The body is the house of the soul; the physical vehicle that allows us to navigate the material world; a sophisticated sensory system that relays a multitudinous range of feedback from the environment.
Our body can signal caution long before our conscious mind is aware that something is amiss. There are 12 main systems in the body, each reliant on the other for optimum health. Just like our cars, our bodies need regular refuelling, servicing and maintaining in order to function at their best.
When it comes to nutrition many of us live in the most astounding state of cognitive dissonance; all of us know that we are what we eat, yet we continually fill us our bodies with food that is so highly processed that it is unrecognisable from its natural state, laced with poisonous chemicals and ultimately of little nutritional value. We even call this ‘junk’ food. Just for a few moments consider how astounding this term is!
I’m not advocating that we should all become Vegan or follow the popular Paleo diet, but I am encouraging mindfulness and awareness of what we put into our physical body, our internal functions and our relationship with food.
Working for nearly ten years alongside patients with eating disorders, has taught me how fundamental our relationship with food is;
• are we so full up with anxiety that we feel unable to put any food in
• do we feel so empty that we need to constantly graze to feel full
• is our life so bland or boring that we crave sugary sweetness
• are we in so much of a hurry that we just ‘grab and go’ or forget to eat altogether?
Food can be uniquely definitive of culture and is associated with many daily, celebratory and spiritual rituals. Food can facilitate sharing and coming together. Mealtimes might be the one opportunity we have to catch up and connect with our loved ones, though equally for some of us mealtimes and food might have very negative associations.
Food can be our refuge, our comfort, our friend or our enemy.
In the same way that the various systems of the body connect and work symbiotically, contributing to and reliant upon one another, so are our physical and mental health intrinsically linked. A number of mental health conditions have been markedly improved by a change in dietary habits. I noticed similarities between some of my patients who suffered long term depression and bouts of anxiety. They shared an addiction to sugar and had poor gut health. A nutritional plan which was free of sugar, processed carbs, gluten and in some cases also dairy free, led to dramatic results, for example a more stable mood, increased energy levels, reduced anxiety and more positive outlook.
Healthy, unadulterated natural food is nature’s vast pharmacy. Good nutrition is preventative medicine; through nourishing our bodies we can stay mentally and physically well.