I wrote this post with people who live in parts of the world, where winter is cold, gloomy and bleak in mind. During the winter months, this is the time of year where many are susceptible to being the unhealthiest. While summer yielded endless days of blazing hot sunshine, women unveiled their bikini ready bodies whilst the men displayed their ripped physique.
The impact of summer on health
Summer is the quintessential time for putting our best foot forward. Our clothing shifts into a direction where the entire body is accentuated or exposed. It is also a time of year where people are more body conscious, be it comparing ourselves to the latest hot celebrity or observing the body type of our male or female counterpart(s). This combination of image awareness, soaring temperature and determination to look flawless enforces the notion of optimising good health.
From a psychological aspect, our emotional state elevates during the summer time. We have a tendency to be more sociable, do outdoor activities and frolic. In other words, we become much more motivated. I find it amazing how people (myself included) manage to accomplish more during the sunny days.
Over indulging in the sun is not wise due to the increased risk of developing skin cancer. However, the sun certainly has many health benefits, which may explain why that feel good factor occurs during the warmer season. I’m sure many of us have heard the word “endorphins” this is known as the “happy hormone”. A group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system, is the body’s natural antidepressant. Exposure to sunshine creates an endorphin rush thus evoking that euphoric feeling.
The dreaded winter blues and cravings
In contrast, during the cooler months, when there appears to be a lack of sun light, the level of endorphin production decreases. This can result in depressive conditions like SADS (Seasonal Affective Disorder) where people with good mental health, experience a depressive episode during a specific time of year (namely winter).
When our mental wellbeing is at its lowest point, we neglect a number of things including our health. It’s so easy to say “snap out of it” or “pull yourself together” when your emotional state is off balance. Aside from mental disorders such as SADS, in the winter many people like to replace sunshine with comfort foods, listening to their emotional triggers. While there’s nothing remotely wrong with eating “feel good food” sometimes the food that caters to our emotions can be unhealthy i.e. refined carbohydrates – a crash and burn stimulant.
The winter is that time of year where the body is the most vulnerable – mentally and physically. Our immune system requires optimisation, mental clarity is essential, plus there’s an increasingly high chance of compromising exercise in favour of eating comfort food. While the aforementioned sounds like a recipe for disaster, there are many remedies that one can enforce to help aid a more pleasurable winter;
Tips on how to eat healthy and be proactive in winter
Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables – This may sound like a complete cliché or a broken record. Yes, I totally understand BUT I promise you will feel so much better holistically by consuming more fruit and veggies. If possible try to eat dark leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards as they are loaded with iron, vitamin b and vitamin k.
These veggies not only boost the immune system but strengthen our cardiovascular system too.
Fruit contains a natural occurring sugar called fructose, not quite the same as refined table sugar (glucose) which can cause an inflammatory response. Where possible try to incorporate some sweet zesty fruit like oranges, pineapple and mangoes. Most fruit are abundant in digestive enzymes that play a crucial role in aiding digestion.
Eating more fruit is a great way to suppress those unhealthy comfort food cravings. The winter is abundant in seasonal fruit and veggies so stock up; persimmons (Sharon fruit), pumpkin, brussel sprouts, butternut squash, pear and cabbage. Many people like to cook soup and one pot dishes during the cold months, to invigorate the body.
- Take control of your diet – Sometimes the winter can be so harsh that we wind up trapped indoors due to the adverse weather. On the contrary, the idea of hibernation may simply be a more attractive option. Whatever the case, this might be the right time to commence a new hobby; cooking wholesome food from scratch.
As mentioned before, one of the key issues surrounding comfort food is tapping into poor food habits, the type that will result in gaining unwanted pounds. See the positive side of winter by learning more about healthy eating; remember, you don’t have to be a michelin star chef.
Browse the web as there are tons of information about cooking basic recipes. Cooking from scratch is a great way to eliminate the idea of depending on processed food which are ladened with toxic chemicals that alter our hormones. Take full control of what goes into your body, eating food that is specially prepared by you.
- Partake in indoor activities – Although that bikini or fitted tank top won’t be making another appearance until the summertime, that shouldn’t give you the licence to put your physical health on the back burner. It’s cold outside and no one wants to jog in sub-zero temperature on a frosty morning, yet you’re guaranteed to find tons of indoor activities to do. For instance you can do yoga, tennis, badminton, swimming, ice skating with the family, in fact now might even be the right time to join the gym or a dance class.
Alternatively, if you don’t fancy venturing outside, try working out from home. There are tons of videos online to assist you or purchase a DVD – working out from home is just as effective as doing it out doors or in the gym. If you have adequate space, why not buy some equipment and create your own “mini gym”. Exercise is an important part of good health, not only does it increase physical strength; you will look and feel so much better.
- Wrap up warm – The immune system is fragile throughout the colder months, especially for the young and elderly. Despite the bad weather, most people still have to venture out into the cold weather at some point. The number of flu, common cold and cases of pneumonia are rife during winter. While “wrapping up warm” won’t completely prevent a virus/infection as they are many modes of transmitting, it certainly helps to dress appropriately. Some seasonal attire includes; hat, scarf, boots, gloves, thick jumpers (sweaters) and thermals. Layering clothing is a great technique for insulating heat.
So there you have it folks, I hope my tips on how to maintain good health during the winter can be helpful and most importantly implemented – Your health encompasses who you are!
Our guest blogger Charlene has a degree in public health and is certified in holistic health. She has a passion for cooking and her mission is to change and empower people to eat wholesome food made from scratch.
She blogs at That Girl Cooks Healthy where she has some amazing easy-to-cook and healthy recipes.