How Can I Manage Sad During The Winter Months

Winter isn’t everyone’s favourite season. The long, cold days and nights can leave people feeling tired and depressed. If these low feelings continue for weeks on end, then you may be a sufferer of SAD or seasonal affective disorder as it is otherwise known.

Seasonal affective disorder is categorised as a series of symptoms which tend to appear during the winter months, usually between September and April, with the worst of the symptoms appearing around December, January and February.

Symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder

SAD symptoms can include feelings of lethargy and tiredness, sleep problems and mood swings. Mild symptoms can include feelings of anxiety and a loss of libido. In severe cases, SAD can lead to depression. The symptoms usually last throughout the winter season and can cause all kinds of problems for sufferers.

According to SADA (The Season Affective Disorder Association), “SAD occurs throughout the northern and southern hemispheres, but is extremely rare amongst those who live within 30 degrees of the Equator.”

The disorder is caused by a lack of sunlight exposure in the northern and southern hemispheres during the winter months. The sun is a source of natural energy and lack of sunlight causes all kinds of problems. All living beings need light to grow and flourish, but when deprived of light, the body cannot fully grow to its potential. This is because sunlight impacts the body’s rhythms and it contains Vitamin D, which helps the body to absorb vitamins and minerals more readily, essential for growth and production of healthy cells.

Vitamin D, for humans, is obtained from sun exposure, food and supplements. However, only a small amount is actually required, as the body can store Vitamin D for long periods of time.

One of the ways in which people suffer from seasonal affective disorder is through feeling irritable or having low mood swings. A lack of sunshine can alter mood because it impacts serotonin, a hormone manufactured in the brain. The sun can help trigger the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter which can spur a sense of increased well-being and happiness.

Treatments for SAD

The severity of your SAD symptoms will determine which treatments you may want to consider. One of the most effective treatments is light treatment. You can buy a range of light boxes which mimic the effects of natural light, thereby combating SAD symptoms and increasing the feelings of well-being. Place one on your desk at work or by your bedside table and you will start to feel the effects that its light can bring. It can be beneficial to have the light by your bed, as it can help re-energise you for the day ahead.

Another option to help boost well-being during the winter is to eat plenty of serotonin-boosting foods such as bananas, tomatoes, broccoli and whole grains such as oats, which can be readily eaten in a porridge, for example. All of these foods will provide a natural boost.

There is considerable evidence that a healthy immune system and serotonin are related. The majority of your immune system and your serotonin lie in the gut. The healthier your gastrointestinal (GI) tract, the healthier your immune system. The healthier your immune system, the more serotonin you’ll have.

Exercise is also a great way to feel good and boost serotonin levels, thereby helping to ease feelings of a low mood or depression. When we exercise, our bodies move and our heart has to work harder to pump the oxygen around the body. Exercise can help to boost serotonin levels in the brain, leading to an increased sense of happiness and well-being.

There is evidence that exercise can also help to improve your mental health. If your seasonal affective disorder is severe and you have gone through all the treatments available, you may want to consider seeking assistance from a medical professional.

Best Options For Relieving Headaches

Do you have constant headaches? Did you know that many headaches are food related? Well, it’s true. The foods that you eat can have direct body and mind relations and effects. It’s been shown in studies that if you eat food that you do not care for or food that is forced, it can cause headaches in certain individuals, but when that same person eats food that they enjoy, the headaches are gone. Specific foods have certain ingredients that can trigger headaches.

Most individuals take food for granted and are unaware of how certain foods can effect their body. Take hypoglycemia for example. This condition is connected with low blood sugar, and is quite common in diabetic patients. Having low blood sugar can cause you to have constant headaches.

Monitoring your blood sugar level helps a great deal but when you feel dizzy or weak, you can simply take drink a glass of a sweet beverage such as orange juice to give you immediate relief. Many foods that provide you with simple carbohydrates can also raise your blood sugar back to normal and get you feeling better once again.

Another major cause of headaches are related to caffeine withdrawal. For those who drink many glasses of coffee, tea or caffeinated soda, each and every day, you body may be addicted to the caffeine in these beverages.

When you go a day without your caffeinated beverage, you may experience headaches in between. These headaches may become constant if you don’t cut down on how much caffeine you take in daily. Although caffeine can give you energy, it is usually temporary and the following results are usually fatigue and loss of energy. When cutting down on the amount of caffeine you drink, do it slowly and the headaches will eventually subside.

Some foods can cause headaches in certain people. Foods such as old cheese and yeast extracts have been known to induce headaches. Also, red wine as it contains a substance known as Tyramine that causes your head to throb. A deficiency in the enzyme oxidase can cause chronic headaches.

