Fall-Winter Do’s and Don’ts

The theme of this newsletter is obviously taking care of yourself this fall and winter season. It is my impression that poor diet and lifestyle habits are primarily what fuel so many people being sick so often. It is fall and winter, not spring and summer. If you want to stay well, you have to change your behaviors, and you have to be willing to work hard to stay well. This means living in harmony with the seasons, and realizing that if you continually expose yourself to inclement weather, crowds, and stress, you are going to be sick. Think ahead – do not just act impulsively. We all have to take responsibility for our actions and for our health.

There are 3 primary themes expressed in these following suggestions. The first is regarding activity. Although most people associate going to the gym, swimming, running, and similar activities with health, in fact these activities tend to disperse energy rather build it. This is particularly true for the vast majority of people, who do not have a long term practice of exercise and decide in mid-life to begin as a way to loose weight and keep in shape. In my own clinical experience, neither of these things happen as a result of sporadic gym visits. For this reason I recommend that people practice some type of qi gong, the Chinese system that includes movement exercises, meditation, and deep breathing. Qi gong is gentle, relaxing, and builds energy in the body. Do not underestimate the effect such practices can have on one’s physical and mental health. For more information, I recommend Ken Cohen’s website.

The second theme has to do with diet. Simply put, fall and winter are the time to eat and drink warm and warming food and beverages. It is not the time of year for cold and raw foods, which ultimately produce cold in the body and weaken the body’s natural defenses.

The third and final theme is behavior. This is, in my opinion, the most important and the touchiest topic. Although in the West we are taught to believe only in the germ theory of disease, in fact all traditional cultures understand the influence of weather on health. Getting wet and overheated and then going outside is a sure way to get sick. Those occasional warm days in the middle of fall and winter when everyone goes around in shorts and a tee shirt – they are the worst for getting sick. I see it over and over again in my practice. Also, we need to slow down and conserve our energy in the fall and winter. Most people tend do exactly the opposite, especially from September through December. Finally, being in crowded places increases our chances of getting sick. This includes malls, parties, restaurants, and once again, the less than sanitary gyms and swimming pools.