It is disorienting to wake up in darkness during these first weeks of daylight savings time. Before we changed the clocks, most of us found sunlight greeting us when we turned off the alarm. Now it is dark again. We are beginning to adapt to the daylight savings time zone, and most of us agree that it is pleasant to have a few more hours of sunshine at the end of the day. By the first day of spring, we will have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness; a welcome change from the scarcity of sunlit hours during the early and mid-winter. And this brightening by Mother Nature will only improve as the calendar moves toward late spring and summer.
One consequence long noted by researchers studying the effect of seasons on our behavior is an increase in energy, decrease in the length of sleep, and (hooray!) a decrease in appetite. This doesn’t happen all at once. We don’t just wake up on the Monday after daylight saving time begins to then activate our gym membership, then begin to rouse at 5:30 am to use the gym, and also do a kitchen cleanse, throwing away all fattening foods. But it could happen, perhaps three or four weeks into the spring season. Just as limited hours of daylight make us tired, grumpy, loathe to exercise, eager to eat more than we should, and resistant to waking up earlier than we have to; the opposite is known to occur as the number of hours of daylight increase.
These positive changes are a ‘Spring Break’ for dieters. Springtime is giving us a break, a deal to help lose the weight that we resolved to lose in January but did not. Indeed, going on a diet in the depths of the winter made no sense. Unless one lived in the southern tier of states where fluctuations in daylight hours are much less extreme than up north, the combination of darkness, cold, snow, ice, wind and too many snow days makes staying on a diet impossible.
And so with this arrival of Daylight Savings Time we have that weight loss season is now here and will last about six months, ending pretty much right before Thanksgiving. Sometimes weight is lost spontaneously without formal dieting during the spring and summer, because we find ourselves eating lower calorie foods, becoming more physically active, and sleeping less as a result of increased hours of daylight. However if you decide to start on a diet now, don’t be seduced by the weight loss claims of drastic, low calorie diet or some hookey weight loss plan that promises to melt fat, boost muscles, and take away wrinkles. The weight loss plan you choose must help you change your life style so the weight lost will stay lost. Extreme diets work only in some alternate universe where the triggers that caused overeating don’t exist and the sun never sets before 8 pm. Even if you lose only small amounts of weight; for example, 3 or 4 pounds a month, this is enough to improve your health and certainly fit into smaller size clothing.
To be sure however, spring weather is often as disappointing as someone you meet on internet dating. Blizzards, cold rain, and wind are frustrating reminders that spring on the calendar does not mean spring like temperatures. But it no longer seems unreasonable to consider going on a long walk or bike ride or cleaning up the yard when the temperature does creep up a little and darkness is delayed until after the evening news. Locally grown produce starts to appear in the markets, and suddenly grilled fish and chicken and salads become more appealing than heavy stews and potato dumplings. Getting out of the house in the evening to take a course, join a book club, or go for a long walk with the dog begins to be more appealing than laying on the couch, watching Netflix and snacking.
Moods become more upbeat this time of year. The change is subtle. No one floats on a cloud of euphoria unless the lottery tickets proved a winner, or a long anticipated good event finally occurred. (And even these feelings of utter joy don’t last that long). But spring makes one more likely to smile, to appreciate the early flowers or ducklings and replacing the black down coat with a light jacket or sweater.
If you take advantage of the gift of longer hours of daylight, your scale and your mood will most certainly lighten simultaneously as well.