sunlight Absence Disorder as I find that it is the lack of sunlight that makes me want to hibernate thru the winter months. I would be perfectly ok with winter and the cold if the days were just 7 AM to 7 PM!
I am sure you ask: “Well, ok, you have this condition. What the heck to do you do about it??”
I personally have tried all sorts of things to try to get over it, some things worked, some things did not. I sleep longer – and I allow myself to sleep more! I get up daily about an hour later than I do in the summer, but I have to get my exercise in. Call me an endorphin junkie, but those natural endorphins do really help with my moods! From a nutritional standpoint, I used to eat my way thru the holiday season and eat lots of sweets, ‘carbs’, and not that much in terms of greens. Over the course of 2 months eating that way, I could easily put on 10 pounds before we even got to Christmas! And that would make me even more depressed because none of my clothes fit, my cycling clothes were tight, and well, I almost hated putting on a bathing suit to swim so people wouldn’t see my blubbery thighs! How embarrassing.
So what have I found that works for me? I start taking Vitamin D3 tablets daily starting in September when the days start to get shorter. I take 2000 IU per day, but sometimes need more. I allow myself to sleep that extra hour – I get to bed earlier so I can get up about the same hour every morning. I do bike or swim every morning even if it is only for 45 minutes. That elevates my moods naturally and if I can get outside, the fresh air helps. When I am able to run again, that was one of the options to get me outside. It is also easier when I plan those morning workouts with someone else! That social aspect really helps, and honestly, knowing that I am supposed to meet someone gets me motivated to get up! Which brings me to that social aspect which is also very important – friends make you laugh (or so we hope!) Friends just want to make you happy. Sitting at home and inside does not help with SAD.
The other nutritional focus I now include at least 4 times per week is vegetable juicing. I started doing this years ago during one of my Detox Plans, and found that I felt better doing it regularly. In this dark season, I need those nutrients to be as easily absorbable as possible! I call it my nutrient IV. My juices consist mostly of green vegetables like kale, collards or Swiss chard, then I add an apple, some lemon, ginger and in winter to boost my immune system garlic. I find the greens to be my best option for getting in those phytonutrients to help fight the free radicals of stress; the greens provide a ton of nutrients and B vitamins to give me a boost in energy; the greens provide lots of calcium and magnesium which help muscles to relax. When under stress, you use up those minerals quickly which then in turn can also cause some irregular heart beats!
Lastly, cut down on sugar and the grains, especially wheat. The sugar might taste good, but it will spike the blood sugar, and cause more mood swings. The lower the blood sugar goes, the more likely you will crave those ‘carbs’
and sugars, and make you more irritable and depressed. You want to keep that blood sugar balanced with
regularly spaced meals, eating more greens and vegetables rather than grains over the course of the day.
I still eat chocolate every day – it helps me feel better mentally and I like the taste! (not eating it does NOT make me lose weight – I just feel deprived. NOT a good thing when you are already in the dumps).
If you are an athlete who suffers from the lack of motivation, weight gain before the holidays or just being kinda glum, you are not alone. You may have Seasonal Affect Disorder. It too shall pass, and I hope the tips I gave you
will help either minimize the symptoms or help you get through it easier! And you know now that it is not just in your head. Help is available if needed from someone who has it, too!
For more information about sports nutrition plans to help combat SAD (Seasonal Affect Disorder) or other issues, please check out www.n-im.net or find Nutrition in Motion on Facebook!