Fall into Autumn

Author: Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN Publish Date: August 18, 2016

Fall is a season for transitioning and letting go of things you no longer need.  It’s a time to physically, mentally, and emotionally prepare for the winter season that which embodies going within.

Have you ever paid attention to nature as the seasons change?  Birds fly south, other animals bulk up, fish migrate, and trees lose their leaves and go dormant.  What do humans do?  I found myself pondering this recently as I was preparing content for a class that discussed seasonal eating.  Why don’t humans do anything in preparation?  Before modern time, humans did gather and harvest during fall in preparation for winter. In today’s world with access to food and shelter year round, our basic needs are easily met causing us to listen less to our instincts.

Although our physical needs are met and this is not a worry, our emotional needs may still require some attention, especially because our biological clocks shift as the amount of sun we are exposed to decreases through fall into winter.  Many people experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  SAD is a subtype of major depression that comes on usually at the start of a season until the next season begins. Some people experience SAD from fall through winter, where others may experience it from spring through summer.  The causes of SAD are related to changes in circadian rhythms due to changes in the amount of time we see the sunlight.  As the days become shorter and we see less sun, our biological clocks become funky.  Reduced sunlight can also cause decreases in serotonin leading towards feelings of depression.  In addition, the change in season can disrupt melatonin levels, which play a role in sleep and mood.

This season I have set out to EMBRACE the change of seasons and I invite you to join me! We should listen to what our bodies crave and trust our instincts. Here are 4 things to help you EMBRACE fall:

1) Eat foods that ground you.

 Protein foods such as meat, chicken, eggs, nuts, and fish help stabilize blood sugar and promote feelings of stability and security.  You might benefit from additional protein in your diet if you feel especially spacey or “all over the place”.  Protein foods also contain the building blocks to your neurotransmitters that help regulate mood.  Tyrosine, one amino acid, is the precursor to dopamine which is responsible for helping us concentrate, focus, and stay motivated.  Tryptophan provides the building blocks for serotonin, which helps regulate sleep, mood, sexual desire, appetite, and digestion.

The long roots and insoluble fibers found in root vegetables such as beets, potatoes, turnips, carrots, rutabagas, parsnips, and kohlrabi, help us feel bulk within our gastrointestinal tract aiding to make us feel anchored and comfortable within our body.

Red colored foods are symbolic of grounding as it represents blood.  Blood is essential since it transports and provide energy in the form of oxygen and nutrients to every area of the body.  Red foods also contain phytochemicals, plant compounds with health-promoting benefits.  Lycopene is one red-colored phytochemical associated with fighting free radicals. The richest source of lycopene is found in tomato sauce.  To enhance absorption, consume lycopene-rich foods with a fat such as extra virgin olive oil.  Most red-colored foods like berries are high in vitamin C.  Vitamin C can help support the immune system, especially during the upcoming cold & flu months.

Picture of root vegetables

2) Nourish your authentic self.

The throat is the gateway for expressing messages of the heart.  To nourish this aspect of yourself, prepare meals that are moist and lubricating to the mouth and throat.  By eating soups and meals that are more fluid-based, you will find yourself slowing down and being in the moment.  Make a smoothie with frozen fruit for breakfast or a snack.  Fruit contains both a  high water and nutrient content, which can aid in moisturizing the throat. Soak in and honor all of the senses of eating — appearance of food, tastes, smells, sounds, textures, chewing, and swallowing.

Most importantly, to live authentically, you must fully express and communicate your thoughts and emotions.  If voicing your truths is difficult and new for you, try journaling.  Just writing it down can help you practice expression and honesty to help give birth to new thoughts, ideas, and passions that flow from the heart.

Picture of a carrot-orange smoothie.
1 carrot blended with 1 orange for a Vitamin-C rich immune boost, throat coating snack

3)  Let go of things that no longer serve you.

In Eastern philosophies, fall is a time of letting go.  Release the beliefs and thoughts that are no longer true for you.   Carrying these invalid thoughts with you during your winter hibernation will likely contribute to feelings of stress or insecurity within.  Letting go can be therapeutic.  It can be as simple as cleaning out your closet or office.  It can be reflecting on relationships that do not support you any longer.  What don’t you need any longer? Let it go.

4)   Get your sleep in sync.

Go with the flow –that is try to begin winding down when the sun begins to go down.  Artificial light from lighting in your house, computers, TV, smart phone etc., contributes to dysfunctional circadian rhythms.  Artificial lighting promotes alertness and wakens the mind, while all your body really wants to do is sleep.  People crave sleep which often gets mistaken for food cravings.  Eating food helps give the body energy to stay awake, when in reality you should just go to bed.  Start by just getting into bed 1 hour early to see if it makes a difference, or you can read a book at night or journal instead of watching TV or surfing your IPAD.

This year, I hope we can fall into autumn together and embrace transitioning through the seasons.  I have more tips in store for you this season, so check back soon! Below is a recipe to help nourish you during this season. Let me know what you think!

About the Author

Audrey Fleck - MS, RDN, LDN

I’m Audrey Fleck, a dedicated dietitian with over a decade of experience, and the founder of Functional Origins, my private practice located in Bucks County, PA. With a strong educational background, including a BS in Nutrition and Dietetics and an MS in Human Nutrition and Functional Medicine, I specialize in providing an integrative and functional approach to healing, primarily tailored for women.