When I was studying with The Institute of Integrative Nutrition, one of the things that really resonated with me was the holistic approach we were being taught. One of the core concepts of holistic health and nutrition is about treating the cause and not the symptom and a lot of the time addressing the root cause of the issue may be the solution and the key to the problem.
Whenever we are ill or our health is compromised, rather than looking to mask the symptom, try to search and dig deeper to find out what the root cause of the issue is.
Is it the food you’re eating?
How much exercise you’re doing?
How are the relationships in your life?
One of the biggest examples I love to share is the idea of primary food and secondary food. Firstly, it’s important to note that we are what we eat. Everything we put into our bodies is what makes up our cells and therefore builds either a healthy and energised body or a tired and sluggish body. This food we eat is known as secondary food. Primary food is everything else that feeds our lives from our career and finances to our happiness and relationships. When something is out of alignment with our primary food, then our secondary food will be out of alignment as a result. In this case, the secondary food is the symptom (what we eat) and the primary food is the cause (what’s causing us to choose the foods we eat).
There are 12 areas of primary food that I look at with my clients and we work on each area to make sure they are nurturing all areas of their life. In this post, I wanted to share a few of those areas with you and why neglecting them might contribute or lead to ill health, poor nutrition choices and less vitality in your life.
Sleep is essential for optimum health. During sleep our internal organs rest and recover, our tissues repair, certain hormones are released and memory consolidation occurs. When you get enough sleep, your energy is increased, your immune system is strengthened, your mood improves and it reduces anxiety, irritability and burn out. You basically can’t function at your absolute best without good quality sleep.
Lack of good quality sleep can lead to poor food choices, perhaps an increase in calories during the day and therefore an increase in weight gain. You are also susceptible to increased stress responses throughout the day and therefore are not only at risk of burn out, but cardiovascular disease, hypertension and other chronic diseases. These are just a few of the health risks associated with a lack of sleep but you can already start to see how this could cause a number of health and nutrition related issues.
Today, many of us wear ‘stress’ as a badge of honour. We think that by being constantly busy, we are somehow more worthy and more successful. Stress, very much like the lack of sleep, can lead to an increase in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, it can cause a lowered libido and irritable mood (affecting many relationships) and poor food choices – not to mention disturbed sleep as well!
When we are stressed, the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline are released into the body depending on what situation we are facing. Adrenaline and noradrenaline are the ‘fight or flight’ hormones and cortisol is what many refer to as the ‘famine’ or ‘fat storing’ hormone. This may lead to poor food choices, an increased intake of added sugars, increased intake in calories and this may lead to conditions such as type 2 diabetes and obestity.
We were born to move our bodies. Our ancestors were on the go all the time and led very active lifestyles. With the increase in road transportation and sedentary lifestyles, we are not moving as much as we probably are meant to. The government recommends 150 minutes of exercise per week – that’s simply 30 minutes of exercise, 5 days a week.
There are so many benefits of physical activity such as improved mental health, mood, heart health, bone density, hormone regulation, sleep and so much more!
I think one of the most common things I hear when it comes to physical activity is the assumption that being active means going to the gym, doing a HIIT class, joining cross fit or becoming a kale loving yogi! That’s not what physical activity is about at all. Yes, if you love doing those things, then by all means keep going to your weekly Zumba or Pilates class, but if not then simply get more active. Walk for half an hour a day, play with your kids in the park, go for a swim in the ocean, get off the bus 2 stops early and walk the rest of the way home. There are so many ways of keeping physically active that don’t involve investing in the most expensive sports bra or joining a gym.
Simply move your body. When your body is stagnant so are your energy levels and mood. It can actually lead to a decrease in your overall productivity (perhaps affecting your work, career and relationships) and a decline in your mental health – again, not to mention the impact that may have on your physical health!
Human beings are social creatures – although some of us may benefit from more alone time than others, we all crave love and belonging. One of the commonalities of all the Blue Zones (If you haven’t heard of them then I highly recommend you check it out!) is that sense of belonging and community. The Blue Zones look into the keys into longevity and social life is definitely one of them.
Having an active social life and filling your life with loving relationships, not only helps to fulfil that need to belong, but it also gives you a sense of purpose. Loneliness can contribute to poor mental health, increased mental and physical ageing as well as poor physical health – for example, if you’re stuck at home and don’t have anywhere to be, then you’re body isn’t moving as much in the fresh air as someone who goes on daily walks with their neighbour. Remember that your relationships are alive and therefore need nurturing. Look at the close relationships in your life and consider if they need a little TLC.
Many of us go to work with the intention of earning a living rather than focusing on living that life. Depending on where you are in your career, you might either be completely fulfilled and loving every second of your job or you might simply resent turning up to work every day. The problem with the latter, is that if you’re in a full-time job, you’re spending half the time you’re awake every day, hating what you do. You can already see how that would add to your levels of stress and take away from your sense of purpose and fulfilment.
Then there’s finances – on some level, this is something that causes many of us stress and anxiety – again, think about how stress can impact our overall health and wellbeing. In this case, stress might actually be the symptom and the cause is either your career, finances or both.
Getting on top of your finances and looking at your life from a place of abundance is the first step to financial freedom. Aside from that, when it comes to feeling fulfilled in your career, choose to look at the positives over the negatives and change your mind-set. If that seems too big an ask, then choose to focus on your life outside of work and don’t let how you feel about work filter into other areas of your life.