By Natalie Rivera
Are We What We Eat?
I eat healthy…most of the time. Low sugar, low gluten, low calorie. I try to eat mostly real food, not processed junk. I drink vegetable juice and avoid sugar in beverages. But I’ll guiltlessly scarf down a brownie when the opportunity presents itself. I’m the middle of the road when it comes to healthy eating. I choose to be healthy but don’t stress about it. I care about myself, and therefore care about my body.
But it’s not quite that cut and dry, is it? Some would say that if I REALLY cared, I’d be eating a whole-foods-only diet…or all organic…or gluten-free…or vegan. What we “should” eat has become a cultural obsession. Every day we hear of a different philosophy regarding what we should and should not eat to be optimally healthy, defy aging, and be happy. Yet, at the same time, we’re bombarded with advertisements tempting us with juicy burgers or butter-soaked lobster. For those who do resist the temptation of naughty food and choose to eat healthy, the road doesn’t get easier…it gets more complicated. How are we supposed to know whom to listen to? Which version of a health nut are we going to be?
The bad news is that it’s a difficult choice to make.
The good news is that it’s YOUR choice!
And the better news is that it doesn’t really matter (that much) what you eat—at least not with regard to what everyone else is trying to tell you.
You see, we obsess over our diets, yet I saw an interview with 105-year-old lady who says her secret to longevity is eating a juicy steak and drinking a fifth of scotch (ok, so not quite the whole bottle) every day. She’s never eaten a vegetable in her life (well, not many). Yet, young, physically fit, non-drinking health nuts die every day. Go figure.
So, What’s the Answer?
There isn’t one. All nutritional recommendations work for some people, some of the time. All you can do is educate yourself (if you want to) and make the best decision you can regarding what’s right for you.
You can listen to your own body. We are all unique, after all. If you eat something and then feel like a bloated sea cow, stop eating it. If you glut on fried food and then feel like a sloth, stop doing it. If eating whatever version of “healthy” you choose makes you feel good, keep doing it. If you want to save the animals and eat vegetarian, by all means do it!
Tune into yourself. If you go to put something into your mouth and you feel your body resist, listen to it! If you know you eat naughty foods (the ones you feel guilty about) out of emotional pain, go to therapy.
Oh, wait…I may be onto something…emotions. Hmm. Here we have been talking about food—WHAT WE ARE EATING—and assuming that it’s the core cause of our physical health (or lack of it).
What if There is a Bigger Fish to Fry?
What if the way your body reacts to food has more to do with the ENVIRONMENT you put your food into? Is your body stressed or relaxed? How are you feeling EMOTIONALLY?
Did you know that STRESS, not diet, is the greatest predictor of disease?
Hmm. So, maybe it’s not what you’re eating…perhaps it’s what’s eating you that makes the difference.
The Buffet of Life
When you go to a buffet, I bet you don’t look at all the items available, point out the one that makes you feel terrible and that you know harms your body and say, “Please give me more of that!” Of course not, and that’s because you actually care about what you eat on some level. You make the decision what to take from the buffet. Only you know what feels right for you. That’s not to say that most of us don’t overindulge when faced with an epic buffet filled with temptations. We do. But, we DO have a choice. My point here isn’t that we shouldn’t use discernment while selecting our food. Woofing down a dozen bon-bons and three servings of double cheese lasagna is going to have its side effects. My point here isn’t about what to avoid eating, it’s about realizung that whatever you select at the buffet is YOUR choice. No one is forcing it on your plate. If you hate cauliflower, no one has to tell you NOT to put it on your plate. You just don’t. There’s no one behind the buffet counter trying to convince you of the health benefits or make you feel guilty for not taking it.
The buffet of LIFE works just the same way.
