Updated: Nov 27
Written by: Natalie Pirolli MS, RDN, LDN | Updated November 27, 2023
As you enter a new season, do you ever notice a change in your energy, motivation, habits, or mood? Maybe you were a bit more energized in the summer: active and outdoors often, making fresh salads and grilling proteins and vegetables, and socializing regularly. Now that the colder months are here you find yourself slowing down a bit: not feeling super motivated to be active, craving more comforting foods and OK with hanging in on the weekends. While we can often feel like these changes are us being "lazy" or indicating we need to "get back on track," that isn't always the case.
It is actually quite normal to notice changes as we move from season to season.* Actually, every day, week, month, season, or year can bring different needs, preferences, and desires. (As can different seasons or phases in our life). The tricky part is tuning in to learn what those needs and preferences are and giving ourselves permission to honor them. Typically, we try to keep up with our usual higher-energy routines: our typical workouts, meals, and sleep and social schedules, but it feels like more of a chore. Instead of pausing to ask ourselves why we're feeling less motivated, we can often feel guilty and question "What's wrong with me?"
But think about it: in the summer, there is warmth, more hours of daylight (like, way more hours), and enticement to get outside or get out of the house (especially on the weekends: all these little things that make even grocery shopping a more appealing task to complete than it is in the winter. How could our energy levels not be different when it starts to get colder and darker? And while we prepare for and then recover from the hustle and bustle of the holidays?
It makes complete sense if your eating, exercising, spare time, motivation, etc. look different now than they did in the summer or early fall. For example, you may be inclined to want:
warmer, more comforting meals like soups, sandwiches, pasta/grain dishes
takeout meals to eat at home versus going out to eat on the weekends
less intense workouts, different workouts, or a break from workouts in general
cozy movie nights at home
a few more minutes (or hours) in bed on the weekends
Or maybe you feel energized and motivated by the holidays and are pumped for planning and attending parties, shopping, or being creative with indoor activities like crafting. Either way, it's important to notice and honor what your body is calling for and allow it to go through the season. We're not robots, we're not meant to eat, exercise, or perform the same way every single day, all year long. It's completely natural to feel and need different things throughout the year, month, or even the week. (Did you know that energy levels can shift depending on what phase of the menstrual cycle women are in and influence what type of food, workout, social interactions, etc, we're in the mood for?).
But it can be difficult to accept this. It's easy to set expectations for how productive we're supposed to be, how much we're supposed to exercise, what types of foods we're supposed to be eating (and not eating), and so on. And when we don't meet those expectations, we default to feeling "lazy," or like we failed and need to "get back on track." Sometimes we do just need a break from our typical routine but other times we might need to tweak our routine to meet our current needs.
For example, lately, I haven't been in the mood for lunch salads like I was in the warmer summer months, but am more excited for cooked vegetables in grain bowls, pasta dishes, and soups. I'm also wondering if this craving for more starches is my body's way of trying to boost my energy levels, which have felt lower lately (thank you, 4 PM sunsets). I also haven't been as motivated to get on to my exercise bike but am motivated to bundle up and go out for a walk. I feel like something about soaking in the sun (while it is out) and getting a refreshing burst of cold air (and a break from the dry indoor air) is making walks feel more enjoyable. It's like I'm more grateful for the outdoor time because it's so limited compared to the summer months where I might be outside all weekend long.
I realize that checking in with myself and what feels good for my body, mood, energy levels, etc. helps make the difference between enjoying the choices I make during the day, and getting down on myself for not sticking to what's been part of my usual routine. To force myself to eat a salad for lunch when there are days I really just want a bowl of soup just ends up making for a dissatisfying lunch (and increases the likelihood of me finding chips or something else to mindlessly munch on after to feel more satisfied!).
Our bodies tend to know exactly what we need, we just need to be willing to tune in and listen. So before you get down on yourself for differences in your routine, I encourage you to take a moment to check in and ask yourself: what would feel good for my body today? For my mind? And try to graciously honor what your body, mind, and/or soul needs this season.
*It is normal to notice changes from season to season, but if you're experiencing significant changes in mood, motivation, appetite, sleep, weight, etc. you should speak to your doctor or a medical professional. The recommendations in this article are not meant to replace or postpone treatment for seasonal affective disorder or other mental health diagnoses.
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