top of page

Shiatsu Blog: Eating for your energy and mood in Autumn

woman reading book in autumn

There is no other season like Autumn where we 'embrace' the weather and light changes. Why do we need to embrace Autumn? Is it due to the loss of light and warmth that we have to rally around and work out ways to manage the months of descending darkness and to combat the creeping cold? I think so! There are those that love Autumn and those, like me who have learnt to love Autumn; but it's been hardwork. This time of year is my nemesis, I mourn the loss of summertime, so yes I've learnt to embrace the season change and all that comes with it. It was in studying Chinese medicine I learnt why I didn't like Autumn and it was also this education that helped me combat how I felt at this time of year with food and much more. In this month's shiatsu blog: Eating for your energy and mood in Autumn I'm going to give you top tips to help you truly embrace a gorgeous time of year that can get overlooked because it's just not warm!

Eating for your energy and mood in Autumn

We're lucky that nature provides food with the right nutrients to help us adjust to this time of year. As it gets colder we start hunting around for fuel and often reach for the quick wins, which are more fake than real. I've learnt that batch cooking really kicks in at this time of year, and my slow cooker becomes my best friend. There is nothing so satisfying than having your meal already cooked, just a reheat required and when you tuck in you feel nourished and fulfilled and rather smug that you've cooked something so tasty!

In Chinese medicine they take foods one step further, those that are enegertically right for us at this time of year, even the temperature at which you eat the food is beneficial. No one ever finds a soggy sarnie out of the fridge an appetising thought at this time of the year and rightly so as it chills you just thinking about it, but how many people tuck into a salad at lunchtime, and how does this affect your energy through the afternoons?

Tweaking what you eat, and how you eat it is the basis to boosting your energy levels, your moods and combatting the dreadful 3pm slump that worsens as the light dwindles. Today I'm going to give you some highlights to help you beat the afternoon lethargy whilst feeling more energised and happier!

How the food you eat affects your 3pm slump

I'm focusing on the 3pm slump as it links to both your energy and your mood, fix feeling lethargic at this time of day and you're fixing a lot of energetic association. You can slump around 3pm even if you have a good nights sleep, this was always me; so I thought it was just life. When I found out though that what I eat at breakfast and lunch affected how I perform through the afternoon I was able to change of what I ate and how I ate it to have more energy through to dinner time.

Then dinner needs to be warming and nourishing, Autumn is THE SEASON to embrace gentle spicing. If you're a complete novice to spices then I suggest getting a good blend of Garam Marsala as someone else takes the guess work out of how much of each. We're not talking sweaty spicing here we're talking gentle spice that your body will appreciate. Gentle spicing boosts you energetically, it warms you up from the inside, your kidneys will be warmer (so your circulation and temperature control will be better) and your energetic Kidney Ki will be replenished; this is the secret to longevity, and while I'm at it a far better menopause too. See my sister site Cotswold Menopause for more details about that!

warming and nourishing foods in autumn


Your first meal of the day sets up the pattern of your energy, moods and blood/sugar levels throughout the day by creating energy spikes and slumps. You may even get your first energy slump mid morning, struggling to get to lunch without a pic-me-up; and this is irrespective of how much sleep you've had.

The key to a good breakfast is protein, you need more protein than carboydrates/sugars. In other countries/cultures their breakfast bears a strong resemblance to their other meals during the day. When I was younger I thought this weird, as breakfast is toast and cereal right? A cooked breakfast was a rare treat, nowadays though especially as it gets colder my breakfast is cooked.

In this country we've become too ingrained that breakfast is a carb laden affair, as mainly the convenience and processed breakfasts are carb and sugar. Now I love a piece of toast, but I keep it as wholegrain as possible (I'm on Rye and Spelt) and I add protein - eggs, cheese and something with a zing like marmite, or even mustard! Yes, mustard is a mood lifter and a kidney warmer, and checking in with the French they pop it in their fav brunch Croque Monsieur and your Eggs Benefict has mustard in the Hollandaise source. Have you thought about having mustard in your breakfast? It really really gives eggs a nice bite!

You may not want a spicey or zingy breakfast but what you do need is protein, it slows down the rate at which sugars metabolise and so stops you getting a slump as the protein helps you feel fuller for longer. Also if you find yourself craving eggs as many people do then you may be low in Iodine so you'll need a good multivitamin, I get a great plant-based one from Cytoplan, grab my supplements download here!


If you intermittent fast then your first meal of the day maybe nearer lunchtime, it doesn't matter if you eat once or twice the same rule applies - Protein, but now you can add in greenery too! Most people don't tend to add anything green to their breakfast , okay maybe the occassional spinach but by lunchtime your palate should be adjusted to adding in vegetables. In fact one of the best lunches you can have is last nights meal reheated! The worse lunch you can have that will leave you feeling miserable and lethargic is a salad; especially if you have it cold from the fridge.

In Chinese medicine food can warm you in 2 ways - the temperature that you physically eat it at, and the energetic temperature of that food, ie. mustard is warming versus cucumber is chilling. There is a time and a place throughout the year for the right type of foods and November and cucumber do not mix well. Peppery leaves like rocket are fine, they are warming and you can eat them at room temperature. Then a salad becomes warming if you use foods in it that energetically warm you up AND you eat it at room temperature or even add a heated element like warming up chicken. A zesty spiced chicken on peppery leaves is a warming dish.

Soups, thick and chunky with a pinch of spice are incredibly beneficial. In Chinese medicine the easier it is to digest your food the more energy you'll receive as nutrition is absorbed, we call this the Spleen Ki energy. To help your Spleen convert food into energy it likes you to have already done most of the cooking, so for example you get more nutrition from cooked apples and tomatoes than raw apples and tomatoes. This is why soups sand slow cooked food are the best, most of the digesting is done, making it easier on your gut to grab the goodness. If you're a person that relies on digestive enzymes as a supplement you'll know that eating your food this way helps.

