By Abra Pappa for Nutritious America
We all know what a fuel efficient car is, well at least the basic idea behind it. I mean, I couldn’t point one out to you on the street’ and if you wanted to tell me to look for one you would have to say something like, “Abra, the red one, the small red car” then I would get it. A fuel efficient car reserves energy so as not to gobble up fuel, it saves money, it’s better for the environment, and overall makes a lot of logical sense.
But when I tell people that in the winter our bodies are looking for ways to conserve energy, to be more fuel efficient, I am met with resistance. Slow down? Conserve energy?
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that people should live in harmony with their environment, to honor the seasons and their affect on our bodies.
In winter nature slows down, hibernates, the energy of the earth goes inward and internally begins the process of renewal for spring. To live in harmony with your environment during the season of winter means to honor the same principle: slow down, calm down, conserve energy allowing your body to prepare for renewal in the spring. Winter health in TCM is focused on the kidneys. Kidney health is the core of vitality, the source of strength throughout the body. When the kidneys are weak we age faster than we should, we feel more tired, our sex drive is decreased and their is an overall lethargy throughout the body.
To embrace winter and all the glorious peaceful qualities that come along with it align your food and exercise regimen with the season.
Comfort food is what typically calls my name in winter and I know why. Warming, nourishing soups and stews and heartier dishes help to fortify your system in the winter and nourish the kidneys. Ideally you should be eating cooked food in the winter. Raw foods cool the body and can deplete your digestive energy. Focus on eating root vegetables, whole grains, dark leafy green vegetables, kidney and black beans, nuts, and seaweeds. These specific foods will help your body conserve energy, keep you warm, and help to support kidney health. You should cook food longer and on lower temperatures, slow cooker meals are ideal for winter.
This is an important piece of the puzzle. Extremely vigorous exercise is not recommended for winter. Lighter activity like yoga and walking will support your system rather than work against it. Take a few months off from boot camps and running and see how your body responds to a gentler approach to exercise.
Turning inward, slowing down, and conserving energy are hard pills to swallow for most people in this fast-paced world. Winter gives us permission for deeper introspection and more rest. Sleep a bit longer in the winter, cozy up to a great book and a cup of warming tea. Give yourself permission to slow down, your body will reward you with renewed vitality and increased energy come spring.