Earlier this week, I gave a nutrition talk, covering a few out-of-the-box ways to think about healthy eating (which I will share with you soon), as well as answer the biggest questions people ask me about eating healthy. This talk definitely got me thinking about food and nutrition, but it also made me think about all the other components of our health that we often forget to address or don’t even know are important pieces.
The truth is there are many other crucial aspects to health, other than food, that are super important to living a healthy and happy life. These are called Primary Foods. Healthy eating is just one piece of the puzzle and in fact, it isn’t even considered a “Primary Food”. Primary Foods are the things that feed our soul or spirit or happiness factor or whatever term you wish to use. Primary Foods are the things that make us thrive and feel alive. They are the things that make us Flourish within our health. Healthy food is secondary to these.
The reason you might be inclined to start with your food, or maybe have been advised to focus on what you eat, is because it is the easiest thing to start with. You can see food, you can feel it, you can taste it – it appeals to more of your senses so it makes more sense to your body and brain. You can go to a store, find the food you were told to eat, pick it up with your hands, cook it, and eat it. These make it a little more concrete and easier to start with.
It is also just as easy to give up on, because healthy eating can be hard and it is just as easy to go to the store, pick up something less than healthy, smell it, taste it, and do it over again. This is why food is Secondary, not Primary. Primary foods are the things might be more abstract – you can’t necessary touch, see, or taste them – but they make your life worth living. Primary foods feel good on a deeper level, they nourish you fully and make you happier, which makes you more likely to stick to them.
So what are Primary Foods? How do they fit in your life? There are many Primary Foods that make up the entire picture of your health. Today, let’s focus on the main 5. You’ll discover what they are, as well as gain a few tools to start feeding your soul and really allow yourself to feel alive and Flourish.
Quick side note – I’m not going to talk about exercise today, because although this is a Primary food (not something you actually eat),you have heard plenty about the importance of exercise. To me, exercise and healthy eating go hand in hand, and while I do want to discuss exercise vs moving your body, let’s save it for another day. For today, I’m are sticking to the things that you might not think of as “health” related, but can make the biggest difference in your overall health and happiness.
5 Key Primary Foods to Feed Your Soul:
Career and Finances: If you hate what you do all day or don’t have enough to spend on the things you enjoy doing, your health and happiness will suffer.
With career and finances, it’s all about finding the balance. If you love your job, but don’t make enough money, you might be angry, stressed and upset about not being able to do the things you love. If you hate what you do for a living, but make plenty of money, you might resent doing the fun things, or grow stressed and sick at the thought of going to work each day.
I have been on both ends of the spectrum, and neither one is very fun.
The key is finding balance. If you are on the love what you do, but don’t make enough, look for ways to supplement both your cash flow and your fun. Maybe host a dinner party rather than a night out. Go to one concert rather than spend the summer traveling to multiple venues. Look for deals and discounts on the things you really enjoy, so you might be able to do them more often. Also, make sure you have a budget and stick to it. Just knowing what yo have can take the stress and pressure off of things. Then start to look for ways you can make more. Take classes if you need them, supplement your income for a while with side gigs, or consolidate some of your lifestyle without sacrificing what you love. Put the most important things first and let the rest come when it can.
If you are unsatisfied with your work, start to look for things you could do instead. What is your dream job? What do you love doing? If you could spend your days doing anything, what would it be? Brainstorm a few things and then research what it would take to do those things. Also, see what it is about them that you find appealing. You may find it isn’t the hobby or job, but the location or hours that you would love to have. A change of place or length of day, not necessarily the job itself, might be what you need to change. Then take a step towards making it happen. It’s not about changing everything overnight, but taking small steps to incorporate what you love into your life and letting it grow until you are ready to move forward.
Relationships: Relationship are a huge player in your overall happiness and health. When relationships go haywire, your health can soon follow.
If you are not happy in your relationships, whether friendship or romantic, you are more likely to feel unhappy with yourself. Lack in relationships can lead to being uncomfortable with who you are – because if you were different, they would like you, right? – and feeling alone. When you feel these two huge emotions, two things happen. You want to feel comfortable again and you want to not be alone. This is when you reach for another glass of wine, an extra sleeve of cookies, a tub of ice cream to self-soothe. These things momentarily make you feel happy again. They makes the feeling of alone, because you aren’t alone if you have Ben&Jerry with you, and they make you feel comfortable, because it is ingrained in use that food=comfort (and sometimes it can). The little binges lead to a small window where you don;t have to deal anymore.
