Decoding the winter brouhaha

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Winter, for us in Mumbai, is not the same as it is for those who live in cooler parts of the world, or even the country for that matter. So, it’s only logical that our winter health guides are customised accordingly. Dev Goswami & Katha Nauriyal tell you more

We’re always complaining about how winter in Mumbai is never as cold as it should be. However, when it comes to winter health guides, we don’t think twice before following a standard list of tips — after all, when an article recommends indulging in comfort food to help beat the cold, why would we complain? But, the reality is that we may not need to take such extreme precautions to begin with. Yes, basic steps such as carrying a jacket and eating right to improve your immunity are important, but we usually get that right anyway! Read on, as we find out more about the dietary and skincare changes you need to make to have a smooth sailing winter in Mumbai.   

The winter munchies
We’ve been led to believe that it’s okay to eat more than usual during the colder months. And, logically, this does make sense — your body needs heat during the winter and eating more will help it produce more heat. However,  — and this is important to remember — that is not an argument that applies to Mumbai.

Prachi Sanghvi, a nutritionist who has over a decade of experience and is the co-founder of the myDIETist app, tells us, “It should not come as a shock if you gain three-four kilos over the course of the winter months. However, remember that Mumbai doesn’t really see the sort of cold other regions do.” What she is getting at is that certain foods that are otherwise beneficial in colder climates, may not be good for you to overindulge in during winter, in a climate such as ours. Here are a few points that you must remember:

  •  You will crave for carbohydrate-laden and fatty foods that help keep your body warm. However, you don’t really need them in our climate, and so, overindulgence will lead to unnecessary weight gain and the other problems associated with eating too much.
  • There are several seasonal dishes and preparations that (again) are meant to keep you warm during the chilly weather. Dishes such as carrot halwa, undhiyu and gond laddu (a Maharashtrian sweet made using edible gum) use a lot of ghee/ oil and sugar, which you don’t really need.
  •  Fried items such as bhajjias and chips are other foods that seem tempting during the winter, but are unnecessary. Prachi explains, “The temperatures in our city don’t drop low enough for you to eat fried foods to stay warm.
  •  Papaya is an excellent source of nutrients (read our article on pg 15 to find out more), but consuming it in large quantities will overheat your body and trigger breakouts.

The change you should be making
For the most part, your regular diet will suffice even during the winter. However, the one effect of winter we see in our city is chilly mornings. Taking a few preventive measures to ensure that the nippy mornings don’t get to you will be enough to keep you on the right track. Prachi advises starting your day with ginger tea, hot turmeric milk or hot apple cider with cinnamon — they are delicious counterparts of caffeine and will ensure good health. She also tells us that you should follow this up with a sumptuous breakfast that includes omelets or paneer sandwiches, French toast and pancakes.

The protective shield
Do you fall sick every winter? Don’t blame the weather! As Prachi explains, “Lower temperatures alone don’t make you sick. In fact, the cells that fight infection in the body actually increase in number if you go out in the cold.” The reason you’re falling sick so often is because your immune system is unable to cope with the heavy pollution and germs that are floating around in your office’s air-conditioned environment. Increase your intake of foods that are rich in vitamin C (oranges, broccoli, carrots and capsicum are good options) and add in herbs that boost your immunity such as garlic, ginger, turmeric. Also, while chilly mornings may not be conducive to exercising (who wants to get to out of bed on a winter morning, let alone work out!), don’t cut back — in fact, exercising in the outdoors will actually do you good. Read our article on page 18 for tips on how to get your workout gear ready for winter.

Protect your skin
You will come across countless winter skin remedies and DIY fixes all over the internet and in health magazines; however, those don’t factor in the type of winter we see in the city. So, a seemingly innocuous skincare remedy that you have read about over the internet can often be fruitless or, worse, leave your skin damaged. “During winter, in spite of the drop in temperature and the seemingly clear sky, the air is of poor quality. And, continuous exposure to pollution can not only damage your skin, but can also trigger respiratory problems,” says Dr. K E Mukadam, dermatologist and laser surgeon at Lasercure.

What can happen to my skin?
While winter in the city may not be as chilly as other parts of the country, it’s enough to leach the moisture out of your skin. “In Mumbai, people often face dry skin issues in the winter. Your skin can look very dull and parched. Also, due to the lack of hydration, skin pigmentation can also aggravate the issue making your skin look darker. Additionally, skin ailments such as atopic dermatitis and psoriasis also get aggravated during this time of the year,” explains Dr. K E Mukadam. He also tells us that some other problems to look out for include chapped lips, hands and cracked heels.

So, what can I do about it?
“For dry, parched skin, you have to ensure a good moisturising regime. There are over-the-counter creams created specially for winter, however, make sure that you pick one that has a lipid base and is able to hydrate your face and body,” he tells us. He also suggests consulting a dermatologist before using a sunscreen in order to ensure you have picked an effective one.

  •  Avoid chemicals and go natural Who knew that winter was the best time to pamper yourself! “Since your skin has the tendency to become dry during winter, avoid using harsh chemical treatments and instead, pick hydration therapy and DNA facials. You can also indulge in massage therapies and hydration infusion, Dr. K E Mukadam tells us.
  •  But, what about when I’m home? Since you already know that your skin loses its moisture during winter and can get chapped easily, make sure to use a mild shower gel. You can also use essential oils such as almond oil, olive oil and mustard oil. In addition, shower with warm (not hot) water and keep your skin hydrated by even drinking lots of water. He also suggests keeping yourself covered when outdoors. 

But, the basics…
No matter what part of the world you are in, there are a few skincare steps that you should not skip! Start your day with the CTM routine — the cleanser should be cream based or gel based with neutral properties, so that it retains the natural moisture of your skin. Use rose water as a toner and a good-quality moisturiser — cream-based for dry skin, and gel-based for oily skin. Don’t forget to use sunscreen with an SPF rate between 30 and 50. In the evening, repeat this CTM routine, and moisturise your skin with a cream or a hydrating pack before you go to sleep. Also, use a good peptide based under-eye cream at night along with oil on your hands and legs to seal in the moisture. Use a good lip balm as and when required.

Seasonal affective disorder
Have you been feeling depressed or low off late? Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during the winter season and is said to be caused due to the lack of sunlight. While the winter in Mumbai is not as chilly and dull as other cities, your chances of being SAD may not be as high. However, you’re not completely immune to it. Make sure to go out whenever there is even a little sun or buy a light box for your home. Watch your favourite comedy shows and read those silly joke books you’ve been hiding under your pillow — laughter is the best medicine, after all.

What about my hair?
Just like your skin, your hair also needs special care during this time of the year. “The climate in Mumbai can make your hair dry and rough. It can become unruly because of the lack of moisture. So, you should wash your hair with cold water and avoid chemical treatments such as colouring and straightening during this season,” he adds.

“Also, use mild shampoos such as those that are sulphate free and cream based hair conditioners. Go for hair rejuvenation therapy once a week or use a pack of egg and beer over your hair. Remember to not over brush your hair. Use hot oil massage once a week if you don’t have dandruff,” he concludes.

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