If you’ve read any of my story, you may know that I’ve had a special relationship with food for most of my life. It began with emotional eating, struggles with my weight and the low self-esteem that went along with it all. For me, being a fat kid shaped me in very unpleasant ways and as a result I’ve spent most of my adult life seeking out tools and information that would heal that damage and let me become the person I always wanted to be.
Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of areas for me to continue learning and growing but I can honestly say I love my life now. I love and appreciate my body, I do work that fulfills me and I have tools that I feel can help me navigate ANY challenge that life throws my way. Learning about food and eating has been, and continues to be, a pivotal part of that journey that I want to share with you today.
Think about someone you admire; whether that’s a teacher, the head of your company, your yoga instructor or a friend or family member. Now think about what they eat. Very often (not always), highly functioning people, the people we admire and emulate, do their best to eat well. They seem to have different programming than the majority of people which insists on a level of self-care that supports health and the successful lifestyle they’ve carved out for themselves.
I’ve often noticed that it doesn’t seem to matter which area of life they begin to excel in first, whether that’s athletics, business, academia etc, sooner or later they get food figured out. I think it’s safe to say that the smartest, most successful leaders in this world eat well. Of course, the specifics of the diet will vary a lot based on what their own experiences have taught them about what constitutes a healthy diet, but there’s no question that they are putting some effort into avoiding junk, processed foods and eating whole foods. It may be vegetarian, macrobiotic, vegan, mediterranean or paleo/ancestral, but the fact remains, they are putting effort into eating well because they know that what they eat influences how they think, how they move and how able they are to live the life they want to live.
For me it all started with food.
I’ve never been a high achiever. I was pretty average really. I did well in school without trying too hard, I didn’t care much about getting amazing grades or getting into a good school. I had dreams and aspirations like most kids, but they weren’t terribly compelling and honestly, having fun was more of a priority. As a result of a stupid teenage attitude, I didn’t finish my last three credits in my grade thirteen year. I got my high school diploma, and I was accepted at university for a dramatic arts program, but when actually going to school meant leaving my boyfriend (that I ended up breaking up with two years later anyway) and going to a strange, scary city to pursue something that didn’t really fire me up, I opted out. Everyone in my life was expecting me to go to university, but honestly I was lazy, misguided and afraid. You see I still had the “fat programming” that was constantly telling me I wasn’t good enough. I was convinced that having a few extra pounds would never fly if I wanted to be in show business, and the thought of getting there and being told that I needed to lose weight in order to be successful was too painful to even contemplate.
So, instead of going off to university I worked a year in the fast food industry, gained another fifteen pounds and then got a job working in a factory.
Of course, being that I had a weight problem, controlling food and exercise had been part of my experience from the age of 16, but it’s not as though I had mastered food, or anything about myself through my rigorous diet and exercise attempts. No, back then I was dieting and exercising because I hated my body and NEEDED it to change. That’s not at all the same as being in charge of your life and choosing to take care of yourself with food and proper movement because of an innate sense of self-worth.
But eventually, after years of personal growth work and with huge thanks to EFT, my self-hatred was replaced with self-love and self-respect.
I recall standing in my kitchen, looking at the advertisements for the International Organization of Nutritional Consultants in the back of an Alive magazine and feeling the spark of wanting to “be more”. Maybe it was because I had an interest in nutrition due to my weight battle, or maybe it was because the “I’m not good enough” pattern convinced me that I could never be a mainstream dietitian and this path seemed easier, but whatever it was, I felt that I finally had some clear desire and direction in my life.
So, within the year I was enrolled in a holistic nutrition course.
I don’t think much changed right away. Sure, I had some direction now and I had found something that interested and inspired me enough that I was an excellent self-directed student. But it wasn’t until I had been applying my new found nutrition knowledge for a while that my attitude and self-confidence began to change.
Food made me a better person. When I made the decisions to eat whole, live, unprocessed foods more of the time, I became nicer. I became smarter. I became more empathetic. I grew up.
You could argue that all of that would have happened anyway, but I don’t think so. I have a pretty clear image of the person I would be today if I hadn’t learned about nutrition. For one, I’d probably be obese. That in itself would have a ripple effect on my psyche and confidence that would’ve kept me in a prison. I’d most likely still be working my factory job. I might even still be married to my first husband, not that he’s a bad guy, but I was a different person when I married him.
I most certainly wouldn’t have become a holistic nutritionist, and then a sports nutritionist, and then a personal trainer, and then a Reiki practitioner and then an EFT practitioner. I wouldn’t have become a volunteer firefighter, and I wouldn’t have found CrossFit. My life would be a sad, pale comparison to the life I have today. It’s true. Food changed my life.
And it can change yours.
When you start by making choices about what you put in your mouth you have the potential to improve your life on at least a dozen other fronts. Learning that you have the ability to make a difference to how you feel every day is so empowering that it can’t help but ripple out into other areas of your life.
Here are just a few of the benefits of a whole food, healthy diet:
Improved cognitive function and concentration
Improved energy levels
Improved skin, hair and nails
And those are just the physical benefits. Improving the quality of food you eat also brings you into connection with the local farmers and growers that produce your food, enhances your sense of community and supports your local economy. Spending more time preparing your whole foods diet can improve relationships with your children and spouse and give you a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment. If you can grow your own food, you’ll be supporting a more sustainable food supply and improving our environment. It also gives you control over your own food and the act of gardening reduces stress and can even give you a stronger sense of being connected to nature and improve your spirituality. Nurturing yourself with good food can be the first step in finding a sense of self-worth that will give you the strength and confidence to pursue your dreams and aspirations. Always wanted to do your masters? Start with food. Always wanted to run a marathon? Start with food. Want to improve your relationships with your kids or spouse? Start with food. Want to be more successful in your career? Start with food.
It can ALL start with food.
So, what are you going to eat today?