Or, better yet, what is healing?
I think we each define health differently, and to be honest, I don’t really care what the technical definition is. What matters most to me is; what is your definition of health.
Does health mean an absence of disease? That your blood work from your doctor is okay and there are no issues to be found?
Or, is it more?
For me, my definition of health is that I feel good and have the energy and brainpower to do everything I’d like to do in a day…and a little bit more than that.
To me, health = balance.
It means my energy is balanced — not too much, not too little. My brain is balanced — I can think clearly and follow thoughts from the start to finish (anyone with a monkey mind like mine can understand the difference :). I feel emotionally balanced. And my body is balanced — no aches or pains and all is well.
Collectively, I think we have a slightly skewed version of health. For many, energy should be HIGH! Productivity should be HIGH! And anything less is a problem. But, our bodies weren’t built to work 18 hours a day or be constantly stimulated by caffeine, stress and/or our phones. This lifestyle is the opposite of balance and it is really hard on the body. Our body wasn’t built to keep up with this kind of lifestyle.
But I get it; I’m naturally an adrenaline junkie and love to be over-stimulated. Anyone who has seen me with a coffee in my hand knows the perils of too much caffeine in my body. Just picture me with a HUGE smile on my face (I do love it), talking a mile a minute (yes, even faster than usual), and running into everything and knocking things over (I get exceptionally clumsy when I’m over-caffeinated). But I love it, and I know many of you do too.
I don’t do this very often because I can’t do what I love to do when I’m in that space. I can’t think clearly, I don’t listen well, and I can’t speak at a speed most would understand. So, instead I have to look for balance.
I’m feeling really balanced right now as I write this. My mind is clear but calm. I’m sitting outside on a beautiful day, with the Okanagan Lake in my view. I ate a breakfast that my body loves and I’m feeling pretty darn good.
I strive for this feeling everyday, and I reach it most days. That hasn’t always been the case; I’ve spent years experimenting with my diet and lifestyle to find the right balance for me.
Today, I know what to eat so I feel good. I know how much exercise I need to keep my body happy (and I mostly do it ;). And I’ve learned/am learning relaxation strategies to keep my mind happy and balanced.
I have good news for you. You can too. Today. Okay, maybe tomorrow. Or soon. But you can.
And it doesn’t take a degree or diploma in nutrition; you just have to learn a few basic skills. Skills that need to be practiced, but that’s all, it’s just a bunch of skills.
Like learning to ride a bike — it takes some effort at first, but before long it comes naturally. And then you’ve got this skill for life.
Your body wants you to learn this skill. It’s tired of eating unappetizing food that’s pretending to be healthy. It wants ease. It wants pleasure. It wants love.
So here it is, my path to balance:
#1 – Eat more real food
This is whole food. Food without packaging or ingredient lists. Fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, seeds, etc.
Do your best and try for a little bit more every day or every week. Each time you replace a packaged food with a whole food is a big win.
#2 – Chew it, taste it, enjoy it
Spend time with the food you’ve just made. How does it taste? Do you like it? Is this what you want to be eating right now?
Life is way too short to eat food you don’t enjoy just because it’s healthy.
#3 – How do you feel after your meal?
Do you feel good? Have energy? Feel satisfied? Or do you feel tired? Low energy? Craving something else?
This is important information for balance. A meal that your body loves is one where you feel good, have great energy afterward and feel satisfied. Make note of the meals you feel great after and the ones you don’t. A pattern will begin to form.
#4 – What do you crave?
Many of us see our cravings as something to deal with, something to get over or something we’re too weak to stop.
But they’re not — they’re actually your body’s language.
Your cravings are an incredible tool for discovery. Learning about what, why and when you crave certain foods is a key piece to your health puzzle. Listen, take note and see what you find. Like:
Craving chocolate? This can be a sign of a magnesium deficiency. Stress burns through extra magnesium and dark chocolate, cocoa and raw cacao are all sources of magnesium.
Craving salt? Salt cravings can be a sign of lots of stress and low adrenal glands (http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/07/5-ways-that-having-adrenal-fatigue-improved-my-life-jennifer-allyson/). Unless your doctor has told you otherwise, your body usually wants more sea salt. And if you eat mostly whole foods, you can sea salt your foods to your taste and enjoy!
#5 – Why do you want to eat?
Are you actually hungry? Real hunger is an empty feeling in your stomach, a slight dip in energy and the feeling that food would be nice in the next few hours. It doesn’t change your personality and it’s not demanding. Anything else is a blood sugar crash.
Or, are you feeling emotional and food would feel really good right now? If so, that’s okay — just be aware that this is why you want to eat. Most of us move from emotions to food unconsciously, so if we take a moment to feel out what’s going on it’ll make this form of unconscious emotional eating less and less powerful. Talking to a trusted friend, counselor or spiritual teacher can also help.
Does this sound too easy? The truth is creating new habits is actually quite difficult.
If you struggle with these habits, that’s okay. Be kind to yourself and take some time. They will become second nature and in return you’ll have meal after meal of delicious, mouthwatering food that you can’t wait to enjoy.
That you’re enjoying slowly, while chewing really, really well.
Please, give yourself permission to enjoy food again. You can have food luxury and a healthy diet. They can come together.
Just give it some time.
You can also find this article, in a slightly different form on ElephantJournal.com