Flowing With the Seasons
Written by: Natalie Pirolli MS, RDN, LDN | January 19, 2023
As you enter a new season, do you ever notice a change in your energy, motivation, habits, or mood? Maybe you are a bit more energized in the summer - excited to get outside, be active, and make weekend plans. And in the winter maybe you experience a bit of a slowdown. I know that this is true for me. Lately, I keep feeling "lazy" like I don't have the motivation or desire to be very social, exercise in ways I usually enjoy, or even eat the same meals I did in the fall or summer time. After recently asking myself (for the 10th time) "what's wrong with me lately?" I'm realizing there may be more to it than "laziness" and I may not be alone.
It is 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 honoring them. Instead, we try to keep up with our usual routines - typical workouts, meals, sleep, and social schedules, and question: "what's wrong with me?" if we don't feel excited to maintain these habits.
But think about it for a minute. In the summer, there is warmth, more hours of daylight (like, way more hours), 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 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 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 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 felt energized and motivated by the holidays and are pumped for planning and attending more parties, doing more 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 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 even shift depending on what phase of the menstrual cycle women are in?).
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 new needs.
For example, lately I haven't been as much in the mood for salads at lunch as 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 low 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 may be outside all weekend.
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 in 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 pause and check in. 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.
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