Winter has arrived and as the days get shorter and the nights longer, many of us will begin to feel down, less energetic, put on a few pounds, and have difficulty waking up in the morning. For as many as 10% of the Canadian population these symptoms will be extreme enough to prevent them from functioning normally. They will feel chronically depressed and fatigued, and seek to withdraw from the world and avoid social contacts. Only with the coming of spring will they note an alleviation of their symptoms. These people are afflicted with seasonal affective disorder, (S.A.D.) Since those suffering from S.A.D. are believed to lack exposure to extended daylight hours, light therapy is now a respected, effective and safe alternative to medication. This type of treatment involves exposure to intense levels of bright full spectrum lights (up to 10 000 lux) for a period of time ranging from 15 minutes to one hour, once or twice a day. Researchers indicate that full spectrum lighting provides positive changes in energy and mood, and helps the body absorb vitamins and minerals more efficiently.
Light therapy has also been used and shown to be useful in the treatment of insomnia, night shift sleep disorders, jet lag, premenstrual syndrome, depression, and carbohydrate binge eating. Clinical studies also demonstrated that when first grade classrooms are equipped with full spectrum lighting, children flourish. When compared to classrooms with regular fluorescent lighting, children exposed to full spectrum lighting showed a decrease in hyperactive behavior, improved academic scores, and had one-third less dental cavities!
Although the therapeutic applications of light therapy are widening, and it is considered a relatively safe form of treatment, it remains a powerful treatment that may not be suited for everyone. For this reason, evaluation, supervision, and follow-up should be considered necessary by a health professional who specializes in light therapy. If you believe that light therapy may be a treatment option for you, please consult the author or another qualified health professional for more information.
Food is an important part of many holidays, celebrations, family and cultural traditions. There are many more treats available during the holiday season and often encouragement from family, friends, and co-workers to overeat. For some it may be increased emotional eating from holiday stress and lack of physical activity at this very busy time. Consider these tips for fully enjoying the holiday season without gaining weight and compromising optimum health!
1. If you are currently overweight and want to lose weight, this is not the time to do it. Maintenance of your present weight is a big enough challenge during the holiday season. Don’t set yourself up for failure by making unrealistic goals for yourself.
2. Do not plan to go on a diet in the New Year. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays. Restrictive diets don’t work in the long run. They increase your loss of lean body mass vs. fat, slow down your metabolism, increase anxiety, depression, food preoccupation, and binge eating, and make weight re-gain more likely.
3. Be physically active every day. Our schedules are often busy and unstructured over the holidays. If it is not convenient to make it to the gym, include family members in a walk after holiday dinners. This can relieve stress, and burn up extra calories from holiday eating.
4. Eat a light snack before going to holiday parties. It is not a good idea to arrive at a party famished. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you are also less likely to resist the temptation of eating the higher fat and higher calorie foods. Try eating a piece of fruit, vegetables, few nuts or a small carton of yogurt.
5. We tend to eat beyond our body’s physical hunger simply because food is there and eating is a very social. Pick and choose what you will enjoy most from all of the tempting high caloric foods. Instead of having wine, rich cheese, bread and dessert, choose one of these foods and really savor it in the moment with all of your senses. Then move yourself away from the food tables.
6. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes. There are plenty of low fat and low calorie substitutes that are amazingly tasty. Try using applesauce in place of oil in your favorite holiday breads; use egg whites in place of whole eggs; try plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream.
The important thing to remember is balance and moderation. It’s OK to eat too much once in a while. If you over-indulge at a holiday meal, put it behind you. Return to your usual eating plan as soon as possible without guilt or despair. Beating yourself up will just keep you in that vicious eating cycle. Just relax, enjoy the holidays, and remember what the season is all about.Back to the Top Previous Page