As summer morphs into fall, I often observe a premature tendency to begin the winter hibernation. So quickly we give up on the fitness that filled our long summer days, replace fruits and vegetables with heartier family favorites, and tack on the layers that conveniently hide our figures – even from ourselves.
This year, let’s make it different by focusing on back to school, back to routines, and back to health. Instead of fall-ing asleep, let’s fall awake. We can begin by carrying over some of those wonderful summer habits.
- The fruits and vegetables available to us may change but let’s keep them abundantly on our plates. Some favorites to consider are apples, pears, cranberries, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and squash. Vegetable soups, stews, and casseroles are a great way to meet our nutritional need as well as our need for warmer, heartier meal options. Additional ideas include a stir “fry” heaping with your favorite vegetables; an oatmeal bowl filled with apples and cinnamon; a fully loaded veggie pizza; or a Buddha-bowl with brown rice, beans, greens and other delicious veggies. A few great plant based recipe sources, some of which include meal planners, include drmcdougall.com, forksoverknives.com, wholefoodsdiet.com, and engine2diet.com.
- No longer able to exercise outdoors? Find some fun indoor activities you enjoy. These may include joining a gym, taking an aerobics or spin class, or trying yoga or pilates. On days when the weather limits travel or you just don’t feel like going out, get creative around what you can do at home. Some options include plugging in a fitness DVD, following a YouTube exercise video of your choice, or cranking the music and having a family dance party. Keep that music at a faster tempo and get your heart pumping while doing household chores. Or the ultimate in accommodations, get active while watching TV. Use hand weights, ride a stationary bike, or do a stretching routine while watching your favorite show.
- Don’t let the stress of the season consume you and your health. With the days being shorter and the nights seemingly longer, there is a tendency toward melancholy or even depression. The decreased sunlight can be disruptive to our natural biological rhythms including possibly decreasing our serotonin (a chemical in the brain that affects mood) levels as well as impacting melatonin which affects mood and sleep. Be mindful of your wellbeing and take your own pulse every now and again. Try meditation, yoga, stretching, or music to decrease arousal levels and bring you down to a comfortable baseline. Whenever possible, let the light in, literally and figuratively. Open blinds, sit by the window, and spend time outside when the weather allows. Try to find some time each day, even five minutes, which you can take to yourself. Use that time to do something you enjoy from listening to your favorite song to reading a chapter in your favorite book to taking a walk around the block. Let this time be something positive you remember about every day.
- Make sleep a priority. This is one part of hibernating you can certainly adopt early, although maybe not to that extreme. Sleep is essential for normal functioning and sleep deprivation can result in slowed speech, flattened emotional response, impaired memory, and difficulty paying attention among others.
Some habits that may be helpful include:
- Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine
- Avoiding vigorous exercise before bedtime
- Creating a cool, comfortable, and distraction free sleeping environment
- Avoiding caffeinated beverages, chocolate, and tobacco at night
- Avoiding large meals and beverages right before bedtime
So as you enter into fall and winter, douse them with a bit of your own personal summer. Make your transition about sustaining your healthy habits: keep the big picture including your health goals the same while making any necessary adjustments to accommodate the change of seasons.
Happy and Healthy Fall Everyone!