Preparing for Autumn’s Contraction

Hello GE Followers:
Today, while preparing for the coming work week,  I thought I would blog about Autumn’s contraction and self-care.  For those of you who may not be familiar with Macrobiotics.  Here is my Cliff Notes (so-to-speak) definition:  Macrobiotics is about Yin and Yang/Expansive and Contracting foods. Traditional/basic macrobiotic practices include eating more whole grains, beans and fresh vegetables, eating regularly and chewing more. If you’d like to know more about macrobiotics, check out the Kushi Institute
Because we New Englanders are heading for cooler weather, it is time to rethink what you’ve been eating.  I am sure like me, you spent the summer eating lots of fresh fruit, summer vegetables and salads and doing little to no cooking.  That is what is so great about spring and summer — it is more conducive to a raw diet.  But now that we are moving into Autumn, it is time to rethink how you should eat for the coming months.  If you shop at a local farmers market, then you know what is in season, and in accordance to where you live.  I received an email update from my local farmer that assorted potatoes, a variety of squash, kale, and onions are a plenty.  They also recommend a couple of nearby apple farms.  Well there you have it, ladies and gentleman.  I live in New England and the items listed above are what is in season so that’s what I should be eating.
Friday morning, before getting on with my day, the first thing I did was measure off 2 cups of long grain basmati rice, 4 cups of water, a piece of kombu, combing together in a pot to soak overnight.  It is important to soak brown rice, preferably overnight, then rinsing and using fresh water before cooking.  Additionally, in accordance with macrobiotics, you should eat short grain brown rice during the spring and summer and long grain brown rice in the fall/winter.  Saturday evening, I made myself a nice huge pot of lentil soup with buttercup squash. Then I cooked the brown rice adding fresh chopped butternut squash.  Both of these squashes were purchased from my local farmer.  I wouldn’t doubt that for those of you who think the only way to eat is to consume huge amounts of animal protein with salad that you’re  thinking, “Oh my God, so many carbs! Evil, evil carbs!”  To that I say, get over it!  Seriously people.  If it wasn’t for The Zone Diet, Atkins and South Beach Diet, you carb-o-phobes would never have given carbs a 2nd thought.  When you were a kid, did you worry about carbs? Yah, I didn’t think so. 
I hate to be mean, but most of the women I work with are obsessed with protein, er, animal protein that is and salad.  Everyday these women consume chicken and salad, chicken and salad, chicken and salad.  Barf!  Enough with the chicken and salad!  Furthermore, no matter what time of year it is, I see these women consume strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, watermelon and as previously mentioned,  salad with some form of protein on it.  When I  see this I cannot help but think, umm, ladies, it’s January, where the hell do you think the strawberries, blueberries and watermelon came from?… They sure as shit didn’t come from New England.  I hate to state the obvious, but between the months of October – March, you should not be eating fruits and vegetables that were grown 1/2 way around the world.  If you want blueberries in January, then move to fucking South America! Seriously. 
During most of last winter, whenever we had a catered breakfast meeting the women in my office would descend upon the left over fruit platters that are in the kitchen.  These lovely ladies would offer me fruit and I would say, No thank you. I don’t eat fruits that are no in season.  And of course I’d get the side of the eye look only to hear a snarky remark: “fruit is good for you.”  Yah, it is, but not when it’s out of season in accordance to the climate in which we live.  People need to move past the idea that you need fruits and salad during the winter months.  The body knows what it needs and what it needs is Contracting foods. 
If I may quote one of my favorite macro chefs:  Jessica Porter, “It is the time of year for settling foods. Foods that help stabilize blood sugar and tonify the stomach, spleen and pancreas.  As summer lays down like a panting dog, our bodies need to settle down from all the expansion, in preparation for autumn’s contraction.  This time of year is known as Late Summer and its foods are sweet vegetables, sweet rice and millet. Its taste is (you guessed it) sweet. The harvest is coming in and life is very sweet and abundant…”
I know what you are thinking, “So what should I be cooking/eating?” Well, here’s a snapshot of what I will be eating over the course of weeks/months:
  • Lentil soup with, carrots, onions, garlic & buttercup squash (and don’t forget the kombu!)
  • Long Grain Brown Basmati Rice soaked and cooked with Kombu (I primarily eat this for breakfast, sweetened with Brown Rice Syrup)
  • Kidney Beans, soaked with kombu, and cooked with onions
  • Butternut Squash Soup seasoned with miso, curry powder, rice milk.
  • Cannellini Beans (soaked with Kombu and cooked a variety of ways, sometimes as a soup, sometimes not)
  • Roasted potatoes and turnips
  • Roasted Butternut squash with dried cranberries
  • Quinoa (cooked/prepared in various ways)
 and the list goes on. 
Now, for what I will not be eating during the coming weeks/months: Citrus, Tomatoes, Salads, and any other vegetable that are normally grown in the spring/summer months. 
