When I signed up to work with my health coach a little over 3 years ago, I had a far different vision of what “health” was than I do now. I had been at war with my body for over a decade, trying to force her into what I wanted her to be: Thin. Strong, but not so strong as to compromise thinness. Less muscular in my legs but more tone in my arms. And there better not be any softness to my belly or any visible rolls. If I achieved all that, THEN and only then would I be healthy. If eating 1200 calories a day and running an extra 30 minutes on the treadmill was what would get me there, then those habits were the definition of “healthy” as well.
Let me just say I am SO thankful that my perspective has changed. I’m so thankful I found my health coach and worked through those beliefs about my body and re-framed my approach to health. I’m so thankful I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN) and learned the science behind why calories in vs. calories out isn’t the the be all, end all. There is so much more to our health than even just food.
Now instead of thinking about “health” I think more about “nourishment.” How can I best nourish my body by the foods I put into it? How can I nourish it through exercise that feels great? How can I nourish my mind, heart, and soul through the important non-food aspects of my life?
Those non-food aspects are a cornerstone of the education I received through IIN. The program calls them “Primary Foods” and they focus on career, relationships, spirituality, and movement. While IIN teaches a TON about nutrition and nourishment through food, it calls the food on our plates “Secondary Foods.” There is a LOT of benefit to learning what foods your body thrives on and choosing to mostly eat those foods. And most likely you will find that a lot of those foods are indeed foods traditionally considered “healthy” (real, whole vegetables, fruits, proteins & grains).
But there is perhaps even MORE benefit to showing yourself love through nourishing relationships, a fulfilling vocation (could be the job you have or something you pursue on the side), and nourishing spiritual practices (this doesn’t have to be traditional religion). At the very least, the two go hand-in-hand. If you aren’t feeling the love in those non-food areas, it can be challenging to make loving choices for yourself when it comes to food.
When you have been stuck in a diet mentality for years, it can be scary to hear this message. You might feel like “wait there’s MORE I have to do than just control what I eat?!” Or you might think, “I have to count my calories, that’s the only thing that works!” Or “I use so much energy thinking about what to eat and when and how, I don’t have anything left to work on these other areas!” And those would all be totally natural, valid reactions that many have had before you - including me! That’s where having someone encouraging us - a friend, family member, health coach, or other professional, can be so incredibly valuable.
On the other hand, after years of dieting, the news that there are other areas you can focus on and improve your health can be very, very freeing. If you’re waging a war with your body and you’ve been stuck in a battle over food for a long time, it can be incredibly refreshing to get to focus on something else part of the time and know you are still benefitting your health.
So today, nourishment to me looks like a regular yoga practice, being fully present during times I spend with friends and family, starting a business I’m SO passionate about that it’s more FUN than work, and choosing foods that taste and feel good to my body. And here I am, experiencing the best health of my life! No, I haven’t attained that “healthy” image of my physical body that I used to strive for. And I won’t lie, there are moments where those thoughts creep up for me again. But deciding to love my body the way she is and love my life as I work toward greater nourishment and health was the best, most freeing decision I ever made!
I can’t wait to share more thoughts about nourishment & primary foods with you - there is SO much to say here! But in the meantime, I’d love to hear what thoughts, questions, etc. this brings up for you! Leave them in the comments!