There are a myriad of options. It is your choice what you put on your plate. But, unlike at the food line, most people don’t seem to care so much about controlling their own emotional and situational diet. They just blindly pile it on, even the things they know are killing them. It’s as if they’ve been convinced that the rules of Life’s Buffet are, “get in line and the world will dish it out. You get what you get.” And because they believe this…
Most people let others serve them.
They hold out their plate with eyes closed, allowing heaping piles of drama, obligation, unwanted careers, unfulfilling relationships, and other unpalatable slop to be piled on. Then they wonder why there is often little, if any, room left on that plate for the things they would like to choose from the buffet, like the purpose-driven-life, the balance, the peace, and the freedom. They end up with a plate full of “junk food” they don’t want.
The food you allow on your plate that you don’t want is what EATS YOU.
All of the things you tolerate, feel obligated to, repress—and all that you gave up on, don’t give yourself permission to have, and don’t allow yourself to dream about—these are the things eating you alive. They are gnawing at you from the inside. You can feel how they’re poisonous inside you. You feel toxic. And then you eat food, feel like crap, get sick, and blame it on the food.
It’s not the food. (Mostly.)
For people who are health-conscious, what goes in their mouth is something they feel they can control. This is often in stark contrast to how many people feel about their life, which is out of their control. It can feel easier to choose to resist the temptation of potato chips than it is to resist the guilt-trip-obligation served up by your family members. It’s easier to choose fresh, nourishing fruits than it is to pick better friends.
But, you do have control of your life. You just choose not to make your own decisions regarding what you select from the buffet of life. I’m here to call your bluff. If you struggle with any health issues or if you obsess over food and you have NOT yet looked at your life’s plate and evaluated what’s there and who put it there, I highly recommend you do it.
Depression, anxiety, repression, anger, frustration, hopelessness, and lack of fulfillment cannot be cured with food. Sorry to break the news.
The above statement can be interpreted two ways. 1) Many people, even if they’re health-conscious, will divert to poor food choices during periods of heightened emotional distress. Food is sought as a form of comfort, respite, and coping. And it doesn’t work, it only adds fuel to the fire. 2) Extreme diet restrictions and exercise routines are often sought to aid in emotional and physical healing. Those two factors are absolutely the most important life changes one can make to realize any desired improvement in physical or emotional health. HOWEVER, if a person eats a healthy diet and exercises, but also has extremely high stress levels and carries around emotions such as guilt, resentment, anger and heartache, they will not be healthy.
It’s not just the food. The emotional environment you create in your body is the primary determinant of how your food affects you. And the environment you allow yourself to live in (including the thoughts and focus that you choose) is the primary determinant of how your emotional environment is formed.
I’m not saying that if your body is in a state of dis-ease and that you don’t have a particular diet that is required for your healing.
I’m not saying that what you eat doesn’t matter, that you don’t need to eat proper nutrients, or that certain foods can’t harm you.
My point here is that healthy eating is NOT enough. No amount of healthy eating can compensate for an unhealthy emotional state or unhealthy life.
If you want to be happy, healthy, and vibrant, you simply must take back control of what you allow on your life’s plate.
There are only two steps to taking back control of your life:
- Keep others’ paws off. Stop letting the world serve you.
- Reach out and grab what you know is right for you.
I know, it’s not always that easy. But neither is eating healthy, so if you’ve managed to make the decision to make life changes in this that area, you can do this. But it all starts with a healthy dose of self-honesty.
So, what’s eating you?
Natalie Rivera is a firestarter, speaker and entrepreneur. She is passionate about empowering others to GET REAL and live authentically. After a decade of living a life that wasn’t hers and developing Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Natalie let go of everything and completely transformed. Through her journey to healing she rediscovered her true self and greater purpose—to inspire others to transform their lives. Natalie “retired” from the rat race at 24, put herself through school as a freelance designer, created a non-profit teen center, and later created Transformation Services, Inc., which offers motivational speaking, curriculum development, life coaching, event management, and publishing. She is also the Publisher of Transformation Magazine. Visit www.ignitelife.me.