This year has been TOTALLY different from other summers I’ve spent here. Trees were producing a magnificent amount of leaves because of the abundant rain. Then, suddenly, we had some of our hottest temperatures and ABSOLUTELY NO RAIN TO SPEAK OF for several weeks! The leaves were QUICKLY being PUSHED off the trees early, because there just WASN’T ENOUGH food or water to go around. The trees were busy storing everything they could to preserve their strength for winter. (It’s all about efficiency and storing energy.)
All spring, and then summer, the trees get enough sunlight to go through process call photosynthesis. This is the process that converts carbon dioxide and water into sugar. Every “food” we eat originates as glucose produced by photosynthetic organisms. You might say the leaves are culinary staff, making appropriate food for the trees to not only survive, but grow and store energy for the future. Food storage for trees is a necessity, as winter day-length is too short to provide the energy that drives photosynthesis.
As days grow shorter, trees are programmed to recognize that little or no “food” is being created by the leaves: the kitchen staff is no longer needed, and leaf connections are severed by a process call leaf abscission. The tree literally pushes the leaves off!
Let’s get a little more specific... Once photosynthesis stops, specialized cells start forming where each leaf is connected to the branch. Within a few days or weeks, these tiny “scissor” cells form a thin, bumpy line which literally cuts the leaf away from the branch. A slight breeze will loosen a few; a heavy gust, and the tree will be there in all it’s naked glory—to wait for springtime, new leaves, new green, new food!
Why this emphasis on fall—the scientific version? Fall is all about change, and our lifestyles often change too, as winter approaches. We have no more lazy days around the pool or lake—if you had those—but also, no more yard work to keep you moving, or hikes and runs, (unless you tolerate cold well). Time for a change!
I want you to THINK about a change that would keep you from storing those calories that you “earn” with summer activities. (I had a friend in New Hampshire years ago who said the more layers of clothes he added, the more layers of him seemed to accumulate underneath.) Let this be the year that you get through winter and into spring with a leaner, stronger, healthier you!
Look inside yourself for insights about using winter as an opportunity to improve your health and energy. Start a journal—very simply, write down your day. What about your daily activities and eating can you change to make yourself stronger and leaner? Your personal trainer or your doctor cannot make you take time for a walk, or plan your food intake to match your activity level. Only YOU can decide to take better care of yourself. Only YOU can establish a few goals (BE REALISTIC!), write them down, and track your progress! It will NOT always be perfect. Allow yourself to be human, but EXPECT to move forward.
Learn how to EAT, not as entertainment, but as a way of using fuel to make you healthier, leaner, and stronger. Weight gain is NOT a winter sport! Try to stay away from ingredients you can’t pronounce, and stick to WHOLE foods. Learn to put a few simple ingredients together, or find someone who’s willing to do it for you. (You? COOK?!!) Try a new, or maybe just added, activity—Spinning, Zumba, group sports like basketball that can be played inside, even kick-up the weight training to add another day! When spring returns, be ready to “hit the ground running” as you enjoy the trees and their next cycle of change.
Linda Cook BS, CMES 937-369-7363 cell 937-748-9905 office firstname.lastname@example.org