Avoiding these types of foods and substances can cause the decrease in headaches and eventually make them leave all together. Consuming natural foods is the best way to avoiding getting headaches in the first place. Avoiding foods that contain additives and artificial flavors can be very beneficial.

Allergies is another main cause of headaches. Getting medication to help with your allergies can really make a world of difference. There are many known causes of headaches but knowing what triggers them can help decrease them and give you more effective relief. Instead of taking headache medication on a daily basis, find out what is causing your chronic headaches and try to fix it.

Benefits Of Cardio On An Empty Stomach

Doing cardiovascular exercise on an empty stomach helps burn more fat. So skip breakfast and watch the fat melt off.

Many athletes and trainers have long debated the question of whether doing cardio on an empty stomach is beneficial to fat loss. The answer is yes. A study published in Muscle & Fitness Hers compared the effects of meal timing on the amount of fat and carbohydrates burned and have found that athletes who perform cardio on an empty stomach do get a fat-burning boost.

Research on Morning Cardio

The study compared two groups of people. One group did not eat before performing cardiovascular exercise. The other group ate a pre-workout meal. Researchers found that the former group burned more fat during their workout than the group who did eat before exercising. This proves that doing cardio on an empty stomach in the morning gives athletes and those trying to lose weight a significant advantage when it comes to burning off fat.

Why Cardio on an Empty Stomach Works

In the early morning, levels of muscle and liver glycogen are lower because of overnight fasting. This depleted amount of glycogen and lowered blood sugar levels are the ideal factors for burning fat instead of carbohydrates. Glycogen is reserved carbohydrates and the body’s primary source of energy. So when these levels are low, the body moves on to the secondary source of energy, which is fat.

Morning cardio on an empty stomach is also beneficial because of the afterburn effect. After a cardio session, exercisers will continue to burn fat because of an elevated metabolism that continues throughout the day. Doing cardio at night will only cause an elevated metabolism until the time an athlete goes to sleep, when the metabolism rate drops significantly.

Not to be diminished is the mental benefit morning cardio provides. Starting the day by tackling a difficult task, like vigorous activity, provides a feeling of accomplishment that can help exercisers stay positive and motivated to continue their healthy lifestyle throughout the rest of the day.

Eating Before Training

There are some people, who, despite the proven benefits, just cannot stomach a training session without having some fuel in them. Don’t despair. The study showed that the group that had the pre-workout meal did continue to burn more fat than the fasting group two hours after the end of their exercise session. So upfront fat burn isn’t as great, but long-term fat burn is better for those that do eat before training.

Another option for those who can’t do cardio on an empty stomach is to do cardio after weight training. Lifting weights burns carbs so the body will then have low stores of glycogen at the end of a weight training session. Doing cardio at this point mimics morning cardio on an empty stomach because the body will eat through the depleted glycogen as energy and then move on to fat as the reserve energy source.

How To Avoid Winter Weight Gain

We all dread winter. Especially, when we live in an area where the winters are bitter cold with ice and snow.

Today is one of those days in Michigan, when it drizzles constantly, the sky is cloudy, and it feels cold all over. I would just love to sit in my computer and do nothing else but write, drink hot tea and snack on some cheese and crackers. If I do that all winter long, I am going to regret it when next spring comes, since I was able to adjust to some good eating habits that I have so successfully kept for the past 8 months

So what are we supposed to do in the winter months and avoid weight gain? There are quite a few options. Joining the gym is one. But not all of us have the luxury of joining a gym. Working out at home is another option. Preparing good healthy meals and drinks also helps in maintaining a steady weight and not gaining it in the winter months.

There are quite a few tapes and cd’s in the market that will help keep you motivated to stay active. Sometimes we get bored of the same routine over and over again, but once you start exercising you feel much better.

Exercise gives more energy, battles depression and increases endorphins in our bodies that we lack in the winter months due to no sun. Walking in the winter months is also a good exercise. Even if it is bitterly cold outside, the cold weather boosts up your metabolism and helps keep your weight in control. It’s not so bad to go for a walk when it’s sunny after a snowfall. Just make sure you dress very warm.

Let’s not forget the holidays. Along with winter we have Thanksgiving and Christmas and the abundance of parties, food and drinks. How can you avoid gaining weight when the holiday season is so short and packed with so many parties; and yet on the other hand you want to enjoy it?

