We are emerging from a mild winter into a season of new hopes, with abundance of opportunities for fun activities and new goals. As I begin writing this article on a chilly Friday morning in March, a bright blue sky calls me to soak in the sun and get some steps in. We are lucky to have a morning that offers a bright start after so many gray, rainy mornings this year. The winter months present us with the chance to slow down and not feel entirely guilty hibernating. Most traditional medicine practitioners, including Chinese medicine practitioners, promote the winter slowdown.
In winter, nature seems to be at rest, and in this rest, it replenishes itself. The legendary Yellow Emperor, considered to be the founder of traditional Chinese medicine, states in his ancient text The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine* that “in winter all is hidden. Winter is the season of retirement into depth, because of the cold outside. At this time you must not disturb or disperse the yang (Fire, active) energy so that you can allow the yin reserves to be re-established within you.”
I believe in the moderation movement in all things—eating, drinking, and exercise. Spring is here, and with it come pleasant temperatures and the motivation to shape up. Not killing myself during the winter with hard workouts and trying to follow the Chinese medicine philosophy, I am ready to recommit to fitness, but I am still sticking with moderation. Nowadays, my goal is to feel good. What exactly does that mean? I want to enjoy good food and wine, but not in excess. I fuel my body properly and intentionally, I want my clothes to fit well. Most importantly, I gage my success in how I feel overall, physically, and mentally. Am I staying well and not getting sick? Is my well-being in check and do I feel a sense of calmness about life? I ask myself these questions to evaluate my diet and exercise habits.
On a Thursday night in March after work, I met my friend, Dr. Don Walker, who specializes in aviation medicine and has his practice in Peachtree City, and I asked him about moderation and his observations over the years regarding what works best. I did my research and I know what makes sense and has worked for me, but I want to get it straight from someone who knows after observing patients. It is important to get the stats from a credible source, so we met and I got to business just getting the basic facts. For the diet, he recommends no fads, just eat a balanced diet that includes all the food groups. The best thing to try to lose weight is Weight Watchers. For exercise, five days a week is ideal with three days cardio (at least 30 continuous minutes of keeping the heart rate increased) and two days of weight training. Then we talked about alcohol consumption. I tend to go dry during the week to save calories; however, I learned “weekend warrior” drinking is not advised. Now I don’t go college girl crazy, but I do like my wine and champagne over the Friday–Saturday stretch. I will consider Dr. Walker’s advice which is red wine over white and no more than two glasses daily. My final question was, “What is the best advice that encompasses everything–the diet, exercise, and drinking?” He said, “Listen to your body.” I couldn’t agree more.
These are good reminders of the basics of what we should do to stay healthy. But what about some fun things to try to add movement and relaxation to the mix? A few Thursday evenings ago I took a restorative yoga class with Suzanne Lawhead, owner/instructor at Aerialyoga PTC. For many months I wanted to visit her studio and I finally made it one rainy, chilly night. When I first met Suzanne, her warm smile greeted me and I immediately knew it was going to be a relaxing session. She has a way about her that could put anyone at ease. She also has an extensive background in numerous fitness activities. I knew I was in good hands. There were two of us for the session that night. We used the hanging hammocks to stretch our bodies, which was much needed after some more strenuous workouts earlier in the week. We focused on our breathing and moving our bodies in a gentle fluid motion to promote a more restorative workout. During Savasana, the final stage of our session, we were nestled in the hammock as if swaddled in cocoons. Being suspended in the air in the lightweight fabric was just what I needed that evening to feel restored and more balanced. I highly recommend a visit to Suzanne’s studio. She offers other classes that are more challenging, as well as private sessions. I look forward to going back soon and bringing friends to join me.
As we emerge from rainy, chilly months into the warmer pleasant weather we can still maintain our methods of moderation but ramp it up a little because we have more of an opportunity to get outside and the option of cleaning up our diet due to all the fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables. Of course, refreshing cocktails and wines will always be on my menu, but perhaps I will stretch it out over the week to get the optimal benefits and still watch the calorie intake. I wish everyone a healthy spring, and I hope to see you out enjoying the good life, in moderation.