If you eat in accordance to what your body needs to survive the various seasons, you will find that you will not have cravings. When I eat a balanced macro diet, I almost never crave sweets or any type of junk food or comfort foods from my past pre-macro, pre-vegan days.  If you’re following a macrobiotic diet correctly, cravings should be a thing of the past.  I often hear women say, “I’m giving up sweets, or I’m only eating protein.”  Sigh.  Your body just might surprise you,  if you give it what it wants. During the cooler months, your body wants foods that are going to keep it grounded, warm, and sustained throughout  the winter.  Ever wonder why some people are always cold?  Well if you’re eating summer foods, which are cooling btw, in the middle of winter, well there’s your answer.  Ixnay the effing salads, fruits, especially tropical fruits and eat hearty meals, and not only will you feel warmer and satisfied, but I would bet, your cravings will diminish. 
I never start my week with the following statements: I am giving up sugar -or-  I’m only going to eat protein -or- I’m not eating any breads.  Nonsense. I keep a bowl of assorted dark chocolate in my living room and  I rarely dip into it. I see it. I know it’s there but I’m not craving it. Why? Because I follow a macro diet which keeps me balanced.  Sometimes situations arise where I must dine out or am unable to eat my macro meals and I have noticed that when I do not follow my macro diet, not only do the cravings emerge, but so do the headaches, fatigue and irritability.  As for bread.  I bake or buy fresh bread all the time.  I enjoy it, especially during the cooler months and I cannot imagine giving it up.  There is nothing like the smell of fresh bread baking in your oven.  And if you think you need fancy equipment to mix bread dough, think again. My mother and Nona used to make fresh bread every day using good ole fashioned elbow grease. 
There are lots of books written about seasonal eating. If you have time, pick one up.  I can even make recommendations if you’d like.
Now let’s talk about Self-Care.
Vitamin D:
Where we live makes a difference in the amount of vitamin D we can obtain from sun exposure. That is to say, the distance we live from the equator.  If you live north of the 30th parallel in the northern hemisphere, or south of the 30th parallel in the southern hemisphere, the sun is not strong enough for about half of the year to produce vitamin D from sun exposure.  What that really means is, the further you are from the equator, the shorter the vitamin D season gets.  Back in 2007, my doctor advised I take Vitamin D3 1,000 iu supplements.  I have been taking these for years as well as recommended them to friends.  I cannot speak for everyone else, but I have noticed a remarkable difference in how I feel when I take my vitamin D3 consistently.  My favorite brand is:  Jarrow’s Formulas  
L-Lysine & L-Tyrosine:
Call me crazy, but I swear these two powerhouse aminos have kept me from catching a cold.  L-Lysine is necessary for production of antibodies, hormones and enzymes and L-Tyrosine is important for cellular growth. If you’ve ever taken Airborne, you will see that L-Lysine and L-Tyrosine are two main ingredients. One thing I should mention is these two supplements should be taken on an empty stomach. Absorption is blocked if taken with food, especially protein. 
I had a pretty hectic past couple of days.  So instead of attending one of the various cardio/body sculpting classes at my gym, or pounding away on the elliptical, I chose to take long, looooong walks.  It was just what my body needed.  We all have to do what is right, but when I am stressed (which takes a toll on my body), I prefer to be kinder to my body. Rather than beat myself up by taking some super amped up workout class. I prefer walking and ballet exercises.  Do what works for you, but exercise is key in keeping you healthy, especially during the winter months. 
My Neti Pot:
I cannot live without my Neti pot.  If you’ve never tried a Neti Pot, then I recommend you run out to Target and pick one up. Once you use it, and get used to using it, you will find you cannot live without it.  I know I can’t!
and lastly,
I cannot stress this enough.  Bears hibernate during the winter months for a reason.  And we should too.  Rest is critical during the cooler months.  Drill yourself into the ground by trying to keep up a pressured pace, and watch how quickly your body will breakdown.  If catching colds is a common occurrence with you, then you might want to reassess your lifestyle.  Rest and sleep are critical for maintaining maximum health.  If I am tired, I listen to my body and rest.  I don’t give a rat’s fuzzy what everyone else is doing.  If my body says, “Hey slow down.” then I am going to listen to it.  The pace I keep during the spring/summer is different from pace I keep during the winter.  It is what works for me, find what works best for you.
In closing, by eating what is in season, in accordance to the climate you live, and buying local, you will be doing your part in helping mother earth and if that doesn’t leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling, then I don’t know what will.  🙂
Yours truly,

3 thoughts on “Preparing for Autumn’s Contraction

  1. I eat blueberries year-round. But it’s because I buy extra in the summer and freeze them…not that I profess to following an all-local diet, but there are certain workarounds.

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