When invited to a party, it’s best to eat something before arriving. A small snack or even a small meal will help stave off hunger for a while, so you won’t binge on the snacks. While at the party, stay away from snacks loaded with calories. It’s best to eat a few veggies and some cheese and crackers. They are healthy and will fill you up so you won’t feel hungry. As for drinks, the best way is to either drink water, or a glass of wine. Mixed drinks pack up the calories. With all the sugar in them, they will make you hungrier and crave more food.

So you survived the holiday season, but you still have a couple of winter months before spring arrives. How do you eat healthy when there is not an abundance of fresh vegetables? It’s easy to prepare meals that are warm and healthy.

Frozen vegetables keep their vitamins more so than canned. A heated bag of frozen veggies, along with some roasted chicken, or fish and you have a warm meal to keep you satisfied. Another good option is legumes, like white beans and lentils. There are recipes that you can make with these that will keep you warm and satisfied.

The most important thing to keeping the weight off during the winter months is being active. No matter how many vegetables, or how many times you watch what you eat, if you are not active, you will gain the weight. So stay fit, and stay healthy.

How To Avoid The Winter Blues

As we’re approaching the shortest day of the year many of us are fighting depression because of lack of sunlight. Symptoms may include anything from feeling gloomy to full-blown depression. Most SAD sufferers lose interest in regular social activities they enjoyed when there were more daylight hours. However, you don’t have to give in to the “winter time blues”, or what’s called seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Here are some helpful tips to prevent SAD from stealing your joy.

Exercise—Tip #1 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

1. Get off the couch and move! That's the first step you should take when you feel yourself getting down during the winter cold and darkness. If it's too cold to walk outside, just walk in your house for 30 minutes. Set a timer, turn on your favorite TV show or radio program to keep your mind occupied and walk until the timer goes off.

2. Use a treadmill. If you don't already own one, they're really not that costly. In fact you're sure to find one on special at either an early-morning pre-Christmas or after Christmas sales. Or, If you do have a treadmill or exercise bike, dust it off and start moving. No only will you burn calories, but your endorphins will kick in, improving your mood. Also, why not walk at a local indoor mall where you can see others walking, as well as find a walking buddy or join an existing group that walks regularly at the mall.

3. Join a gym. Look for fitness centers that offer discounts if you think it's not in your budget. Surprisingly, many athletic and fitness centers regularly offer specials, as well as discounts for bringing in new members.

Use Light Therapy—Tip #2 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Using light therapy to treat SAD is a highly effective. First, try sitting near a sunny window or if you have a sunroom, spend most of your time in there. I remember how just sitting in our Connecticut sunroom used to cheer me up when we first moved from Florida to New England. Even on a frigid, snowy day, all I had to do was spend time in the sunroom and my spirits were lifted.

However, if you have a bad case of SAD, you may need to take further steps as in many cases, ordinary light bulbs are not strong enough to work. However, there are varieties of commercial lightboxes you can buy that are effectual. Sit about two to three feet from a specially designed lightbox for about 30 minutes to an hour each day. After about three or four days, you should see results. You don’t’ have to just sit, but can carry on with daily activities such as reading, needlework, and other hobbies and chores (just so you’re close enough to the lightbox.)

Cut Back on Carbs—Tip #3 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

If you’re struggling with SAD, chances are you’re both craving and eating more carbohydrates. Unfortunately, this only leads to more problems, as you become tired and grow even more depressed because of a winter weight gain. But by disciplining yourself to eat more protein and less carbs (include only the good ones such as fresh fruits, whole grains, whole wheat breads), you’ll feel better, both physically and emotionally. A good idea is to clear your house of bad carbs (You know the ones—cookies, cakes, sugars, chips, white flour products, etc.) Winter is an excellent time to join a weight loss program, such as Weight Watchers, where you’ll not only learn how to eat healthier, but get moral support for your goal of losing weight.

Decide to Enjoy Winter—Tip #4 for Preventing or Coping with Seasonal Affective Disorder

Finally, think of ways to enjoy winter. Instead of counting the days until spring arrives, think of fun winter activities. Learn to ski, snowboard, or ice skate. Or, just have fun with your kids making a snowman. It just may be that winter could become one of your favorite seasons.

Workout and Have Better Sex – Wait, What?

Working out is one of those necessary evils in life and I’d like to share with you a few simple reasons you should make it something you strive to add to your life.

Working out improves your sex life. If nothing else revs you up about working out, hopefully this will. It’s actually been scientifically proven that regular exercise can increase sexual drive, activity, and satisfaction. Physical endurance and muscle toning improve sexual prowess, and exercise jump-starts the sympathetic nervous system, which increases blood flow to the genital area.

