With winter upon us and Blue Monday on January 26th, renowned psychologist and behavior change expert, Dr. Gary Foster joined me to demystify Blue Monday, the science behind your mood and how it can affect your winter goals.
Candace Rose: Blue Monday is on its way and while many believe its pseudoscience, it does shed light that many of us feel moody during these winter months. Can you tell us why some of us may feel blue during the winter season?
Dr. Gary Foster: “I think it’s just a matter of being a part of the human condition and it’s totally natural to feel a little more blue when it’s 20 degrees out with 20 miles an hour wind than it is a spring balmy day with the sun shining and there’s a nice breeze, some of it is to be expected.
There are some forms of depression that are affected by the season and there’s hypothesis around the amount of light in the day, but for most people there’s no biological cause of this, it’s just the reality. Who wants to be in freezing bad weather when you can be in spring-like weather? The idea there is just to accept that for what it is. There will be sometimes when the weather is cooperating and you’re feeling good and you have a bounce in your step and there are other times where you won’t feel so much that way and that’s okay. Don’t let those changes in mood disturb your plans for being healthy. They might have to be adjusted a bit, it may be more difficult to work out in the morning (for example) if it’s quite dark, but do what you can. Don’t expect perfection and don’t expect that your workout routine in the spring will be exactly as it is in the winter. Cut yourself a break, do what you can and set small and specific goals that are achievable.”
Candace Rose: Why do we tend to gravitate towards food for comfort?
Dr. Gary Foster: “It’s a matter of habit. Think about other habits we have around food and certain conditions like if you go to the movies you want to have popcorn, if you go to a baseball game you’ll want to have a hotdog. Over time, sometimes years, sometimes even decades if I’m feeling blue and my go-to food is macaroni and cheese or chocolate chip cookies or ice cream, that habit has been repeated for a long time. One of the ways to manage that is to say ‘These are emotions. It’s not my belly is empty, it’s not that I’m hungry. Eating won’t do anything to address my boredom.’ A way to manage that is to say experience it, it’s part of being a human being that we have some days that are better than others. Experience the emotion as it goes up, it crests like a wave and goes back down. It will go away. Eating doesn’t address that problem and in fact overeating in response to those emotions will create another problem to manage.”
Candace Rose: How can we stay on track and stick to our winter goals?
Dr. Gary Foster: “Staying on track is really to have small specific goals because small successes lead to big successes. Pick goals that are attainable, don’t try to solve the whole problem at once. If you’re used to being physically active an hour a day and you’re finding it difficult and you’re not getting much in, try 15 minutes. If you’re used to eating five/six servings of vegetables and you’re only at one or two, try three or four. Pick a specific goal that’s achievable, once you’re able to do that you’ll feel some success and small successes will lead to bigger ones.”
Candace Rose: How can Weight Watchers help people stay on track this winter and beyond?
Dr. Gary Foster: “One of the things that Weight Watchers does to keep on track is to provide a human connection of support. We have a variety of offerings whether it’s in our meeting room or in our online program or in our personal coaching offering that can actually help people with accountability, support and inspiration.
We provide inspiration through our leaders and our coaches who have all successfully gone through the Weight Watchers program. In addition they’ve been trained in the behavioral methods of weight control so they can help our members with problem solving, skills to change the environment and really skills that can last a lifetime.
We’re really happy this year to announce for the first time bringing that strength of that human connection of people who have been there and have done it successfully to our Weight Watchers online product in the form of 24/7 expert chat. So at any point – 3 a.m./3 p.m. wherever and whenever you need us there’s expert chat available from one of our leaders.
The other thing we’re really happy about that’s new this year is our personal coaching offering where you can be on the phone with a personal coach who can guide you through a personalized assessment, pick the areas that you want to work on and help you execute that plan and then following up on a regular basis to tweak things – what went well, what didn’t go well. If it went well, how can we do that again and then if it didn’t go so well, that’s life…but let’s make a plan for how it can go differently next time.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional information you’d like to share?
Dr. Gary Foster: “You can check out WeightWatchers.com to learn about the new program offerings we have this year. There are three program offerings at Weight Watchers, one is our meetings, which is a face to face supportive environment led by a Weight Watchers certified leader who has been there. He or she has lived the journey and has done it successfully. Lots of members like that face to face support.
Many other of our members would like to do it entirely online, so they can do the program online and our Weight Watchers online offering has lots of other enhancements this year from the way foods are searched and tracked to a new video series that we’ve done. That video series takes you step by step, skill by skill from the beginning of the program – the first eight weeks to give you that best start possible. It also includes 24/7expert chat. This isn’t somebody who is reading a manual in a call center, this is again, a certified Weight Watchers coach who has lost weight and done it successfully and can help with simple questions around implementing the plan, but also things like helping get motivated or very practical things like ‘I’m about to go to a Super Bowl party help me out. I’m not sure what I should do.’ We’re really happy about those two offerings and new enhancements to our online product.
The third offering is personal coaching, and that can be done in conjunction with either our meetings or our online program. This is a really personalized approach where a member completes an assessment and the coach helps them decide where do you want to work on first. Is it that you’re a breakfast skipper or a nighttime nibbler? Is it pretty much that you’re on plan on the weekdays and tend to go a little bit off track on the weekends? Do you need some help with physical activity? It’s a very personalized approach to our Weight Watchers plan.
After that first session where a plan is created, there are subsequent phone calls where you can talk to the coach about if it went well and how did it go well? If it didn’t go so well, that’s life, but let’s think of some other ways to change the outcome next week, so we’re really happy about these three offerings.”