So, Kelly started school as a FIFTH GRADER this week. How that is possible, I can’t even imagine. He was just a little Kindergardener last time I checked and now he’s this big gangly fifth grader. And, with school starting, I’m thinking a lot about what’s coming next with fall and winter. I love the fall—the crisp air, the gorgeous colors, the sweaters and scarves. And I like the beginning of winter, too—the first few snowfalls, Christmas, cozying up with a cuddly blanket and a glass of red wine. There’s lots to love. But I also realized last year how much the winter wears on my energy and mood.
Managing seasonal depression is important for me—knowing that the lack of light and fresh air is going to make it harder to feel good, I need to focus harder on including exercise, and sunlight, and good nutrition in my daily routine. I’m hopeful that being conscious of that this year will help, both in managing the melancholy in the first place and in realizing that it’s just the dark dreary winter and that it’s cyclical and it will pass (not that something is deeply and profoundly wrong, which is what it can feel like).
I was also listening to an episode of The Living Experiment podcast about seasonality and health lately, and they brought up something that resonated with me about varying your diet with the seasons. The discussion was about the fact that our bodies are designed to respond to the seasons for evolutionary reasons, and that we sometimes fight that for no good reason. Take diet, for example—in the summer, it makes sense to eat more fruits and vegetables, because they are fresh and abundant. And that’s probably what sounds good to you in the summer. On a hot day, you want to eat watermelon and peaches and berries. In the winter, you want to eat warm, hearty foods. Like meat, and potatoes, and other roasted root vegetables. If you ate only local foods, that is how your diet would shift seasonally. But what’s interesting if you’re interested in diet and nutrition is that you hear these rules and recommendations about what your diet should include and exclude, and those recommendations don’t make allowances for seasonal changes. If you’re following a strict diet plan, it’s likely that might not fit how you want to eat in the summer, or the winter.
Fruit is a great example—if you’re deep in the health and fitness community, you might hear some mixed messages about fruit. So much sugar, ya know? So many carbs. (If this sounds ridiculous to you, that’s great. If I was reading this two years ago I wouldn’t relate to it AT ALL, and you really shouldn’t, because fruit is a healthy food and if you think of it that way, you’re right. But if you’ve been reading about different ways of eating and you’re hearing that eating too much fruit won’t fit into your diet plan, then just know that I understand that. And I don’t like it.) And sure, fruit is rich in carbohydrates. And phytonutrients, and fiber. And what the podcast was pointing out is that fresh, local fruit in the summertime, even in larger-than-normal amounts, can absolutely be part of a healthy eating plan. But maybe in the winter, when you’re eating your big hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs and sweet potato hash, you don’t also buy tons of fruit from South America. Just an idea.
This might resonate with you more or less depending on where you live--the weather and local availability of produce varies a lot more in Minnesota than it does in Southern California--but this idea was really interesting to me. It makes perfect sense, but as someone who likes to seek out the "best" way to do anything (eat, exercise, sleep, work) it never occurred to me that the best way to eat might vary quite a lot from winter to summer. I mean, I understand the concept of eating seasonal produce, but before listening to this podcast the most that meant to me was that I might fill my fruit "quota" with apples in the fall and oranges in the winter (yeah, I know, oranges aren't local to Minnesota, but I'm a modern human and I don't want to limit myself to pickled and canned foods in the frozen tundra months). It didn't occur to me that maybe I would just eat a lot more fruit in general in the summer, and a lot more meat and potatoes in the winter. That's sort of what I do already, because that's what sounds good, but it was interesting to think more about it. And it's another great reminder that following any set of rules strictly probably doesn't allow you to be the happiest, healthiest version of yourself. Rules are great as suggestions, and as training wheels to help you find your way. But then you've gotta do what's best for you.
Is that interesting to you?? If not, you just read a pretty long blog post that must have been dreadfully boring. Thanks for sticking it out anyway. Love you.