Even low levels of exercise help keep you functioning properly. In fact, men can significantly lower their risk of erectile dysfunction by burning only 200 calories a day.

Lose weight and feel great! It’s no secret that excess weight wreaks havoc on the body. From minor aches and pains to heart disease and high cholesterol- working out will help you lose weight and potentially decrease and possibly remove many health woes. Working out also boosts immunity making you less likely to get sick. In fact, it is estimated that physically active people can save up to $1,000 a year in regular healthcare costs.

Gain confidence. Working out improves your confidence levels. As you get started on a workout routine your body will lose fat and get toned. Just knowing that you are working towards a new and improved body makes you feel better about yourself mentally and emotionally. Working out will inevitably give your self-image and self-confidence a boost, which is often one of the best motivators to stick to a workout program.

Improve brain function. Exercise causes a drop in stress hormones and acts as an antidepressant. If you have ever experienced a “runners-high” then you know exactly what I am referring to. In general, anything that is good for your heart is great for your brain and exercise is definitely good for your heart.

Sugar and Your Body

It seems like sugar is in everything. A personal trainer I met said his clients often ask him  why sugar is so bad and how they can keep from consuming it. Here’s his take on a substance is as addictive as other white powders out there – yes, it’s that serious!

Sugar is sweet and releases a massive amount of dopamine in the reward center of the brain. The more you consume, the more your body wants of it. Junk food, sodas, even many energy drinks have a lot of sugar- much more than any foods found in nature. Because of this dopamine release people who have a susceptibility to addiction can become strongly addicted to it.

What can sugar do to your body? For one, it can cause insulin resistance which causes obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes. Second, it can cause you to get cancer- many scientists that people who consume a lot of sugar are more at risk for cancer because of their consistently higher than normal insulin levels.

Insulin is a key hormone in stopping uncontrolled growth and multiplication of cells- when your levels are high your body can’t control these growths as well. Lastly, it can mess up your metabolism causing weight gain which leads to a whole slew of other problems. There are several other things that sugar does to your body, but these alone should make you want to quash your sugar addiction.

Okay, so you know its bad- but how can you stop consuming so much of it? The first thing you need to do is make the decision to stop the consumption. Just like addicts can’t quit drinking, smoking and gambling unless they decide to get help, you must be the one to make the decision to cut back and then stick to the decision.

Consider alternative sweeteners like stevia or honey. Avoid processed foods and beverages made with fructose, aspartame, sucralose and other sugar aliases. Once you find the culprits with the most sugar in your diet it will be easier to cut back.

Don’t Overindulge at Thanksgiving

Want to hear a frightening but true statistic? The average American will consume more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat on Thanksgiving Day alone. That number is more than double the amount of calories that a man hoping to maintain his weight should consume in a day and more than three times the amount of calories a woman looking to lose weight should consume!

How then, when Thanksgiving is filled with some of the most tempting dishes we eat all year can we keep from overindulging?

Portion Control – I hate to say it, but one of the biggest factors that contributes to this over-consumption issue is overloading your plate. You don’t need all those potatoes and gravy and you certainly don’t need to go back for leftovers of mom’s stuffing just because it’s there.

Load the plate with veggies – If you really feel the need to pack your plate as much as everyone else’s, load your plate with vegetables. If you are heading out this holiday and worry there won’t be any veggies you like bring a vegetable dish of your own.

Drink up – No, I don’t mean alcohol! By the way though, you shouldn’t drink your calories at dinner, but we’ll save that for another post. When I say drink up, what I really mean is drink a lot of water. Drink a full glass before you sit down to eat and this will help you feel a little full preventing you from over eating.

Take a walk before dinner – Studies have shown that a brisk walk before a meal can help you suppress your appetite.

Only eat half of dessert – Nobody said you can’t have a slice of pumpkin pie, but if all you really need is the taste you can probably live with just half a slice and save those excess calories.

All of the above tips can be used at any big meal. Don’t restrict yourself too much because that does lead to binging, but there is no reason you need to stuff your face when you’re trying to maintain or whittle your waist!

ADHD Signs And Symptoms

Maybe you’re hyper and frazzled like your friends said, or maybe your ‘quarks’ are the warning signs of A.D.H.D.

You want to laugh, but don’t because you’re holding up the line. You’ve packed close to three hundred dollars worth of groceries on the belt and even though you told yourself to locate your debit card before going in the store, you didn’t.

It’s in my bag somewhere, you thought. So, you’re rifling through your bag, which is large enough to hold a small child, and you found a picture of your Aunt Claire holding a garden gnome, two screw drivers, some Tums, a digital planner from your best friend, and five pens, none of which work.

