Well, we’ve flipped over another calendar page, and “Hello, October.” I’ll admit that I hate to see my summer packed up and stored away. However, I do appreciate the changing seasons and the experiences they bring. I am also aware that this time of year provides many opportunities (or should I say temptations) for some unhealthy seasonal eating, which carries a level of anxiety for some.
We all know every season has its temptations, but I think for the majority, these coming months can prove to be especially trying; otherwise, there wouldn’t be memes like this one:
“I was gonna start dieting, but Halloween is coming up, then Thanksgiving and Christmas candy. Before you know it, it’s BBQ season again, and I’m not about to turn down a cheeseburger.” — Anonymous
Since childhood, Halloween has always been the official “kick-off” of the holiday season for me. I’m sure it had something to do with my anticipation of having a bulging pillowcase full of candy stashed in my bedroom by night’s end. Ahh, those were the days of ignorant nutritional bliss!
While I might not be gorging on an unhealthy amount of candy as an adult, the cooler weather tempts me to switch up my daily menus to include some comfort foods and put me in the mood to bake more goodies in the oven.
And how about those coffee shops like Starbucks tempting us to drive through and pick up their latest seasonal drink? Here’s a fun fact for you: a grande Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks has 50 grams of sugar and 14 grams of fat. And that’s without the whipped cream! Now toss in a pumpkin muffin and a couple of candy bars throughout the day (that you bought for the trick-or-treaters, wink-wink), and the extra sugar and calories consumed by nightfall could be called downright spooky!
So, does that mean we should avoid seasonal dishes or not enjoy some fall goodies? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But, let’s love ourselves more than the offerings and be mindful of just how easy it is to let those extra calories “creep” in. Below are some tips that will hopefully help you (and me) to not “fall” in the fall:
Be mindful that eating increases in the fall
We eat about 200 calories more per day during the fall. Maybe it’s a biological thing—putting on weight in preparation for the potential winter famine our ancestors faced. Or, could it simply be because fatty, high-calorie foods are more readily available during these colder months? You know, caramel apples, heavy pasta dishes, or pumpkin pie. Whatever the case, starting the season with a mindful approach will keep you a step ahead.
Eat the autumnal colors
Seasonal eating can be healthy. Autumn is the season of warm, vibrant colors like deep green, dark yellows, and brilliant oranges. Nurture yourself by eating fresh seasonal foods. They are packed with great nutrients like fiber, protein, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, which are good for you.
Set goals and limits
Remember to be realistic. Moderation is the key! If goals are more open and specific, it will be much easier to rise to the challenge. Establish clear nutrition and health goals (dessert two times a week, one cookie instead of two, a thirty-minute walk five times a week, etc.)
Pay attention to your wardrobe
Now that your shorts and sandals are put away, it’s time for roomy sweaters, sweatshirts, and stretchy leggings. It’s easy to lose touch with your body when you are all cozily wrapped up. So remember to break out your favorite jeans, and if they start feeling a little too snug, you will have your first clue that your goals and limits need a little tweaking.
Fall is the perfect time of year to get outside and go for a walk or take a bike ride. It’s an enjoyable and easy way to balance out your holiday treats to avoid the dreaded fall weight gain. It’s also a great mood booster to boot.
Keep the stress under control
This time of year brings a certain energy as well as stress with it. The laidback atmosphere of summer is replaced with a building sense of hustle and bustle as we work out new schedules, school, and sports activities for our kids, to name a few. And let’s not forget the upcoming, often stressful holiday expectations knocking on our doors.
A little stress is okay and can be motivating to accomplish tasks. However, persistent stress causes your cortisol levels to rise. And yes, you will feel motivated, but your appetite will also increase. And what kinds of food are you drawn to when under stress? You guessed it, “Feel good” foods. That is, foods high in fat, sugar and salt. It’s called “stress-eating”.
So, with that, I really do encourage you to be mindful in the months ahead. Be good to yourself, make wise decisions regarding the celebrations, and manage your stress level. By all means, celebrate to your heart’s content. But if you are mindful at the beginning of fall seasonal eating, you won’t end the season with regret. And that’s a win!
If you want assistance in finding ways to navigate this tricky season of treats, working with a coach is an excellent way to develop techniques you can use now and every season throughout the year.