Shifting Seasons

Do you notice that your preferences and habits shift as the seasons change?

With spring in full swing, I certainly do. True spring, with its blossoming flowers and green grass, doesn’t arrive here until mid-to-late May. While most of our snow is gone and the ice is melting off the lakes, we still have frosty mornings. Gardens traditionally are planted over Memorial Day weekend (end of May) as a result. Despite that, we’re still in the gap between winter and spring andI can feel a shift that happens in my body as the seasons change. I can smell spring floating on the breezes that arrive from the south, where the flowers and greenery are blooming. The migrating birds are back and sing me awake every morning. The sun is shining when I first open my eyes.

My body knows it’s spring just as sure as the birds do. I usually notice it first in the foods I am craving. Often in the winter, I eat oatmeal for breakfast. It’s heavy, wet, and warm – the opposite of the light, dry, and cold air that exists outside. Over the past week, I noticed I don’t feel for oatmeal anymore. I actually feel an aversion to it, as if eating it might make me feel bad. As the spring air shifts to something brighter, more humid, and denser with vegetation, I crave that fresh produce!  

While I am grateful we have access to produce in the winter, the quality is never very good. It’s challenging to transport delicate and sensitive plants into regions where it’s -20. Despite our best efforts, things like greens and asparagus often arrive at our store half-frozen and mushy. I do what I can to keep up with fruits and veggies in the winter but that mostly consists of things like squash, sweet potatoes, carrots, and a lot of apples and bananas. But come spring, it’s like a buffet of deliciousness in the produce department, and my body craves it. Asparagus is the first spring crop to show up, and it’s one of my favorites. Soft-boiled eggs over lightly steamed asparagus is one of my favorite spring breakfasts.

Over the past week, I have been eating a lot of nutrition bowls, which are an easy way to pack nutrition into one meal. I made a batch of wild rice to keep in the refrigerator and then roasted a tray of asparagus, chickpeas, red and orange bell peppers, tomatoes, red onion, broccoli, and cauliflower. I put a couple of handfuls of spinach at the bottom of a bowl and top it with hot wild rice, which helps to slightly wilt the greens. I then add a cup of roasted veggies. Top it with sliced avocado, some fresh green onions, and lemon tahini dressing. It makes for a light, bright, and tasty lunch that keeps me going for hours! I aim for at least 30g of protein with each meal so I often have a couple of eggs on the side. Adding more or different legumes or other grains like quinoa would be an option as well.

During spring and into summer I eat a lot more plant foods, especially greens. Salads are common along with plates of random fruits and veggies, and this rosemary beet pita “pizza” which sounds odd but is amazing! For protein, I tend to go for lighter options, more chicken and fish, and less pork and beef. You can easily add some chicken or salmon to these recipes. Eggs never go out of season for me.

None of this is a conscious shift, it just happens naturally. In the summer I tend to eat more raw foods and less cooked stuff (unless it can be eaten cold). My appetite is often smaller even though my activity level is higher. Then going into fall, it changes again. Nutrition bowls are replaced with loaded oatmeal and fruit/veggie plates with beef and squash stews. “Loaded oatmeal” just means I add as many nutritionally dense extras as I can find. I use steel-cut oats which are highly versatile, and then add a variety of berries, bananas, apples, nuts, seeds, and a spoon of almond butter along with some spices like cinnamon or nutmeg. Now that it’s spring, none of that sounds appetizing at all, but it’s my go-to from November-March.

I find that my activity shifts with the seasons as well. I am definitely “with the program” sooner when the sun is up. In the winter, I still get up early but I do a lot of reading in the morning because it’s hard to get moving when it’s dark and cold. I drag myself out of bed on winter mornings. In the spring and summer when the sun is up and the birds are singing, I actually fling myself out of bed. I’m excited to get outside right away to see what is happening in the world. I walk barefoot in our yard even when there is still snow or frost. I step outside first thing on winter mornings too, but I have to wait for the sun. Being able to jump out of bed and go outside immediately is perfection. The morning sun on my skin in the spring is like a first kiss (don’t worry, my husband already knows this about me). The energy of spring and the return of life to the forest is infectious. Soon, it’ll be warm enough for me to take my writing and work outside and that’s where I’ll be most of the time until October. 

Learning to love winter has taken a conscious effort. I had to learn to embrace it and the unique experiences winter offers. But spending time outdoors in the winter takes a lot of planning, often expensive gear, and it’s way more tiring! In the non-winter months,  I come back into the house in the evening feeling energized. The more time I am outdoors, the better I sleep. Even though I love being out in the snow, it saps my energy and takes me hours to warm up again. Winter is harder to enjoy, but it’s rewarding. Even knowing that, I have to force myself to spend time outside, even though I enjoy it once I get moving. The rest of the year, I can’t wait to be outdoors as soon as I wake up, and I sort of lament the fact that I have to come inside to sleep. 

During the non-winter months, activity is more spontaneous. I’ve mentioned before that I find I’m more active simplybecause I am outside. My body feels so much more in tune with the environment when I don’t need a barrier against it as I do in the winter. My daily steps double and this year I am stoked to spend the season Rucking! We had a mild winter but I still found it challenging to ruck on days when everything was icy, or when it was cold enough to need a full winter jacket. I can’t wait to get out to my favorite areas with the ruck and see how that experience is leveled up as a result. I might even Ruck to my next doctor’s appointment.

It’s fascinating to me the shifts that happen in the seasons that coincide with unconscious changes in my preferences and habits. What do you notice? Do you eat differently when the farmer’s markets start to open up? Is it easier to get the level of activity that you prefer? For people down south, their experience is often the opposite of mine. Summer is when they feel forced indoors. Consider exploring the summer heat just like I do with the winter cold. Be safe while doing so, stay hydrated, and know your limits. Even when it’s harder to enjoy a challenging season, it’s a worthwhile pursuit and an endless opportunity to push outside of your comfort zone. 

Stay wild out there! 

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