Whole Person Nutrition
Could the feeling of good health and the benefits of well-being be life-changing enough to offset the initial discomfort one might think they will encounter when making changes in lifestyle and diet? I think so, but getting a person to truly experience the benefit can be challenging. Some people can’t stand the thought of depriving themselves from their favorite foods or drinks. Others feel complete confusion when faced with the inclination to live healthier. When dealing with the perplexity of fad diets, society’s demands, and westernized food offerings, too often a person reverts back to poor habits simply because the result of proper nutrition and living a healthy lifestyle wasn’t achieved. However, if the prize of well-being was attained, then folks would never look back!
In order to take the steps needed for better health and well-being, one must identify ways that nutrition is connected to whole health. It is essential that people realize that their physical, spiritual, environmental, nutritional and emotional parts of themselves are woven together intricately, and they should be more mindful of their thoughts, actions, and choices. The relationship that we have with food is often defined by our culture, society, values, and personal beliefs and aided by things such as emotions, environment, and psychological factors. When one is able to understand the relationship that all these things have with each other, a person is able to move towards a lifestyle that will better benefit oneself.
Food plays a role in our spiritual life. If we are taught that alcohol is bad, then it becomes a very negative thing. Jews follow dietary laws such as not eating particular meats that are considered unclean. The Bible is full of references about animal sacrifices, and Lent is a time that Christians abstain from sweets and specific foods. Spiritually speaking, food plays a bigger role in our lives than one might initially believe.
Mentally and physically, understanding that our bodies need proper nutrition for our complex systems to function well will lead to eating power foods that also promote self-healing. Our body needs good nutrition when under stress, and since we know life will be filled with some good times and not so good times, proper nutrition goes a long way in helping to manage what life throws at us. When under long-term stress, more nutrients are necessary to allow the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroids, which aid in the metabolic demands of the long-term stress. In addition to aiding with stress, healthy nutrition can actually help to make us feel better because it is an important factor in boosting immune function and helping the body heal itself from illness. The role our environment plays in our health also warrants the importance of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. Good nutrition can counteract the negative side effects of unhealthy personal choices such as smoking and tanning, and can even aid in balancing out environmental factors such as waste from factories, chemicals, and carcinogens. Proper nutrition fuels the body and provides the nutrients for keeping our mind and body well.
Eating can be a physiological experience as well as a physical one. There are plenty of “feel-good” foods that produce feel-good feelings that cause us to become addicted to consuming them. One type of “feel-good” food is refined carbohydrates. Refined carbohydrates cause weight gain and are in many popular foods that can readily be found in homes across the country. White flour, sweets, many baked goods, alcohol, and some packaged cereals are all considered refined carbohydrates. These types of carbs are just one type of “feel good” food. Besides foods that produce feel-good feelings, food can also appeal to people during emotional or social times. You often find food at the center of social events like parties, weddings, or other celebrations; these are joyous times and people like to celebrate those times with spreads of a variety of foods. Times of sadness, such as the loss of a loved one, also cause people to seek emotional comfort through foods. Instead of eating to “feel good” or appeal to emotions, people need to be in control of how, when, how much and how often they eat. When this mindful eating has occurred, we feel well and are able to be more active because healthy foods promote energy levels and mental clarity.
When a person recognizes the mind-body connection with nutrition, they can take the first step towards intentionally fueling the body with nutritious foods in order to promote good health. Improving nutrition while being aware of the factors making up the whole person will likely be the key to attaining the end result and the prize of wellness. That is an amazing discovery that will no doubt have people reaping the benefits of good health so that they never look back to unhealthy foods or poor lifestyle choices. To me, that is when a person is truly thriving!