Instead, straight up deal with it! Go to a yoga class spend some time enjoying being “alone”. Get a therapist or coach or family member or friend you can talk it out with. Talk to your romantic partner to let them know how you feel. They may be feeling the same which means maybe you work on it or maybe you part ways for the better. Reassess your friendships. As you grow, you may need to find new friends or find new ways to make friends. Set an action plan and tackle as you watch your relationships grow, your self-soothing balance out, and possibly your waistline shrink 😉
Creativity and Inspiration: Lack of creativity and inspiration in your life can lead to a very dangerous thing, called boredom.
Boredom is one of the main reasons we overeat, binge on Netflix, and sabotage our healthy habits. Boredom can zap you of any energy, which only spirals to more boredom and more energy zapping. This energy zap and lack of moving or thinking can lead to a huge decline in creativity and inspiration.
A slump in creativity and inspiration can be scarier than you think. If you aren’t feeling creative or inspired when you need it, you are likely to move and live on autopilot, just going through the motions. This can breed frustration which causes stress, stress builds and makes you feel bad, soon your joy starts to lack, and you find you are more of a shell than the real you.
Make a point to find things that inspire you – maybe a blog, a class, a friend, a book, an exercise, a hobby – and add it into your life whenever you can. Inspiration can come from anywhere, and the more inspired you are, the more creative you’ll feel and the less relevant boredom will become.
Home Environment: Coming home to a less cluttered home can make you feel relaxed, calm, and recharged after a long day at work or a hectic and busy day.
Even if you spend more time at the office or out on the town than you do at home, your home environment can play a big part in your overall health. Coming home to clutter after a long day at work or after a night out might seem fine at first, but after a few times, it can make you anxious. Knowing that you have clutter waiting for you can you stay away longer, as the clutter builds, or leave you stressed about finding time to keep things under control. You might find that taking one night off a week to straighten up, cleaning one small thing every day, or even hiring someone to come clean for you gives you more time to relax. This will give you less stress and a lot more happiness in the long run.
You might find yourself on the flip side of this, where you are at home most of your time. As someone who works from a home office, clutter and messiness are things that really get in my creative way. All I can think about is how I should be cleaning rather than whatever it is I am doing. Even if I leave the house, I know that coming home to a mess will be just as stressful as working in it. Normally, I am not a Type-A or a Clean Freak – my house is never spotless and it never will be. But if clutter and pure mess hit, creativity and inspiration are automatically sucked dry. If I’m not feeling the creative juices flowing, my work lacks, I get stressed to reach deadlines, and my work isn’t as amazing as I know it could be.
I make a point to do a few things throughout the day – taking a break from typing to get up and move, and maybe run the dishwasher; sweeping the floor before I workout; bringing down a load of laundry or sending a clean basket up before I head out the door for class; doing dishes immediately after making my meal. These things aren’t glamorous, but they make the rest of the day shine a little brighter.
Joy: Without joy, there is no happiness Without happiness, how can you be truly healthy?
Joy can come from many places – your job, your family, your friends, cooking food, moving your body, your hobbies, your school – and it is key to feeling healthy. You may have times where joy waivers and feels less, but if you are living joyous life, you know that these waves will come and go, leaving behind more joy in their wake. It’s when you feel an utter lack of joy that it can affect your health.
No joy can mean stress, depression, anxiety, and no energy. It will be harder to eat right, to move your body, and to enjoy and find nourishment in all your other Primary Foods.
If you feel joy being zapped, or an overall lack of it, try to do more of the things that bring joy into your life, while letting go of the things that don’t. Think of this as Self-Care, not selfishness. The more joy you feel, the healthier and happier you are, and the more you can love and care for others in your life and really make a difference in the world.
What is the biggest missing piece in your Primary Foods? Leave it in the comments below with one action step you plan to make today to start letting it flourish.
If you are looking to add more Primary Foods into your life, you can start with the Circle of Life Handout. This is a guide, used by The Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest nutrition school where I attended my Health Coach training. This handout can help you see where the lack is and where you can start working today, to find more Health and Happiness,
If you are looking for even more and a little help along the way, be sure to sign up for the 4-part Video Series, which will work through some of these, as well as introduce you to 21 Days to Flourish. This is my online program where you’ll go even deeper in to finding lasting health and happiness, so you can thrive and flourish in all areas of your life.
I can’t wait to “see” you there!