Monday, January 16, 2012

On the Nourishing

Sometimes I can be terribly dense about recognizing ways to nourish myself.  I can occasionally dredge up moments of intelligence, at least enough to realize that in the hot, muggy days of summer, I prefer cold, sometimes astringent foods.  Marinated cucumbers, cottage cheese topped with fruit, granola stirred into yogurt, cold bean salads.  And if that is the case, the idea that cold foods are best in the summer, then the inverse must also be true at the opposite time of year, yes?

In a perfect world, I would be aware of the correlation, but the truth is, even though I do begin craving hearty soups when the weather turns colder, I seldom remember to stick with warming foods throughout the season.

Inevitably, on a chilly afternoon, I will crave a coffee treat, and so I will shoot into the kitchen to whip up a coffee milkshake, only to find myself shivering and cranky an hour later.  Or I will make a green smoothie for breakfast when it is 30 degrees outside and our hardwood floors feel like sheets of ice, and then I won't quite understand why my mood is so edgy and my stomach feels tense.

Self-awareness stumps me when I get too flighty to pay attention to my surroundings.  This past fall, when I was a bit desperate to re-balance myself, and I embarked on a seven-day cleanse, I began to read up on Ayurvedic constitutions and its corresponding nutrition information, and I finally began to put a little more thought into the types of food I was consuming at this particular time of year.

I should point out that I do not fully subscribe to Ayurveda as a way of life, but I do think a lot can be learned by studying its holistic and preventive approach to health.  If you are interested in reading just a little snippet on what it is all about, this is an easy-to-understand and very non-threatening primer on the subject.

My constitution, according to what I have read and understood thus far, is almost equally balanced between two of the types, so I find the nutritional advice a bit confusing and disjointed, but what I have gleaned is that at this time of year, when I have trouble getting warm, and focus is harder for me to come by, warm, moist foods are very important.

Knowing this, and following it relatively closely, has had an immeasurable difference in my energy levels and concentration for the past few months.  At a time of year when I am often out of sorts and prone to very mild depressive tendencies, I have found myself calmer, less prickly, and much more inclined to think creatively.

This is nothing to sneeze at, my friends.  Last winter was brutal.  And it followed a very emotionally draining fall in which we lost my beloved grandfather and came dangerously close to losing The Carnivore as well.  To have gone through such sadness and stress so quickly, immediately before the coldest months of the year, was a recipe for disaster, to be sure.  This year was almost certainly going to be a walk in the park in comparison, but I was brooking no uncertainty this time around.  Thus the focus on internal awareness, on being more present in each moment, on practicing yoga daily, and on altering my diet just enough to provide a more nourishing atmosphere.

And the difference is striking.  Dinners include more chili, lentils, casseroles, and roasted or braised vegetables.  In addition to my steel-cut oatmeal, I have experimented with other hot breakfast cereals, using barley or quinoa (as shown in the photo at top, with blueberries and bananas).  Cinnamon and ginger find their way into each of the cereals, as do cooked fruits.

It is so simple, isn't it?  Raw, cold foods in the summer.  Hot, moist, stewed foods in the winter.  Working with the weather to find a way to a proper place of nourishment.  It is simple, yes, and also so very comforting.


Jennifer Jo said...

What happened to The Carnivore? Did I miss something? I hope all is (completely) well...

Sarah Beam said...

All is now well. An unnoticed internal infection morphed into septic shock, and he spent a few days in the ICU late last November. That was followed by surgery, and a long recovery.

Jess said...

Thank God the Carnivore is still trucking.

This is fascinating. I need to read up on it...