The man behind you sighs. The cashier stares. Sweat beads over your brow. It’s getting warmer and now you feel like crying instead of laughing and you can’t remember where you put your debit card. Sometimes you slip into the ashtray in the car, other times you shove it in your pocket. Once you found it in your shoe. You snicker as you recall your reasoning as the man behind you sighs again, and shuffles his feet.

You suddenly remember that you taped it to the mirror by the front door so you wouldn’t forget it. You apologize to the cashier, and the annoyed man behind and leave the store quickly.

Warning signs of A.D.H.D. can vary, but some are classic- present in most people afflicted with the frustrating, embarrassing disorder.

Impulsive-making rash decisions without forethought
Severe disorganization-misplacing key items
Difficulty following directions/paying attention
Racing thoughts/difficulty sitting still
Fidgeting -tapping items on a table, drumming fingers, bouncing a leg
Excessive talking
Difficulty falling asleep
Poor short term memory
Inappropriate behavior
Requires constant prompting to complete tasks

While most people experience some of these symptoms sometimes, people living with A.D.H.D. experience most of them most of the time. Often, these symptoms interfere with daily life and require medication to control. Untreated A.D.H.D. can slow academic progress, make it difficult to find and maintain employment, ruin personal relationships and lead to other illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Medication is not the only treatment for A.D.H.D. There are many tools you can use to manage this disorder, including a special diet.

If you are concerned that you, or a loved one are displaying the warning signs of A.D.H.D., seek an evaluation from a professional. As with any disease or disorder, misdiagnosis happens. The symptoms for A.D.H.D. are also present in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety, Depression and others. Consulting a professional is the wisest thing to do.

Being diagnosed with A.D.H.D. doesn’t mean you can’t live a productive, fulfilling life. Some beloved actors, entertainers and musicians live with this disorder and use it to tap into a new level of creativity.

Cool Summer Workouts

Many people want to get more fit during the summer but find it hard to keep up with regular exercise in the heat. How can we stay cool and yet keep up the pace?

Summer is not the time to give up on exercise just because of the heat. Some people have no trouble sticking to their exercise routine no matter how hot it gets, but that’s not most people. There’s nothing to feel guilty about if you can’t take the heat, but it also does not mean that we forgo exercise until the weather gets cooler. The whole objective is to continue an active lifestyle for a lifetime, so we want to find ways to stay active throughout the year.

Where to Start Beating the Summer Heat

It’s best to let go of any expectations about exercise. There ought to be no rules about how, when, or where we should exercise and no rules about what type of exercise we should engage in. It doesn’t matter if running, walking, treadmills, or any other type of exercise is the latest rage. The important thing is that we move consistently. The body doesn’t care how we move – just that we move. It doesn’t even have to be considered exercise to be exercised. For example, playing with your kids or grandchildren in the pool may not be considered formal exercise, but, if kept at a steady pace, it can be.

Just because you walk the rest of the year doesn’t mean you have to walk in the summer. If you take such an all-or-nothing approach to exercise and you can’t take the heat of summer, you’ll probably do nothing when it’s hot. In addition, this type of thinking keeps you from being creative enough to find other activities that are good exercise and will keep you active all summer.

Six Steps to Finding the Right Exercise for Summer

Here are some steps to take in finding the right exercise for those “too hot” days:

  1. Make a list of places you can exercise that are cool enough for you. These may include shady areas, your house, the office, the mall, outside in the evening, and in water.
  2. Make a list of ways that you like to “move.” This list might include dancing, stepping, swimming, water aerobics, cleaning the house, jumping rope, gardening, using an exercise DVD, and so on.
  3. Review accurate information on how to exercise properly to get the results you wish to get. The objective here is to move at a pace that gets your heart rate up enough where your body needs to breathe deeply but not to the extent where you cannot have a conversation with someone while you’re exercising. We want to be breathing heavily but not to the point of pain.
  4. Decide which exercises on your list you would like to start with and how you will be able to make them “aerobic.”
  5. Set aside the time when you will engage in your summer exercise program. If you had a doctor’s appointment, you would make sure nothing interfered with that time. Your exercise time should be given the same priority. If anyone asks to see you during your exercise time, just say, “I’m sorry. I have a commitment then.”
  6. Nothing says that you have to do the same form of exercise all summer. The more you vary exercise, the more enjoyable it will be, and the more likely that you will want to continue it.

The summer heat doesn’t have to get in the way of your workouts as long as you know how to stay active and cool.