Winter Doldrums

x bbqWe’ve changed the clocks, but I expect we are still a long, long way from enjoying a backyard barbecue. If you live in the northeast as I do, you’ve experienced a very gray, excessively cold, snow-laden winter. Even when the sun shines, it’s easy to look out the front door and feel defeated by the five-foot snow banks that are everywhere. But instead of bundling up and heading outside, what do you do? Head for the refrigerator?

For me, comfort food takes on a life of its own at this time of year. For some reason I can get through the holidays without gaining, but I can’t get through February and March. Come April, I must force myself into dieting. But maybe that’s okay.

Cabin fever can take over as the winter drags on. It stalls any motivation I might have left and creates negative self-talk that further beats me down. I know what to do: Go to the gym, take a walk, eat a salad. The more I tell myself what the solution is, the more I also tell myself that I’m a failure for not doing it.

I recently read a magazine article* that cited: “Desire + Frustration = Obsession.” I immediately thought of my obsession with weight. Isn’t this exactly what we suffer? We desire to be something we are not (a certain weight or svelte shape), and we are frustrated by our inability to get there and stay there. This leads to obsession! If A + B = C, then doesn’t C – B = A (Obsession – Frustration = Desire)?

So, how do we lessen or eradicate our frustration and get what we desire? A few weeks ago, I decided to give myself a break. Rather than fighting my sluggish motivation, I accepted that February and March are not easy months for me. If I don’t want to put on three sweaters, a hat, boots and gloves just to go to the gym and take them all off, it’s okay. The more I told myself it was okay, a funny thing happened.

When I stopped reprimanding myself, I became more willing to go to the gym—and I did go, for the first time in months. And I liked it—it turned out to be a great way to stop shivering and get toasty, without increasing the home heating bill! I also hit the ski slopes. Skiing requires a massive dressing process, carrying lots of awkward stuff to and from the car and driving an hour each way (if you’re lucky) to a mountain. But once I got there, I rediscovered how much I love it, which made the effort worthwhile.

I can’t say I’m making a lot less trips to the fridge, but I am moving more, and I’m yelling at myself less. And that feels good. It may be that I’ve discovered how to lessen my frustration, by not being so hard on myself. Spring will come, and along with all the layers of clothing, we’ll probably have to shed a few unwanted pounds. But perhaps the solution is to relax and enjoy this amazing, surprising winter that is trumping every other story on the evening news.

Tune in a movie, sit on the couch, and heat up a bag of popcorn (94% fat-free, of course). When the show’s over, pack up your gym bag and head to the gym, or find your sunglasses, breathe in some crisp fresh air, and take a walk. Live for the moment, and stop yelling at yourself! When you eliminate your frustrations, you are likely to smile and enjoy more, and if that isn’t good for your weight, it is certainly good for your psyche!

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*To give credit where it is due: Kevin West’s article “Love in a Jar” appeared in Martha Stewart Living in June 2013. His obsession was to recreate his gran’s jam. (FYI: I am always years behind on my magazine-reading, so you can count on me to quote more out-of-date articles in the future.)

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