Over the last two months, my perception of nutrition has altered in two ways. The first being that while food certainly is necessary to thrive, it is not the only thing that nourishes us. In fact, through the foundations of the Institute for Integrated Nutrition I have disocvered the term primary food, coined by Joshua Rosenthal. Primary food is composed of four things: Relationships, Career, Physical Activity, and Spirituality. The example Rosenthal gives is that as a child, we are constantly reminded that it is time to eat. We find ourselves so engaged in play, that we forget to eat. At 24, this seems quite foreign to me as I pretty much plan my entire day around the foods I am eating. Partly because I am health foodie, but also because society encourages us to “live to eat.” However, it is significant to understand that when we are engaged and fulfilled in these 4 areas, we eat to live. We eat because we know that if we don’t we cannot fully participate in our primary food. Thus, the actual act of consuming energy (calories) is considered secondary food.
The second alternation comes from a nutritional concept called Flexible Dieting. I became intrigued by FD in January, however I remained skeptical. I spent about a month reading articles that both supported and opposed FD and looking at FD athletes and their stories. While the concepts has a bad rep, I have found it to be extremely beneficial for me both physically and mentally. The assumption is that Flexible Dieters eat whatever they want as long as it fits within their macronutrients (protein, carbs, and fats). However, athletes know that when they consume a diet rich in whole foods they feel better and they perform better. The exception is that Flexible Dieters are given the freedom to incorporate foods that a “clean eater” has deemed off-limits. I consumed a clean diet for the last two years. However, I definitely developed binging habits. I would eat perfectly all week and then would consume an entire small pizza, a row of Oreos, and a plate of nachos on my “cheat day.” My body would be so caught off guard that I would not only be depressed the next day, but physically ill…and the cycle continued. This is something that is very common for our extremist society. We do not know how to do things in moderation. Over the last month, I have lost 7 pounds while consuming 200-300 more calories a day, doing less cardio, and incorporating foods like poptarts and Oreos along with whole foods. I know that immediately before and after my workout, my body benefits from consuming simple carbohydrates like a Poptart. However, I also know that I feel fuller and have more prolonged energy after consuming a meal that consists of sweet potato, chicken, and asparagus.
The human body is an amazing organism. When we are sick, our bodies purge the toxins and create antibodies to defend against the illnesses’ return. When we lift weights and tear apart our muscles, our bodies repair them and adapt them so that they are stronger for the next workout. On a daily basis our bodies heal themselve.
Until we learn to nourish them physically, emotionally, and mentally instead of punish them, we will never discover our full potential. Eat to live. Do not live to eat.