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Winter is now here. For many that means fatigue and lack of motivation to go out and do things. We tend to spend more time at home in front of the TV. We exercise less and eat more. Hence, many grow increasingly unhappy with their weight gain during the winter period. Depression, stagnation and constipation are other common states typically associated with winter. Not to mention the frequent colds, blocked sinuses and stiff joints. In this newsletter, I will give you some tips on how to overcome the challenges listed above and maintain your physical and mental health and happiness despite the cold season.
Eat sweet and remain guilt-free
There are a number of reasons why we crave more sweets in winter. The lack of sun changes our brain chemistry. As a result, we make less “happy” chemicals and sugar just happens to be an excellent substitute for those chemicals. In addition, we need more energy in winter to warm our bodies up, and sugar gives us a quick, immediate access to energy. Last but not least, there is nothing better than a cup hot chocolate to help us feel cosier, especially when it is cold and miserable outside.
So we do need some sugar to meet our physiological and psychological needs during the winter months – no question about it. However once winter is over, we typically discover that our summer clothes don’t fit (in fact, such discoveries are often made well before the winter is even over!). So what is the solution?
First and foremost, do not eat white (processed) sugar. Not in winter, not ever! Substitute with raw (brown) sugar, honey, or even better – with jaggery.
Take ½ tsp of manuka honey with some lemon and warm (but not hot!) water in the morning. It will not only help your brain function better, it will also help your bowels. Moreover, it will help you burn fat (especially if you add ¼ – ½ tsp fenugreek powder to the mixture). It is important though that you don’t eat more than ½ tsp of honey – that much will help you burn fat but more than that will make you store more fat. It is also important that you don’t heat up the honey to a high temperature as the heat can change dramatically its composition and make it almost poisonous.
Jaggery is another superb substitute for sugar. It is made from sugarcane juice or palm sugar but the molasses are not separated. Since it doesn’t undergo much processing, jaggery retains some of the natural vitamins and minerals as well as some fiber and proteins. It is especially rich in iron so if you are iron-deficient,jaggery will be great for you. It also has low glycemic index and can therefore be suitable for diabetics as it has a more stable effect on your blood sugar levels. The low glycemic index also means that the glucose update from the body is not as fast, hence less conversion of sugars into fat. Add ½ tsp of jaggery to a cup of warm milk at bed time, and you will sleep better. You can buy jaggery at most Indian grocery stores. Typically, it has a brownish colour and often tastes like caramel or chocolate fudge (depending on the type of jaggery you buy).
Raisins are also very beneficial for your health – they too are rich in iron as well as fiber. Add a handful to your porridge in the morning to balance your endocrine system (especially the pituitary gland, which is the master controller of your hormones).
Apart from cold, winter is also associated with contraction (i.e. hibernation, going within). Typically, in winter all movement stops (or at least slows down). Things become stagnant, which makes winter a perfect time for internal reflection and assessment. Unfortunately, stagnation also leads to constipation, and that can be quite frustrating. One way for your body to deal with the internal stagnation and constipation is by generating anger – anger is a force that encourages movement.
If you want to maintain a positive and happy outlook on life during winter, you need to make sure your bowels are moving. Here are a few tips on how to do that:
- Stay hydrated. Drink warm water (with or without lemon): warm water is more hydrating, whereas cold water (and anything cold for that matter) encourages more stagnation; warm water stimulates lymphatic circulation, thus preventing stagnation and toxic built-up not only in the large intestine but also elsewhere in the body.
- Eat green kiwifruit – it contains an enzyme that helps the bowels move. Note though that gold kiwifruit does not have this enzyme and hence has next to no effect on the bowels.
- Place 2tsp of linseeds in a cup of hot water, wait for 10-15min and drink the water together with the seeds. Linseeds are an excellent prebiotic, so they have an overall positive effect on the gut. If the constipation is severe, use whole (not ground) linseeds and don’t chew them.
- Don’t take psyllium husk or Metamucil! They are very drying for the large intestine and can only exacerbate the problem long term. You need to lubricate the large intestine, not to dry it out. Lubrication is best achieved with ghee (clarified butter) – take 1tsp of ghee in a cup of warm milk before bed time.
Ginger and garlic – your best friends in winter
Bad circulation, congested sinus, frequent colds, stiff and painful joins – there are common complaints in winter and they can all be helped by using ginger root. You can use it to make ginger tea (add lemon and honey or jaggery for more taste). You can also cook with it. Grate it and mix it in with your soups, meat and vegetables. Or if you find it too strong, place bigger pieces of ginger while cooking and then take them out before you serve the meal.
Your other best friend in winter is garlic. It is excellent for the immune system and for your joints. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It helps fat burning and weight loss. Garlic is also great for your cardio-vascular and mental health – it regulates blood pressure and acts as a natural anti-depressant.
Prepare your immune system for winter
Perhaps the best preventative care yet when it comes to your immune system, is to be aware of your emotions. Stress, fear and anger are excellent food for all viruses. Blocked sinuses almost always have some kind of anger underlying issues. One other thing that weakens your immune system is self-criticism and perfectionism. Therefore, be kind to yourself – this will help you release the anger towards other people as well. If you are stuck and can’t let go of the charge and the negative emotions, consider doing a BodyTalk session – this can help you let go of the stuck emotional baggage, which in turn can help your immune system and your self-healing mechanism.