As discussed previously in our blog titled “Hunkering Down for Winter”, winter is a time to preserve our internal light and yang energies. January is often the coldest month of the year, and yet, a chosen month to begin anew; and for many, it sparks the resolution to lose those unwanted extra pounds. Of course then comes the myriad of fads and diets to achieve these goals. And, more often than not, salads are the go to meal. With a lower total calorie count, salads do at first appear to be the ideal weight loss food. Today, however, we will challenge this belief and show that salads in January may actually hinder loss of those final unwanted pounds in the coming year.
Let’s begin our discussion with our centers- our bellies- our digestion! To better understand how optimal digestion occurs, we will use the analogy of cooking a pot of soup over an open fire: the fire being our metabolism or digestion, and the meal our food intake. In order to bring the pot of soup to a boil, we need a strong fire. In order to achieve a strong fire, we must have ideal conditions. Cold weather will dim its flames and a wet ground will inhibit its spark. Without a strong fire, our soup does not boil and our food does not cook, and when meal comes, there remains lots of inedible, uneaten food. The same can be said for our digestion: without a strong fire, our bellies cannot cook our food and our metabolism cannot work optimally.
In Chinese Medicine, we call this function of the body our yang energy. Our digestive yang energy sparks a fire to cook down our food into energy and nutrients (often referred to as qi and blood). If our fire or yang energy is weak, we bolster a cold environment and produce an inefficient byproduct called damp. Just like in chemistry when a catabolic reaction occurs and some energy is wasted via heat -when our fire is weak, our metabolism is not as efficient and produces a waste product called damp [picture that tummy chub or even cellulite]. This in turn can eventually encumber our fire even more and it's wet nature will again dim our yang metabolic energies.
In the long run, these byproducts have to be deposited somewhere. Without enough fire to completely metabolize them, we eventually end up with excess weight, mucus in our lungs and sinuses, heavy limbs and often achy, stiff joints.
Now picture your cold salad. Then picture your cold salad straight out of the cold refrigerator. Now picture putting that cold wet salad over your digestive fire, again and again and again, in the cold cold winter months. What happens? Our fires start to putter, our metabolism starts to slow and our yang energy becomes encumbered with yin. Over time, when we eat less calories and push our bodies to exercise more, our depleted yang (or fire) is too weak to keep up and burn efficiently and hence, the more we push, the more fatigued we become and the more stubborn those last few pounds appear. Sigh.
Now, take that salad and lightly steam it. Or, take that salad and turn it into a slow cooked meal or a warm simmered winter stew! By using an external source of fire to do some of the work for you, some of your metabolic energy is freed up to be used elsewhere; and if you play it right, that freed up energy may possibly even be used toward cooking down that extra bit of unwanted stubborn flub over your belly. It truly is simple math!
So this winter, I challenge you to take a 30 Day Salad Fast (tricked you! But at least I got your attention!) and try cooking your veggies (or at minimum, warming your salad to room temperature). Once you gain momentum, you may even consider adding more warming spices like ginger, garlic, onion, curry, cumin and cinnamon to your meals to rev up that metabolism and ward off all the cold attempting to encumber your fire during these winter months. Or better yet, come see us for warming acupuncture treatments and customized herbs catered to your body type. By Spring, your yang energy will be that much stronger to burst forth out of the cold and gain momentum for easy shedding unwanted weight by summer.
Dr. Deb Salazar is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Licensed Acupuncturist who specializes in women's health and fertility, and difficult/stubborn/chronic/recalcitrant disease. If you are interested in how acupuncture, herbs and Chinese Medicine can help you this winter, please schedule an appointment today.