Seasonal mood changes and weight gain: the 'LAST' thing you want to think about.

Seasonal changes can affect mood and weight

In mid-October, Dr. Pashby gave a health talk for OAC TV where she discussed seasonal mood changes and weight. In the talk, she uses the acronym LAST to take viewers through some actionable strategies to combat seasonal depression or 'the winter blues' which can contribute to unwanted weight changes.

First, let’s take a look at what SAD really is. A subtype of depression, Seasonal Affective Disorder shares its symptoms with non-seasonal depression. Its onset is thought to be related mostly to a change in light, which in turn, creates a change in your body’s circadian rhythm, as well as production of the hormone melatonin.

So let’s break this down. SAD is thought to be related mostly to a change in light, which in turn, creates a change in your body’s circadian rhythm, as well as production of the hormone melatonin.

But what is Circadian rhythm? Well, simply put, circadian rhythm is the variation in physiology and behavior that corresponds approximately to a 24-hour cycle, and it is mostly regulated biological clocks located both centrally, in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus, and also peripherally in the organs such as the liver, gut, pancreas, fat, and muscle. Circadian disruption has been documented in several eating disorders and disordered eating patterns. Interestingly, there is an association between circadian disruption and night eating syndrome (which is when people eat most of their calories at night and may awaken from sleep to eat). Binge eating episodes are most likely to occur at night, too, which may both cause and be a consequence of a disrupted body clock.

And what is Melatonin? Besides being a supplement that can be found on most grocery store shelves, Melatonin is a naturally produced sleep-related hormone, and your body makes more melatonin when it's dark. So, when the days are shorter and darker, more melatonin is made and your circadian rhythm gets off track.

So what to do? Use the acronym LAST to break the seasonal mood cycle.

L- Light: Get more light. Natural light is best, but light therapy works, too. Dr. Pashby describes what to look for and how to use it.

A- Activity: Move in a way that feels good to you, preferably outdoors. Try thinking of your activity as a mental health boost, not anything to do related to weight. While we know that weight maintenance after loss is better maintained for those who exercise, work on changing your thinking. Try to make exercise as a treatment for your stress and mental health your most compelling reason to move.

S- Sleep: Sleep is key for your mental and physical health. We know that there is a meaningful relationship between weight and sleep, both hormonally and behaviorally. So working on your sleep hygiene is also likely to help you on your weight journey.

T- Talk: (both self-talk and talking to a professional). Self-talk is key in managing mood. It is a major cause of how you feel and the emotions you experience. By paying attention to your self-talk and working hard to reframe and challenge your thinking styles, you can help buffer the mood changes that may come with the changing temperatures. If you find yourself starting to dread winter as early as September, then a great place to start would be to challenge those “jumping to conclusions” thoughts and work to replace them with a more balanced approach. Instead of “oh no…next thing you know it will be dark and cold and I will get depressed” you might say to yourself “the changing seasons is sometimes a trigger for my mood to decline but this year I am going to intervene early and work hard to manage my mood differently. Things can always change.”

Now…last point. Remember, you can always talk to a professional if you are struggling or if you need some help breaking out of these seasonal mood shifts or stopping the weight gain you are experiencing. Reach out to us if you need help.

For more details and to watch this talk in its entirety, check out the OAC TV link HERE.

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