First of all, let's be clear; you are what you eat. You are physically and chemically made up of the raw ingredients you ingest as your diet on a cellular & molecular level. If you've ever tried, you'll know that making changes to the way you eat is no easy feat. My relationship with food has been long and messy. Addiction to sugar, carbs & junk food turned quickly into disordered eating in order to control the way my body looked and felt, followed by a long, uncomfortable journey into IBS, leaky gut, allergies and eventually autoimmune disease and adrenal burn out. I'm not sure if we really learn how to value our health or the healthy function of our bodies at any point in our upbringing or education. At least not in a way that is compelling enough to truly govern our dietary choices. The trouble is, we don't drop dead when we eat bad food. If we did, I'm sure that would be a compelling reason to take the time and effort to nourish ourselves appropriately. We may not drop dead from unhealthy food choices, but what does happen over time is a dip in our energy supply, digestive distress, mood swings ("hangry"), inability to concentrate, headaches, irritability, hyperactivity, lethargy, low libido, hormonal imbalance, sleep disruption or insomnia, PMS symptoms, IBS symptoms, erectile dysfunction, loss of monthly cycle, inflammation, depression & anxiety, dietary related diseases, and the list goes on. But all of these symptoms have been so normalized in our society that we have come to accept a very low level of existence.
My journey with health ultimately led me to ask a lot of very important questions, such as "why?". I was never satisfied with the Doctor's prescription pad, I wanted to know why my body was malfunctioning. I couldn't understand why none of the medical professionals I had seen over the years in an attempt to identify the source of my health problems (read more about my health journey here) seemed to be even remotely curious at the root of the problem. It seemed simplistic to me that a healthy body should feel vibrant and free from pain or discomfort, and yet my diagnostic results always came back as "normal". That is a strange paradigm to be in. I could vividly feel within my body that there was an imbalance but I didn't know a thing about human physiology so I went to a trusted source, my Doctor, who then proceeded to tell me that everything was normal. Deep in my gut I knew that things were far from "normal" and yet my analytical mind tried to convince me to trust my Doctor. Well, since I had also been on a radical journey to dismantle the conditioning of my analytical mind, I kept asking why and diving deeper into the natural world of self-healing.
As a Yoga Teacher, I have been taught to be self-aware and to practice mindfulness. So I started paying attention to how
I was feeling in relation to my external environment and the food I ate. It wasn't too long before I noticed that my digestion would come to a complete and predictable halt every single time I ate meat. So, it seemed only natural to conduct an experiment. I decided that I would become a vegetarian, which turned out to be incredibly beneficial for my digestion as well as my energy levels. I didn't really look into animal cruelty in the agriculture industry back then, it was simply an experiment to see how my body responded. This way of eating naturally kept me away from fast food and drive thru's and had me spending more time in the kitchen and shopping the parameter of the grocery store. Over the years my husband and I have transitioned through many different diets such as; paleo, AIP, vegan, plant-based paleo, and have determined the way of eating that best supports us physically, mentally, and spiritually. You see, throughout this dietary exploration, my motive for eating has changed. I used to think and relate to food as in how it would make my body look and feel, so I was either eating to feel something, or eating to look a certain way with an emphasis on the superficial. When I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, my whole perception of my body changed. Not right away, but I realized at a profound level that my body was crying out for support which transitioned into a more nourishing approach to food that was centered around providing myself with the raw ingredients I needed to set the stage for self-healing. I didn't want to accept my diagnoses with a life-long prescription, I wanted to love and support my body with all the things it needed but hadn't been getting previously; nutrient-dense whole foods.
Switching my approach to a more compassionate one has made all the difference, and there is no denying the way my body has responded to eating in this way. An important component of plant-based living is that you are also reducing the intake of refined & processed "foods" which in and of itself has a radical positive affect on the body. Some of the major daily assaults to our diet come in the form of GMO's, foreign chemicals and other synthetic ingredients that are void of nutrients, stress our organs, hijack our endocrine (hormonal) system and cause free radical damage to our cells leaving us vulnerable to diseases like cancer. Cutting out these man-made, non "food" items is a great start to naturally promote more optimal health and well-being for anyone looking to make some positive dietary changes. The question we really ought to be asking is: Why do we eat? We could come up with a number of the "right" answers, but these aren't what is really informing our daily dietary choices. As much as we would like to believe that we are eating for health, vitality, energy, or wellness that is not really our primary intention when making food choices. It is at this level of mindset where we must first make the change, shifting our paradigm in order to shift the way we make decisions about food. I often use a mantra when I'm feeling familiar emotional food cravings; "Nothing tastes better than feeling amazing in my body."
We have to remember that essentially everything in nature is getting energy (calories) from the Sun. It is the process of photosynthesis, like we learned in elementary school, that locks the Sun's energy into both simple and complex carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. Glucose, fructose, and sucrose are naturally occurring in all plants and are the basis of all food energy. When we look at things energetically, which is the basis of all matter, plant-foods are considered to be high vibrational. They can go right from the ground and onto our plates and are nutrient dense and easily digested in the stomach, unlike animal proteins that take anywhere between 4-8 hours to digest if digestion is optimal, which for most of us it isn't. These days, a quick google search can connect us to plenty of articles that give us all sorts of conflicting information backed by science about how we should eat, but for me the only information I rely on is the feedback I get from the body that I now trust. This is what I love about plant-based living, it is completely centered around getting more high vibrational, nutrient-dense whole foods into your body and from-scratch cooking. Some people include good quality, organic, hormone free, grass-fed animal products but not as the focal point, as an addition. When we take the steps to clean up our bodies, we can start to notice a difference in how we think and feel and once that happens we begin to reconnect with ourselves. We begin to open up a dialogue with our bodies that demonstrates clearly how it reacts to different foods, substances, even people and circumstances.
When it comes to eating plant-based, this has very much been a spiritual journey for me as I've navigated the discovery and deconstruction of the barriers I had build against self-love and self-worth. For me, knowing better wasn't enough for me to do better. I had to learn how to love myself in order to see that everything I put into my body was a reflection of the love and devotion I have for myself. This has not only transformed my diet, but also informs my choices on who I spend my time with, the music and media I watch and listen to, the books I read, the thoughts I think, etc. If we allow it, the way we feed ourselves can become a sacred practice of self-nourishment and one of the most beautiful ways to cultivate an intimate relationship with the very essence of who and what we are.