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Finding a cure for cabin fever

March 5, 2008 - Kathie Evanoff
Cabin fever, also called winter doldrums, has me in its clutches.

Cabin faver can cause restlessness, inability to concentrate,and hunger for carbohydrates. And those are just a few of the minor symptoms associated with the disorder that is known to be a real problem for some people. While some, including myself, suffer from bouts of insomnia, others may feel they want to sleep all the time. I don’t have the worst symptoms, which include anxiety and depression. These symptoms also can be a sign of seasonal affective disorder, which can really be a problem for some people. In the worst cases, professional help should be sought.

My cabin fever takes the shape of boredom and as some would say, “being in a rut.” Perhaps it could be spring fever as well. According to (please note that I have no idea where these answers actually come from), spring fever’s symptoms are feelings of restlessness, excitability and laziness. Laziness? I don’t think so.

Whatever the diagnosis, I am more than ready for spring. In addition to the restlessness and insomnia, this week have I found myself craving carbohydrates, and not the good ones. Somtimes it is difficult to fight those cravings.

The best way to keep from indulging for me is to not keep unhealthy things around. Today, for example, I bought my lunch at the Blue Iris Café in downtown Warren. In my effort to order something healthy, I chose a veggie wrap and a can of V-8 juice and brought it back to the office in Niles. The wrap was huge and I cut it in half because it was so large. But also inside the pretty orange bag of food was a small container of lettuce and a package of potato chips. So there I was, sitting all alone at my desk with my healthy veggie wrap, my vegetable juice, a bit of salad with what looked to be balsamic vinegrette, and this oh-so-tempting bag of chips, the likes of which I haven’t indulged in several months.

At first I set the bag on my desk just out of reach while I heartily ate half of the wrap and drank the juice. As I went back to my work, I kept glancing at the chips. At one point, I even picked up the bag and perused the nutritional label, looking for things I have vowed to resist, such as partially hydrogenated oils and high fructose corn syrup. Neither was listed in the list of ingredients, making it easy for me to justify eating them. It was a small bag and the nutritional label said it contained 150 calories, not much more than a healthy snack. But what would they do to me, I wondered? Would they satisfy my craving? Would they make me feel less restless? Would they help me sleep better tonight?

I decided I would be better off getting the bag of chips away from my desk, so I took them two doors down to a neighboring business and offered them to someone else. Not just offered, but demanded they take this bag of temptation away from me. They generously obliged.

But it didn’t stop there. Back at my desk, I tried to erase the cravings I had for the now distant bag of deep fried-in-a-conglomeration-of-oils, but wonderful tasting (I imagined this from my memory) potato chips. Would they taste greasy to me, or perhaps too salty? It had been a while since a potato chip had crossed my lips. Maybe I wouldn’t like them after all? Perhaps I wouldn’t like myself if I ate them?

I tried to assuage my cravings with something more healthy, like a container of plain yogurt mixed quite liberally with fresh blueberries. I remembered that the yogurt and fruit had held me quite well on Saturday and even caused me to forget to eat dinner that night. But this time, it didn’t work the same way. I still kept thinking of those chips.

And then I remembered something a friend told me many years ago. When a craving hits hard and won’t give up, sometimes it’s better to just give in. Otherwise, you may find yourself eating “around” the craving, which is to consume more calories than you would have if you had just had what you wanted in the first place.

I ended up going to Subway down the street and picking up a bag of Sun Chips. The bag advertised as having “multi-grain” taste. It also said there were 18 grams of whole grains per serving, which according to the nutritional information was the entire bag. I also bought a diet Coke to wash the whole thing down. I only drank half the Coke.

The bag of Sun Chips was 210 calories and 10 grams of fat. I really don’t remember how much fat was in the smaller bag of potato chips, but I’m thinking I might have been better off just having that instead. Regardless, I promised you when this blog began that you would see my “cheats” as well as my accomplishments, and this is the one time I gave in to the craving.

Did I feel better? You bet I did. Will I do it again? Hopefully not for a very long time. But there must have been some whole grains in the bag because by the time I got home from work after a late meeting, I wasn't quite as hungry for dinner. I ended up reheating some leftover frozen crab cakes and supplementing them with a roll spread with a bit of peanut butter and fruit spread. This time; however, I washed it all down with a glass of fat free milk.


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Breakfast: 1 1/2 ounces grains; 1/2 meat; 1 1/2 tsps. oils; 3/4 cup fruit; 3/4 cup milk; 30 discretionary calories