Some of my Halloween pumpkins are starting to mold, but I really want them to last until Thanksgiving. Isn't fall the best?
Since winter doesn't officially start until December 21 (and some argue that winter never comes to Bakersfield, CA anyway!), we can take advantage of some of the ways this season influences our body. By listening to the cues our bodies give out, we can stay as healthy and strong as possible during the glorious autumn months.
1. Warming, spicy, cooked foods
In Eastern nutrition, health and nutrition principles are inherently holistic. In the West, we tend to take a reductionistic view of our health:
Eat this one food for weight loss!
Take this one probiotic for digestive health!
Use this one herb for sleep!
Since Eastern practitioners have been using nutrition for far longer than Western practitioners (over 2500 years in some instances), it would make sense to adhere to some of the general principles of nutrition that have been handed down from generation to generation.
The diet I recommend for most of my clients tends to be heavy in protein and fat and fruits and vegetables. Autumn is the season that most humans can easily adopt a diet like this. As the weather chills, our bodies need to up our thermal energy in order to keep warm. If your calorie intake is too low, or if you're having trouble with digestion and assimilation, your body will not be able to keep up with its metabolic need of keeping your temperature at a toasty 98.6 degrees.
Take your basal (resting) body temperature and see. Are you 98.6 degrees? If not, your metabolism has likely slowed and could use a fine tuning. You'll need a minimum of 1800 calories a day if you're a woman just to keep warm through the fall.
And fall bounty is delightful! Fall foods include squashes, pumpkin, pears, apples, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, carrots.....mmm!
Fall spices include cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and black pepper. These are traditionally warming spices, and for good reason. The addition of these spicy flavors can stimulate both digestion and metabolism.
Cook your foods well in the fall. Cooked foods are easier to digest. In the fall, try to move away from eating raw and cold fruits and vegetables as they take more energy to digest. In cooler weather, Eastern nutrition principles advocate for warming, heavy, cooked, and spicy foods.
Here are a few recipes to get you started.
2. Long, warm soaks
As the days get shorter, use your extra evening time to schedule in a nightly soak. From a metabolism standpoint, the more often you can raise your core body temperature over 98.6 degrees, the faster your metabolic processes will work.
Plus, baths and jacuzzis feel amazing!
In the fall, add eucalyptus essential oil to the bath if you're feeling under the weather. Add clove and cinnamon oil for a zesty bath, and add rose oil if you want a sultry and steamy bath.
3. Quiet Time
When my kids were very small, we had mandatory quiet time every day. I am an introvert, and too much stimulation makes me a little nutty. If we had a playdate or a park date or an activity, I quickly learned that it was best for myself and my four littles (4 in 6 years!) to have some quiet time every afternoon, even if we were not napping. And let's be honest- a lot of the time, we were napping.
The fall can be a time of contemplation. The days get shorter, the evenings get crisper. Many of my clients start to struggle with seasonal depressive tendencies at this point.
While there are nutrient and biochemical imbalances, I would also theorize that we can get a little more melancholy in the fall because we are working against our bodies.
Are you forcing yourself out of bed for a 5 AM class when you really want to be snuggling with your Other Half for another 30 minutes in a warm bed? It's possible that it's better for your long term physical and mental health to just stay in bed and snuggle.
Are you taking on extra activities at work or school or church when you really just want an extra hour to make a delicious soup or stew and eat with your family? Is it possible that someone else could handle that activity so you could pour into your family?
Are you work-work-working without taking any quiet time during the day? If you're at the office, find a buddy to take 15 minute walks with outside. If you're in the classroom, take recess with your kids instead of scrolling through Instagram. If you're at home and cleaning like a madwoman during nap time with the kids, maybe give yourself a break and read a book from the library or start a collection of naptime watercolor drawings. Didn't you used to be artistic, back in the day?
Find something that gives you joy and a mental break and make it a practice to do these things daily. Work will always be there, and you are no good to anyone if you're an exhausted, angry mess. I speak from experience! Take the bath, make the soup, get to bed early, and squeeze your kiddos.
The fall is about reflection, nourishment, and grounding. Use nutrition and lifestyle modifications like the ones above to make it your most enjoyable season yet.