Eating properly is an important element in an overall healthy lifestyle but it’s not the only thing. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for living. As a recent graduate of Institute for Integrative Nutrition, based in New York City and the largest Nutrition School in the world, we were taught to consider these other areas of our lives as primary food. When these areas are balanced the food you put on your plate becomes secondary.
Food nourishes our bodies but is unable to give us the meaning and fulfillment that primary foods provide. Play, fun, touch, romance, love, achievement, success, creativity, music, self-expression, leadership, excitement and adventure are all things we crave and if you are not fulfilled in these areas of your life there is no food in the world that will satisfy your hunger. In fact, this unbalance often leads to diet-related disorders such as heart disease, cancer, obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes – all of which are national epidemics. Could it be that we are stuffing ourselves with food because we are starved in other areas of our lives?
A key ingredient to personal fulfillment is quality relationships. Supportive relationships add depth and meaning to our lives. In our quest for better health we turn to doctors and self-help books not realizing that working to improve relationships could be a powerful weapon for prolonged life. Friends, family and community are undervalued resources. Today, we seem to lead overly isolated lives spending large amounts of time at our computers or on our smart phones. If you are feeling isolated and lonely no amount of vegetables will make you better. Once you begin to view relationships as a form of nourishment it becomes more natural to work at improving them.
Our bodies are made to move and quickly deteriorate when they don’t. Joining an expensive gym or running marathons are not required forms of activity. It’s important though to find something you enjoy and incorporate that into your life. Regular activity strengthens muscles, improves heart and lung function, reduces your risk of major disease and add years to your life. Studies show that just 30 minutes every other day are all that’s required to reap major benefits. Consider what days and times would work best for you to exercise and put a plan of action together. Start experimenting and find a routine that you can nourish yourself with on a regular basis.
Most of us have to work for a living and on a full-time basis. Therefore, our work is a huge part of our daily lives. Because of this, it’s extremely important to enjoy what we are doing. Are you currently satisfied and fulfilled with your career? If not, perhaps you should consider a career change. Many times though, that’s just not possible. I’d encourage you reevaluate where you are and what adjustments you might be able to make with your current employer. Too often, we equate work with a paycheck. Obviously, money is very important but it’s a limited view of yourself and the work you do. Include and examine other ways to that would allow you to feel purposeful. You’d be surprised how just a few small, on the job changes could drastically improve your life and overall happiness.
Being able to express and explore our spiritually is a basic human need and a universal human right. We all search for meaning in our lives and so spirituality is a form of nutrition. Some follow traditional religions while others explore Eastern philosophy or New Age spirituality. Perhaps for you it just means staying aware in your life by stepping back and reflecting on your current circumstances. Meditation practice is a great way to quiet your mind and go within. In fact, studies show that mediation decreases stress, improves mental clarity and energy and fosters creativity. Exploring what’s important to you spiritually can be a valuable strategy in assisting you on your quest for good health.
Set aside some time and consider where you are at in each of these areas of your life. Could you use improvement? Getting clear on any imbalances provides a starting point in determining where you need to spend more time and energy to create more balance and joy in your life.
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Tammy Batcha is a life-long resident of the Shenandoah Valley. A long-time commuter, she seeks to reconnect to her community. As a board certified, health and wellness coach, she continues to study integrative nutritional theory while guiding others on a path to wellness.