We are the only animals on the planet, who, by-and-large tend to go against our seasonal instincts. We eat cold foods in the winter and expect to maintain the same pacing that we do during warmer days…
Just shy of one month into winter, and it seems like we Torontonians will actually get frosty conditions that resemble the season – a mixed blessing, as we enjoyed downright balmy temperatures last year, but were also witness to an environmental anomaly that raised climate change concerns during more than a few conversations. So thankfully, we’re experiencing seasonably normal temperatures, but also the added strain on our bodies, minds and spirits as the thermometer dips into the sub-zero range.
In the past, we’ve detailed several ways to bolster against winter’s onset, and that advice hasn’t changed for 2012/13. For most of us, this means ingesting plenty of hot foods and liquids, and keeping the feet and lower back warm – most of which is connected to assisting adrenal and kidney function in the body. Shiatsu considers these organs and glands as the body’s furnace, though unlike a real furnace, which will do just fine as long as it’s being fed more fuel, ours also require time for rest and recouperation.
This time of year is when we see a lot of clientele receiving treatment for similar complaints – fatigue, poor sleep, lower back pain, and cold hands and feet – all signs of adrenal and kidney fatigue. These conditions are often exacerbated by misguided attempts to counter lack of rest with increased caffeine intake, which only puts further strain on the adrenals and kidneys, perpetuating what can be a rather draining cycle.
The relaxation that shiatsu therapy provides can serve as a wonderful antidote to cold-weather fatigue, but equally as important are the steps taken off the mat. So, in our best mom voice:
– Wear socks and/or slippers around the house/in bed (slippers in bed are highly optional)
– A heat pad or hot water bottle placed on the lower back at night signals the adrenals and kidneys that it’s time to relax. You’ll sleep better, will feel more rested in the morning and will require less outside stimulation (coffee*) to make it through the day. (note – do not leave an electric heat pad on while sleeping)
– Eat a balanced combination of warm and hot. Ginger and most other root vegetables, lentils and dark chocolate are just a few from a diverse list of foods that do the body well during this season.
Last year, we shared our recipe (message us if you’d like a copy) for steel-cut oats, loaded with fruit, nuts and seeds and topped with ground flax. This year, we’ve gone congee-happy – this inexpensive, highly adaptable, rice-based dish makes an amazing breakfast, lunch or dinner, warms from head to toe and provide oodles of energy to get through a hectic day. Be forewarned that it does take some time to prepare, so it’s best made on a lazy Sunday afternoon, while puttering with other, around-the-house chores (as we’ll be doing after writing this piece.) Double-Bonus: it reheats well (so make a big batch!), and it’s wheat-free, for those with gluten intolerances.
Brown Rice and Vegetable Congee
1 cup of brown, long-grain rice
1 tablespoon of sesame or sunflower oil
2 to 3 cups of vegetable or chicken broth
6 to 8 cups of water
1 large piece (2”-3”) of ginger, peeled and chopped
½ to ¾ cup of frozen corn
½ to ¾ cup of frozen peas
2 medium carrots, diced
1 medium head of broccoli, chopped
Salt, black pepper and tamari sauce, to taste
Scallions and fresh coriander
Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the ginger and stir for about a minute. Add the rice and stir under medium heat, until you detect a nutty scent. Add the broth and bring to a boil, allowing the rice to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add 4 cups of water, bring the water to a boil again, add salt and stir, reduce temperature to low and cover. Cook on low for up to 4 hours, stirring regularly to ensure the rice isn’t sticking to the bottom (a stovetop heat diffuser helps) and topping off with more water as needed. Once the rice has reached a creamy consistency, add pepper and a dash or two of tamari. Vegetables may be added toward the end – usually within the last hour, as some crunchiness and texture works well with the softness of the rice. Serve with freshly chopped scallion and coriander.
* From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, coffee is actually considered to be a hot food and therefore of some benefit to the body when protecting against cold. However, this denotes moderate consumption – like any other medicine, too much leads to the opposite and unwanted effect of toxicity.