May 27, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Can a Groundhog Predict the Weather?

The first official Groundhog Day celebration took place on February 2, 1887, in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. A local newspaper editor by the name of Clymer Freas convinced a group of local businessmen and groundhog hunters of the idea to create a holiday.

The men trekked to a site called Gobbler’s Knob, where the inaugural groundhog became the bearer of bad news concerning the continuation of winter for another six weeks when he emerged from his hole and saw his shadow. And so began the custom of the yearly Groundhog Day festival in Punxsutawney, where tens of thousands of spectators now attend the event. Unfortunately, the groundhog has a dismal success rate as a meteorologist. Studies by the National Climatic Data Center indicate that the predictions of “Punxsutawney Phil” are accurate only approximately 40 percent of the time!

Despite the groundhog’s poor track record of success, most people were happy to hear that this year he did not see his shadow, which means, according to tradition, that spring is around the corner. With record-breaking cold temperatures in many parts of the country last week, which kept most of us indoors talking and complaining about the weather, we don’t care if Punxsutawney Phil is no more likely to predict the weather than a tossed coin. The idea of spring arriving shortly creates and promotes a feeling of optimism, hope and planning.

I read that if one wishes to grow a garden this spring, the best time to choose a site and prepare soil is now: “Sow now, reap later.” This is true not only about gardening, it is true about how we care for ourselves physically. How are we getting ready for spring? In this part of the world, we don’t move our bodies as much during the winter months as we do the rest of the year. Relaxing on the couch in pajamas with a good book and some hot tea or chocolate is much more appealing on a frigid evening than going for a walk or heading over to the gym. Moreover, cooler temperatures, fewer daylight hours and more time spent indoors can all have a significant effect on when, how much and even what we desire to eat.

Do you seem to feel hungrier during the colder months? You are not alone. There is research that has shown that cold weather may trigger a basic survival instinct to fatten up in order to survive tougher environmental conditions. Another theory is that the change of season may alter the balance of certain hormones that control hunger and appetite. In addition, fewer daylight hours may also affect food cravings. This is because sunlight is one of the factors that triggers the release of the hormone serotonin, a feel-good neurotransmitter. Since carbohydrates can also increase serotonin levels, when there is less sunlight you may find yourself craving high-carb foods like pizza and pasta.

Finally, most of us tend to be less active in the winter and thus stay less hydrated. When it is cold outside, water or other cold drinks have little or no appeal.

So what can we do to satisfy our mind and body now and prepare for a healthy spring (and summer)?

One of my favorite things to eat during the winter is soup. Cut up any fresh veggie that you like; my personal preference is cauliflower. Slice or cut it, add some olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake it in the oven until soft. In a large pot, pour some chicken or vegetable stock, add the cooked veggie, blend it all in the pot with an immersion blender, and then add spices to taste. A warm cup of soup in a mug at the end of a cold day is good for the body and the soul.

Drink warm teas—there are many varieties available—to stay hydrated.

‘Tis the season for citrus fruits. Grapefruits, oranges and clementines are all great snacks, full of vitamin C, and can be shared with friends.

Roast your favorite vegetables with olive oil and salt; they’re great as a side dish and a snack.

Make sure you are eating fresh protein, like chicken or salmon.

Treat yourself to a mug of hot dark chocolate. Dark chocolate has been shown to help reduce the risk of heart disease, raise the levels of healthy cholesterol, and most important, improve mood and happiness factor.

The idea of moving when it is cold outside is indeed challenging. Remind yourself that exercise during the winter months is the best way to combat “winter blues.” If you don’t want to go outside to exercise, try watching one of the thousands of exercise video classes available on YouTube; the classes range from 10 minutes to 90 minutes. Note: You actually need to do the exercise, not just watch it, to reap the benefits! If you can get out, take a class with a friend. Try some yoga or an aerobics class. Just move!

I hope that this year Punxsutawney Phil’s prediction turns out to be correct. We do, after all, have a 40 percent chance that he got it right. And all that exercise, vegetable soup and dark chocolate has made me optimistic!

By Beth Taubes


Beth Taubes, RN, OCN, CBCN, CHC,CYT, is the owner of Wellness Motivations LLC. She motivates clients of all backgrounds, ages and health conditions to engage in improved self-care through nutritional counseling, personal fitness training, yoga practice and stress-reduction techniques. Sign up for Get Ready for Spring: email [email protected] or wellnessmotivationsbt.com for more info or to make an appointment.

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