Unexpectedly moving back to Boston, abruptly for a job, after living a life full of sunshine, Crossfit and daily conversations about health and wellness on Miami Beach for the last half decade has been quite the culture shock. I grew up in this season changing climate, never really adjusting and feeling the gloom as I morphed into an angry Bostonian all winter long, year after year. Some say seasonal depression, others say lack of water and vitamin D that kicks off the sickness and ultimately dark mood that seems unshakable while the sun goes down at 4:30pm every day and most of our time is spent cooped up inside.
I have to say, I clearly saw this coming. Maintaining high spirits and overall inner peace and a healthy body and mind is a bit more work in a colder climate. It is not harder, per se, just a whole new ball game of prioritizing meals, exercise and stress relief, to avoid the winter blues. As consistent as I have been with this “conscious” lifestyle for the last four years and working mostly 7 days a week, getting into a rhythm here in Beantown has been a challenge.
So, like many remedies I have found, I look into the ancient system of Ayurveda. When it comes to a holistic approach to living, I intuitively have been drawn to these 5000 year old teachings. It just makes sense to me. They tell me to not foresee the winter months as the dreadful “cold season” or “flu season” but a chance for the body to strengthen not only our immunity but also spiritually and emotionally. This was music to my ears. Where has that suggestion been my whole life?
Nature intends to nurture us in these cold months and our digestive system is ready to keep up with the appetite that we gain now also. Like anytime of the year but especially now, it is important to eat clean! Organic, unprocessed whole foods will give us the overall nourishment we need to reap the benefits we can gain at this time physically, emotionally and spiritually. Foods high in vitamin D and good fats like sweet potatoes, mushrooms, dandelion greens as well as fatty fish like wild salmon, tuna and mackerel and also organic eggs are going to help with the loss of sunlight in your life. For those strict vegans, learning the difference between vitamin D2 and D3 could be helpful also.
Getting into a routine with a meal plan, exercise regimen and overall wellness practice, for me, is priority. I am of no service to anyone never mind a shining beacon of healthy eating if I fall into a slump and end up settling for the easiest fast food around because I am too cold and angry to cook. For me, this means getting up earlier to hit the gym and also planning my own meals ahead of time while I am planning those for my clients. This might seem like common sense but not many chefs, even private chefs, will plan their own meals ahead of time.
I didn’t always know this but my spiritual and emotional state is the core of my existence. I know that sweeping emotions under the rug and looking the other way when life happens is not an answer today. For me, I have found an amazing healer that I see bi weekly for body work and acupuncture. Abhyanga or self massage is something that definitely sounds a little strange for this westerner but a ritual I have been practicing for a few years now. I was originally seeking to clear the break outs on my skin and realize through this unaccustomed routine I am stimulating my organs and immune system as well as building resistance to stress and disease. Our skin is the biggest organ of our body and the most accessible, bringing awareness to it through this moving meditation/self massage can be life changing for someone that may be closed off to the idea.
It looks like we have a choice this winter, to wallow in our junk food and whine about wanting to go to a warmer climate (speaking of myself of course) or take action and take advantage of the growth opportunity. Here’s a quick side dish recipe that is sure to build your immune system and warm your frail belly.
Roasted Root Vegetables with Winter Spice
1 cup diced Butternut squash
1 cup diced Sweet potato
1 cup diced Celery Root
1 cup diced Carrots
1 cup diced Parsnips
1 T coconut oil, melted
1 T fresh picked thyme, chopped
½ t ground turmeric
½ t ground cumin
½ t ground ginger
½ t ground black pepper
½ t cinnamon
½ t salt
Preheat oven to 425. Feel free to use any of the root vegetables or what is available to you. Combine turmeric, cumin, ginger, pepper, cinnamon and salt. Toss diced vegetables in bowl with coconut oil and spice mix. Roast for 10-12 minutes. When fork tender, remove from oven and finish with fresh thyme. Serve next to some garlicky kale or pour into a bowl of lentils. Enjoy!