18 Top Tips to Beat the Winter Blues
Top Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

How do you beat the Winter Blues and make sure depression doesn’t take hold? Dietitian, Juliette Kellow gives us her top tips to help beat seasonal affective disorder.

18 Top Tips to Beat the Winter Blues

By Dietitian Juliette Kellow BSc RD

1. Eat Soup

Fill up on a warming bowl of soup when you fancy some comfort food.

Increasingly, research shows that having soup as a starter helps fill us up so we eat less at our main meal. To keep calories down, opt for lower-fat soups like vegetable, tomato, carrot or minestrone, rather than creamy varieties. Or make your own by liquidising your favourite stew or casserole. Serve with crusty wholegrain bread for the ultimate comforting meal.

2. Turn up the Heat With Exercise

Save cash and burn calories by finding some fun ways to exercise to stay warm instead of turning up the central heating.

Borrow some workout DVDs from friends or the library or if you have a Wii Fit or Dance Mat get moving to them. Even a game of Twister (within your COVID bubble of course) will get you moving, warm you up, make you laugh and burn a few more calories than moaning about the cold.

3. Have a Mental Workout

Whenever you feel like indulging in stodge, take five minutes to visualise how you want to look and feel at the end of winter.

Get comfortable, close your eyes and imagine you’re watching a video of yourself on a warm, spring day after eating well all winter. Watch the slim, healthy you wearing t-shirts and shorts, feeling confident and bouncing with energy. Hold onto this image of the ‘post-Winter’ you and revisit it whenever that huge bar of chocolate under the duvet seems tempting.

4. Complete your Food Diary Journal  

Use your journal in the food diary.

It will help you identify those times when you’re turning to food because you’re cold, tired or feel you ‘deserve’ a treat after a miserable, dark day.

Once you’ve identified ‘trigger’ points for comfort eating, treat yourself with non-food items such as a new CD, a bubble bath, your favourite DVD or a long chat with a friend. Use the Message Boards in the WLR Members Forum to talk to other members who understand how you feel.

5. Tighten Your Belt

Slouching around in jogging bottoms and baggy jumpers during the winter won’t help you recognise if you’ve lost or gained weight.

Carry on wearing fitted clothes and your waistband will quickly let you know if the pounds are moving in the right direction.

6. Go for a Walk Every Day

Daylight helps to boost serotonin levels, so take a 15-minute walk in the fresh air every day.

Plus, just 15 minutes of walking will burn around 75 calories – enough to prevent you gaining 4lb over the winter!

7. Start Your Day With Porridge

Porridge is perfect for providing energy, topping up nutrient levels and helping those cold winter mornings seem less gloomy.

Oats have a low glycaemic index so a bowl of porridge for breakfast should keep blood sugar levels steady until lunchtime, preventing the mid-morning munchies. Plus, those oaty carbs will help to boost levels of serotonin, keeping you on a natural high.

8. Take it Away

Ever wondered why you get more takeaway leaflets in your letterbox during winter?

Your local takeaway knows you’re more likely to order a delivery when it’s cold, dark and wet outside – and you can’t be bothered to brave the elements to go to the supermarket. Beat them at their game by throwing out those leaflets as soon as they arrive. You’ll be less likely to ring for an Indian, Chinese or pizza if you don’t have a menu to choose from.

9. Keep Your Hands Busy

Keep your hands busy and out of the biscuit tin by taking up a new hobby for winter nights in front of the TV.

Try knitting, cross-stitch, painting, crosswords and Sudoko.

10. Go Italian

If pasta is your ultimate comfort food, don’t be afraid to include it in your diet.

Pasta is a great choice for weight loss as it’s low in fat and has a low glycaemic index so keeps blood sugar levels steady, preventing cravings for sugary foods, which can lead to weight gain. Opting for wholewheat pasta will add more fibre to fill you up. Think carefully about sauces though. Vegetable and fish based ones are usually the lowest in fat and calories. Opt for chicken or lean mince for meat-based sauces. And if you fancy a cheese sauce, make it with low-fat spread, skimmed milk and reduced-fat Cheddar.

11. Think Before You Drink

Don’t warm up with too many lattes, cappuccinos or hot chocolates.

A large latte made with whole milk contains 265 calories – enough to gain 5lb in a month if you have two a day. Cappuccinos are better with 153 calories each. However, a hot chocolate with whipped cream contains a waistline-busting 448 calories.

12. Get Loved Up

Don’t save sex for the weekend.

Getting passionate releases happy chemicals called endorphins – and the happier we are, the less likely we are to feel like hibernating or filling up on stodge. Better still, providing you both put in the effort, making love burns around 140 calories in 20 minutes. That means six months of passionate nights will help you lose 6lb – and keep you warm!

13. Plan Your Summer Holiday

We know things are a little up in the air with regard to next year but, plan next year’s summer holiday and then once you’ve decided where to go, take up a new activity that will help you enjoy your time away even more.

For example, if you plan to go to France, take online French lessons; if you’re off to the Caribbean, learn to dive at your local pool, if current restrictions allow; or if Spain is your destination, find an online Flamenco class. Putting your energy into something you can look forward to will lift your mood so you feel less like hiding under the duvet and munching away the months.

14. Learn to Dance

Exercising outside isn’t appealing on dark winter nights, so shift your activities indoors.

Joining a dance class is a great way to stay in shape, have fun, boost mood-lifting endorphins and burn calories – an hour of salsa burns 380 calories, while ballroom uses up 350 calories. Although you may not find any face to face ones at the moment, try looking for an online one that you can do in the comfort and safety of your own living room.

15. Serve up a Stew

One-pot wonders such as stews and casseroles are the ultimate comfort foods and provide a well-balanced and healthy meal, providing you don’t add loads of oil or serve them with suet-laden dumplings.

Using lean meat or skinless chicken cuts fat and calories, while potatoes provide energy-giving complex carbs. Adding veg such as onions, carrots, parsnips and leeks, boosts fibre, vitamins and minerals. And to really up the comfort factor, throw in a handful of barley, lentils or beans – they’re rich in protein and fibre, both of which will make you feel more satisfied.

16. Eat Orange Foods

According to colour therapists, orange is a colour that helps lift our mood, makes us cheerful and boosts energy levels.

This means filling your plate with orange may help you feel happier so you’re less likely to turn to comfort food. Fortunately, most orange foods are low in calories and fat – think oranges, satsumas, carrots, swede, butternut squash, sweet potato, baked beans, orange peppers, mangoes, canteloupe melon and apricots. Chocolate Orange’s don’t count!

17. Make Your Favourite Comfort Foods Healthier

Find ways to adapt the ingredients or cook your favourite comfort foods differently to lower fat and calories.

For example, for sausage and mash, grill low-fat sausages and add skimmed milk and low-fat spread to mash, rather than cream and butter. Or for toast and jam, use wholegrain bread, low-fat spread and a thin spread of jam.

18. Get 5-a-day with Hot, Fruity Puddings

A bowl of fresh fruit salad or slice of melon might not seem appealing in the depths of winter, so make up your 5-a-day with hot, fruity puds such as baked apples, fruit crumbles and hot fruit compote.

For crumbles, use wholemeal flour and oats to boost fibre and sunflower marg to keep intakes of saturated fat down. And remember to serve with reduced-fat custard or make your own using skimmed milk and sweetener. 

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Useful Links

www.mentalhealth.org.uk  - A charity improving the lives of those with mental health problems or learning disabilities.

www.sada.org.uk - The world's longest established support organisation for Seasonal Affective Disorder.

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