Primary Foods: A Balanced Life
One of the main things that drew me to the Institute of Integrative Nutrition was their focus on what they call “primary foods”. At IIN they understood what I had come to understand from my lifetime of healing and eventual recovery process. That no matter what you eat, what you eliminate, or what diet you subscribe to if you ignore your primary foods nothing will stick.
Primary foods are the important areas of our lives that affect us on both a daily and universal basis. Relationships, career, spirituality, physical activity, all of it. I know first hand that whenever one of these areas is seriously imbalanced my health is compromised. I could be eating all of the right things for my body, taking all of the right supplements, but if I am not facing my life and giving it the attention it needs I will get sick. Every. Single. Time.
For me knowing this matters more than any dietary change. Because once you start working towards balance in these areas of your life those dietary changes will naturally happen. You will feel more alive and more motivated to take health on a physical level into your own hands. One cannot feel good without wanting to feel good. It’s just not possible.
Now don’t get me wrong. Nutrition is important. So important. Food can be medicine on so many different levels. Knowing what your body needs can heal illness and ailments both physical and emotional. But it has been from my experience and my witnessing the experiences of others that no matter how much dairy or gluten or sugar or grains I take out of my life, if I am ignoring the areas that need healing and balance my body doesn’t heal.
In the spirit of sticking to my core value of honesty I have been abusing myself with food for the entire 30 years that I have been alive. I learned really young. Like elementary school young that food could mask and enhance my sadness. It numbed me out while at the same time brought me down and my lack of self control around it validated all of my lack of self worth. I learned how to use it as a weapon and a shield against myself and my traumas. Food was/still can be, my fairweather friend.
When I started to find my path to recovery I did so with a therapist by my side. At that point I didn’t know what my body needed. I don’t think I even really knew how to listen to what my body needed until maybe just this past year. I lost weight through diet and exercise. Lowering my calories. Upping my burn rate. The old fashioned way. But I would not have lost a single pound if it wasn’t for all of the inner work I was doing at the same time.
I had a lot of inner work to do. We all do and always will. Growth never ends even if you do everything in your power to stay stagnant, your life will continue to move forward with or without your help. While I have never stopped seeking different modalities of healing and have always seemingly been on this path, there was a lot I ignored. And like I mentioned in the last blog post, a lot that I couldn’t let go of.
In 2011 I relapsed and gained 50 of the 160 lbs I had just lost back. It has been a seemingly eternal struggle for me to get that weight back off and there are many different reasons why. So much of it is involved with my past nutrition choices and the need to do various elimination diets to find out what my body really needed and wanted-- but the majority of it had to do with my fear and imbalance around so many of the primary food areas in my life.
This past year was the first time that I was able to or really forced into by the powers that be-- in it’s sneaky way of always showing you what you need to do in sometimes real intense ways-- that I was able to combine both the healing of primary food and the healing of my relationship with actual food (secondary food as we call it at IIN). Before this they had always been somewhat separate to me. I always understood how somatic I was. I always knew from a very young age that stress, depression, anxiety, you name it affected my body in pretty blatant ways. What I didn’t know was that in order to heal my relationship with food I had to actually heal my relationship with food.
I always thought that meant getting control over it. Making restrictions-- be it calories or eliminating certain foods from my diet. And again I don’t disagree with my thought process on that. It taught me a lot. I learned what my body responds to best and what it wants most. But what it never taught me was how to break the cycle of binge and deprivation.
Over the last few months I have been radically healing and making peace with food. I am nowhere near where I hope to be with it. But I am worlds away from where I was. Through processes of mindful, meditative, affirmative eating-- conscious eating-- I have for the first time genuinely begun to heal. Slowly but absolutely surely I am witnessing this shift.
Like any healing it wasn’t/isn’t always pretty or easy but it’s working. When I first started to reintegrate foods I had sworn off I went a bit overboard. The cycle of deprivation into binge went full blown. The difference is I was aware and awake to it. And even while I was mid binge on pizza I was doing my practice and saying my affirmations. I was able to see what was happening as part of the process and knew that I would get to the other side of it in due time. It was something that needed to happen in order for me to make peace and find balance. I’m still very much so making peace and finding balance.
I know for fact that I feel best when I don’t eat dairy, gluten, grains or sugar. My body functions better. There is no denying that. But I still couldn't lose weight. No matter how hard I exercised--which I did a lot to no avail. No matter how strict I was. I still couldn’t lose and I couldn’t understand why. According to science the weight should’ve been pouring off of me.
Now I understand. I understand that each bite of food I took was filled with hatred and fear. I understand that every time I ate I would scarf it down paying no attention to what I was doing. I couldn’t wait to eat and yet when I was eating I couldn’t wait for it to be over and then when it was over I was depressed and angry it was done. Deprivation, binge, deprivation. God forbid I overdid it or ate something on the unapproved list. I’d go into a panic for hours sometimes days. Add to it telling myself that I’m fat and gross countless times a day every day. Of course I wasn’t losing. I was in a constant state of punishment. Food, fear, and hatred were my weapons and many times they were all one in the same.
I want to be very clear here. I find so much value in elimination diets and it is a tool that I would recommend to any client I was working with who it deemed fit for. I could not have saved my life by losing the weight I lost without it. I couldn’t have learned how to listen to my body the way that I have without it. There has been so much positive for me in experimenting with what I put into my body.
I have been on this path for a long time now. I have done and continue to do tons of work around this issue. Because of this I have finally come to this part of my healing process. The part in which I make peace with all foods. Stop labeling them good and bad. Understand how to change the energetics of what I am putting into my body no matter what it is. And at the same time still listen to what my body is asking for and follow suit.
Each body is different and each path is different. Everyone gets to this place in their own time. Honestly I didn’t know if I ever would. The fact that I have is just proof that this stuff works. That if you are willing to do what it takes, even if it means no longer eating cheese for some time or saying to yourself, “this food is healing me” with every bite you take-- you WILL heal. I can guarantee you that. It takes time and patience and persistence but it will happen.
What primary food areas in your life are imbalanced? Do you notice how it affects your body when they are? Have you found a way to make peace with food? Share with me in the comments section below! And if you would like more guidance and help around these areas e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would love to be your coach and help you find what works for you!