SOUL FOOD

Feeling good has a lot to do with what we eat. But it begins with forging the right mindset.

By Rose Nyad Orrell

 

Eating right all the time and working out five days a week is supposed to position you for a long, healthy life. Yet, there you are: stressed and stuck in a rut.

From my perspective as a certified holistic health practitioner, the concept of wellness has been rewritten to suit our goal-oriented nature. Eat this many calories, exert this much energy and none of the rest really matters. But it does. And so does our approach. Balance is key. There’s no one-size-fits-all regimen when it comes to achieving a sound mind and body. But there is a blueprint.

 

Back to basics

Over recent years, our diets have grown increasingly acidic. The most common culprits: fried and processed foods, sugar, dairy, white flour, coffee and alcohol. What they do is trigger inflammation. When that happens often enough, it’s no longer your body’s healing response but its natural state. And when you’re inflamed all the time, you open yourself up to a host of ailments. Tip the balance back in favor of alkaline foodstuffs—veg; most fruit, including blueberries, dates and apples; and certain whole grains, like quinoa and amaranth—in the neighborhood of 80 percent and your body will regain its sensitivity.

 

In defense of bacteria

Probiotics are getting a lot of play these days, but they’re being sold as a cure-all because it accommodates our pared-down version of wellness. In a healthy body, think of the intestines (a.k.a. the gut) as the engine and the probiotics, the fuel. They facilitate the growth of good bacteria, which primes the intestines to more easily breakdown and absorb food. And the more efficient the operation, the stronger the body’s immune system becomes. However, indulge too often in pizza, fried chicken and gelato and the intestines become gunked up with bad bacteria (yes, there are two kinds), which hampers digestion and weakens our immunity. Simply countering that with the occasional Greek yogurt is like trying to cool off by standing in a puddle. Start by eating more alkaline foods, then begin incorporating live-cultured things, like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and fermented coconut water. With the foundation already in place, the good bacteria will be free to flourish.

 

Peek under the hood

Our bodies have the incredible ability to adapt—as long as we get out of our own way. The point of the first two steps is lost if they feel like a chore. After all, true wellness, as it’s described by the World Health Organization, is “a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” Read: This is always going to feel like a work in progress, but a sound mind will keep it feeling like this is the way it should be, rather than this is the way it has to be.

We tend to suppress our emotions so we can deal with them at a later time, when we’re better equipped. Which, of course, never happens. When it goes on long enough, this inner turmoil starts to manifest in physical symptoms. If you’ve been bothered by a persistent ache, or worse, consider what you’re harboring and start to work it out.

And sometimes the sources of our stress are obvious—a dead-end career, a neglected marriage—but no easier to deal with. Change can feel incredibly daunting, but for the same reason we dread it—it’ll change the landscape of our lives—it’s also the single-most empowering act we’re capable of. And in order for this to have any permanence, bold moves are required.

 

Rose Nyad Orrell is a New Hope-based certified holistic health practitioner.