Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

By Hillery Kelly

Greetings Foodie Nation!  It’s Hillery, your Foodie Fitness Correspondent.  This month, I want to talk to you about Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Some people call it the “Winter Blues.”

According to the Mayo Clinic sufferers of SAD usually start experiencing symptoms in early fall, like depression, irritability and lack of energy. Symptoms can last all the way through spring. On a personal level I can say it’s something I’ve struggled with throughout my life.   

For me, it manifests itself in several ways. As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, I feel like I am cloaked in darkness. I wake up and it’s dark. I drive to work in the dark. While I’m working I miss what little light the day has to offer before driving to the gym and then home in the dark.

Emotionally, I feel like I’m in a haze. My sunny disposition is replaced by a crank I barely recognize. Add to that the fact that I ate being cold and when I am cold my body wants to go into hybernation. I crave foods I know I should not eat: bread, potatoes and other starch-heavy foods.

In short, I hate winter and I’d just assume spend it lounging in my Snuggie. But since my gastric bypass surgery 15 months ago I’ve committed to a healthier lifestyle and so I am learning to manage these symptoms. In the remainder of this article I’m going to share the tips I have picked up along the way, many of which have to do with moving your body!

  1. Lunchtime walks.  Take them! They get you away from your desk and into the sunshine! Try keeping an old pair of sneakers at your desk and walk outside during the midday. If you are a runner, try getting in a short run at lunchtime. This helps burn some calories, get those feel good endorphins flowing and gives you the extra benefit of exposure to sunlight!
  2. Increase your overall exercise.  As I mentioned above, exercise produces endorphins.  The more intense and physically demanding the workout, the more endorphins are produced.  So hit the gym and give it your all! Your mood will improve and you’ll feel good that you’re keeping up your healthy habits!
  3. Stock the fridge with nutritiously “hearty” foods choices.  I’m a soup/stew girl in the winter…you will rarely see me eating a salad or anything cold. But that doesn’t mean I load up on starchy carbs in the process. Instead of potatoes, use lots of carrots and squash and other root veggies in soups and stews. To further reduce the calories, use leaner cuts of meat and to reduce the stress, cook your soup in a crockpot so dinner can be waiting for you when you get home (along with additional lunches and dinners too)!
  4. Switch your light bulbs to higher wattages. One of the traditional treatments for SAD is known as phototherapy, or increasing the amount of artificial light around you to compensate for the lack of sunlight. Try replacing 40-60 watt light bulbs (or the energy efficient equivalent) with bulbs of higher wattage. It’s like an instant pick-me-up!
  5. Find a workout that lifts your mood and makes you WANT to go.  Nik loves Zumba, I hate it (sorry, Nik)! We both love spin. Maybe you love boxing. Or running. Or yoga. I  encourage you all to find a good winter workout class that it engaging and fun…you’ll be much more likely to continue to attend even when its 20 degrees outside and your body is BEGGING for that electric blanket, thermal pjs and some hot tea!

BONUS TIP:  Use a bronzer or luminizer warm up your complexion.  Yes, black girls can use bronzer (at least this one does) too!  Some days, I just need a little visual pick me up and nothing does it faster than a bit of bronzer or adding a little liquid luminizer to my foundation to give myself a nice healthy glow.  Hello sun kissed skin!  

For my fairer ladies, try something like Benefit’s high beam or moon beam, or NARs Orgasm (the liquid or the powder).  And for my darker ladies, try NARs Laguna, Smashbox’s “Glow” illuminator, or even LORAC’s Tantilizer baked bronzer.  On my body, I like to use Jergen’s self tanning lotion.  It doesn’t really make me “tan” but it gives just enough of a color change that I don’t look jaundiced!

As always Foodies, please remember that I am NOT a medical professional.  If you suspect that you are suffering from SAD or any type of depression, I urge you to talk with a medical professional to get a proper diagnosis.  Depression can be a serious illness that can cause physical, mental, and emotional effects.  So please, don’t use these suggestions in place of medical treatment!

I hope these tips help get you through the winter blues. I have a TON of additional tips to share with you all.  Please make sure you’ve liked the Bariatric Foodie Facebook page, because Nik and I will be sharing tips there all winter long (plus I hear Nik is going a little bonkers on giveaways in December…don’t tell her I told you!). I’d also love to hear from all of you if you have any tips to share as well!   

Hillery Kelly is 15 months post-op RNY gastric bypass. Got a fitness question for her? Hit her up at!

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