When it comes to health, how you feel is arguably just as important as what you eat. How are you feeling today? When was the last time someone gave you a hug? Is work taking over your life? Are you getting enough sleep? Do you have a creative outlet? Are your finances under control? All too often, on a quest for health, we focus solely on our diet and exercise, in turn ignoring these vital influences in our lives.
These aspects fall under the term primary food, which the Institute of Integrative Nutrition describes as follows: “Primary food is more than what is on your plate. Healthy relationships, regular physical activity, a fulfilling career and a spiritual practice can fill your soul and satisfy your hunger for life. When primary food is balanced and satiating, your life feeds you, making what you eat secondary.” Indeed, failing to work on your emotional, mental, and spiritual wellbeing will impact your lifestyle choices and – eventually – your physical and overall health.
Maybe you snack on cakes and biscuits at work because you’re not satisfied or challenged in your career. Or maybe you skip breakfast in the morning because you aren’t getting quality sleep at night. Not only that, but you also struggle to wake up on time. To make matters worse, you’re spending all your money on dining out when you should really be cooking fresh food at home.
It’s really easy, and unfortunately incredibly common, to beat yourself up when you’re not making healthy choices. As a result, you end up resorting to restrictive diets that are difficult to stick to. This inevitably causes you to fall off the wagon and revert back to square one. While you may hit the gym (hard) every day for a week, you might give up when you realize you can’t stick to your unsustainable plan. Clearly, this cycle is not good for you in any way and doesn’t actually tackle the root cause of your issues.
When trying to make beneficial lifestyle changes, begin with truly loving yourself. By thoroughly thinking about why you are eating poorly and making small, long-lasting changes gradually, you could very easily find that the sustainable healthy lifestyle you’re craving will start to fall into place all by itself. Below is a very useful and simple tool that can help you evaluate how you are doing in the primary food areas of your life.
To use the chart, place a dot on the line to represent your level of satisfaction in each area, with dots placed towards the center being the areas of your life you’re least happy about and the dots placed closer to the outside edge being the areas of your life you’re most satisfied with. Next, connect the dots to identify where you need to concentrate your time and energy.
Explore, Experiment, Evaluate
The key to achieving a healthy lifestyle is to spend some time delving into your emotional wellness and really thinking about the steps you could take to make a lasting, positive change in your life. When it comes to health and wellness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, so it’s important to think about your needs and what would work best for your individual situation.
Discussing your results with someone who is a good listener is a useful next step and a great way to start organizing your thoughts. As a health coach, I work with clients by discussing all aspects of their health, including their diet, relationships, physical activity, career, and social life. Together, we talk about the areas they need to concentrate the most on depending on their individual concerns.
When making these changes, don’t forget to regularly track your progress and adjust your actions and priorities accordingly. With enough time and effort, you’ll be on your way to a more sustainable lifestyle that benefits your mind, body, and spirit.