Let’s talk about some food basics. My understanding in nutrition didn’t start in academia learning about magnesium’s effect on sleep and cramps, or enzymatic malfunctions when we eat trans fats. It was much more of an elementary beginning (well, technically high school). It all started with a cookie.
My immune system had tanked when I was 14. As I was working to regain my health, I began to detect suppressive patterns. One eureka moment I had was during a church youth night where they had my favorite treats—cookies. After finishing one cookie and biting into a second, I noticed my nose started to run. Soon enough I was sneezing, had a sore throat, and my eyes were swelling and watering from the ensuing congestion. The next day I had yet another cold. I remember thinking how strange it was to come on so strongly and with such immediacy. I then began to notice every time I had a sweet treat, the same downward spiral would occur.
No matter our age, we can each begin to detect the positive and negative effects food has on us. Learning to recognize how foods make us feel can have a powerful impact on our health, emotions, and longevity. In fact, there is a poignant adage from ancient Eastern medicine that depicts the beautiful freedoms the foods can allow us:
“If diet is wrong, medicine is of no use.
If diet is correct, medicine is of no need.”
One simple way to know what diet is wrong or right for you is by paying attention to how it makes you feel. By learning how cookies made me feel back in my youth, I began to recognize that pastas made me feel bloated and drinking from plastic water bottles made my throat itch. I also perceived what foods were “correct” for me. Sunflower seeds became a snack that kept me satiated longer and fresh fruit curbed my sweet tooth and strengthened my immune system, thus letting “food be [my] medicine” (Hippocrates).
At our most recent seminar, I shared that the way we feel affects how we fill, and vice versa. This is putting that principle to action. So for example, if we’re feeling frail either emotionally or physically, instead of further depleting ourselves with sugar spikes or caffeine, we can savor a hearty soup, like vegetable quinoa. If we’re feeling heavy, a nice avocado and berry smoothie or salad can help us feel lighter. The other side of the coin is noticing that how we fill affects how we feel. You can check in with yourself after eating and see, “Did this make me feel sick, bloated, jittery, or did it make me feel comforted, revitalized, and healthier in some way?” This is practicing mindfulness in eating.
Our challenge this month is the same that I start with every patient who sees me, whether for hormonal balance, emotional stability, or digestive support: add foods that are healing. We aren’t going to focus on cutting foods right now. As Sommer mentioned in the recent seminar, we want to build off our strengths. When we start being our own barometer, we don’t have to follow fad diets, but instead be self-regulating. We can then continue on the track of keeping healthy boundaries that nurture our well-being rather than feeling pulled or torn by other’s opinions.
As we discuss boundaries this month in order to create more healing environments, the same end goal can be applied as we set boundaries for eating. Consider applying these goals for the next week, and work them into a new habit:
- Have the end goal of being healthy so I can fulfill the measure of my creation
- Perceive how foods make me feel—well or unwell. (Be honest with yourself)
- Create a boundary to add and eat more foods that make me feel good
-Dr. Crystal Nix Dayton, DC, CAc