Autumnal fruit and veg are very yellow and orange, known as Carotenoids they're packed with the nutrients of the season, antoxidants and are vitamin C rich. Then the best veg for boosting your winter immunity (by strenthening your Lung Ki) is white foods! A cauliflower soup, with onion and celery, plus garlic, ginger and a pinch of spice is the ultimate food... but maybe not very appealing at first? It's all in the flavouring though, I'm a fan of a good butternut squash soup, but once you add the spices you don't really taste the veg that much so if you have a lung weakness then try a cauliflower soup to strengthen, and add onion and garlic!

butternut squash soup in a tin mug


You can have a fulfilling dinner without having potatoes; you also don't need pasta or rice. Of course they are nice to have but you don't have to have them every night and you can feel extremely nourished without them. I'm a fan of a root veg mash, of suede, carrot and more, it doesn't need to have the potato in. If you struggle to sleep at night, get too hot or you're worrying about belly fat you can drop these sugary staples and have a fulfilling meal; it's the taste and texture that are the main components for taste. A warming stew tastes just as good with cabbage, cauli and broccoli.

Eating for optimal energy in autumnal afternoons

I've outlined today that what you eat at breakfast and lunchtimes whether one or 2 meals really can dictate your energy through the after and here's why - in Chinese medicine it's called Kidney ki and in western terms it's the energy you need around 3 to 5pm.

The root of all your energy is Kidney Ki and it's like a fire! If you stoke the fire you'll feel the benefits but if you put something damp on the fire, what happens? It gets all smoky and fizzles out... and this is exactly what is happening with what you eat from getting up to lunchtime. You may think carbohydrates stoke the fire but they are light pouring lighter fuel on the logs; it flares up and gives you temporary light and heat. What we want is a slow burning fire, that is there in the background all day long, just give it a prod with the right food occassionally and feel the benefits as you're more energised through the afternoon.

In the Chinese Body Clock there are 2 major times of day that are most effected by food - mid-afternoon and 1 to 3am. I talk about the middle of the night a lot as that's linked to night sweats, but the slump in the middle of the afternoon is a cold symptom.

If you chill your body with your food and drink your Kidney's have to work harder to warm you up. They don't want to work too hard between 3 to 7pm as they're busy doing something else - cleansing. The Chinese worked out that each vital organs spends a couple of hours a day running it's own cleansing process and during this time it doesn't want extra pressure exerted on it as it's already got enough on its plate. The Bladder and Kidneys are trying to take some downtime in the middle of the afternoon through to early evening and so they'd like you to sleep really, but you're pushing on with a gruelling western timetable.

To get through 3pm stoke your fire! This means your foods should be energetically and physically warming as I've already laid out.

Caffeine - it's the energy crutch of the masses, it's also the one thing that I'm so glad I cut out. I've been fully decaf now for over 5 years and that was when energy slumps became a thing of the past. Yes going through the weening stage is a bit of a headache, but the long last results afterwards are incredibly beneficial. If you'd like help coming off caffeine I can help you as part of a Health and Vitality Consultation where I'll look at all aspects of your life through the lens of Chinese Medicine and turn your energy levels around!

Have some salt! Your Kidneys love a spot of salt as a pick-me-up. I'm pretty sure this is why around cocktail hour we have salty foods like nuts and olives along with digestive aiding alcohols :)

body heat temperatue chart for a haramaki wearer

Keep your Kidneys warm to keep energised!

It's that time of year that I start on again about Haramaki's! This is an item of clothing that you wrap around your belly and lower back to trap in your own body warmth. Just about everyone will benefit from keeping their Kidney's cozier and if you do feel the cold, check out this blog for further information on natural ways to keep warm.

A Haramaki can be a designer cashmere one, a cut up T shirt or just a warm fluffy scarf wrapped around your middle, even a hoody tied around traps in an amazing amount of heat. My best advice is always keep something within arms reach of where you work. Like most of us you just keep going to get something finished and ignore that you're getting colder, so keep something you can just grab and wrap around easily.... or prepare to be toasty before you even get started.

Warm Kidneys are happier kidneys, they don't then need to expend energy on trying to just keep you warm they can take and use that energy to make you feel more awake and energised through the afternoon and into the evening. Don't stress your Kidneys by freezing your body from within or without.

The secret to more vital energy especially through the afternoon lull is keeping your kidneys warm - yes it is that simple - have a go!

Try shiatsu for, Book a shiatsu at shiatsu bodyworks cheltenham

Are you struggling with your energy, moods and health?

Let me help you with Shiatsu or a Health and Vitality Consultation. If you're local then Shiatsu for Health means you can have a fantastic shiatsu treatment to rebalance your energy plus receiving pivotal advice to help you turn around your everyday health. If you're further afield I offer consultations online where we look at every aspect of your health and I create you a holistic plan to implement to start feeling like you again!

About Andrea at Shiatsu Bodyworks Cheltenham

Andrea is a qualified zen shiatsu and chinese medicine practitioner with over 20 years immersed in holistic therapies and the energetics of mind and body. Based in Cheltenham, UK she offers in house clinic and online shiatsu sessions to help people with midlife health issues and also offers online consultations for helping you regain your vitality and she is a menopause specialist too.

shiatsu to ease tension

Your mind and body deserve more...

You deserve Shiatsu!


  • Instagram
  • Facebook Basic Square
Follow Me
bottom of page