The FIRE

The FIRE

This month I want to introduce you to the FIRE Aspect of Health (and Self) as per the concept of Food and Spirit™. We will slowly be working our way through each Aspect, though I have more “generic” explanations is the pipeline! I am gradually weaving the concept of Food and Spirit into my way of practicing, focusing more and more on helping people specifically with struggles around food and emotional eating.  

Having spoken to people in interviews about this over the past weeks, have given me further insights. Food and eating can be so complicated sometimes… And when it is, it can become all-consuming and very draining too. A real energy sucker, that’s for sure. I know, because I have been there.

 

Fire Aspect as per Food & Spirit

So with that in mind, lets dive into the FIRE Aspect. This Aspect is all about, digestion, energy, thoughts and transformation.

I think that the FIRE Aspect is where most people can easily recognise their own imbalances. We live in such an incredibly fast paced society, and it seem to be increasing by the minute. Faster internet, shorter attention-span…

We consume more added sugar than ever, which means quicker energy into the body. We often relay on easier and more convenient ways to eat, whilst we take less time to stop and enjoy it. We always seem to be going somewhere, doing something. We’re encouraged to think BIG. Do more. BE more. And sometimes it begins to feel like we’re on this never stopping merry-go-around…

Visualise a burning fire. If you pour petrol on it you will have a big blaze, but it will burn out quiet quickly. This is us when we are living the fast paced lifestyle. We don’t have time to plan or shop, let alone cook meals from scratch. We crave sugar, which is natural because the stress hormone cortisol is tied in with the liver and pushes blood sugar levels up. So we eat more sugar. Of course it’s just so super easy to do, because all the added sugar tends to hangout / hideout in processed convenience foods. And as you know, eating healthy on-the-go is like an (almost) non existent option. Ever paused to notice what’s on offer in every petrol station and corner shop? Unless you bring your own food with you, making healthier choices when on the road is so hard.

When the blood sugar drops, we get low in energy and to pick us up we fuel up with caffeine and / or something sweet and the roller coaster ride continues. I actually wrote a more in-depth article about it for Workout Empire here . 

What people also told me in these interview were, that when they would “cave in” and have something sweet / processed they said that they tend to start beating themselves up about it, or even obsessing about what they had or why they had it. Adding more stress and more fuel to the already blazing fire. And that leads us on to the part of the FIRE Aspect that’s connected to thoughts.

It’s estimated that we have between 50.000 – 60.000 thoughts per day. Luckily most of them are filtered out. However the thing is that, the ones we do tend to pay attention to are mostly the negative ones, which we play on repeat over and over. And other times we are so wrapped up in our minds and the speed of life that we don’t really pay attention at all. We hold such incredible power within when it comes to our thoughts. So much more, then we appreciate sometimes I think.

I’ve come to realise that this power can best be harnessed by working on changing our perception to what we are experiencing. (I was going to write either, or but to be honest I think changing our perception is really where it’s at). Changing our perception means that we are then empowered to take a different approach entirely, or respond to an event that’s happening to us with better clarity and this may mean not to take any action at all. Sometimes leaning in and experience the uncomfortableness or pain is (only) what it takes to let it pass, because it may just be a thought or feeling. Not an actual event that needs solving…

We really don’t have all that much control over what happens in life, as much as we like to think we do! But we have the power to choose how we respond and react to things that comes along. For me to release (and relish) this power it has to start with awareness. Without awareness, any kind of response will always be subconscious, out of an old established pattern and on autopilot. When I am aware; aware of the situation, aware of what I am feeling, aware of how these feelings feel in my body and aware that I now have an opportunity to decide for myself how I want to react and respond, that’s when I am empowered.

 

How does that old saying go?

 

“Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how we react to it”

 

From experience, I’ve found that sweeping things (feelings) “under the carpet” is not the way to go. They tend to show up in some other form at a later stage. And this is coming form someone who use to clean her room by simply sweeping everything on the desk into a drawer – to be dealt with later… How symbolic is that?

Luckily I have learnt a few things since I was 10… One of these being that when life is hard, as it is sometimes, the most efficient way of dealing with these hardships and curve balls is to not run, but to face them. And by not running, I mean from the emotions themselves. By all means if you realise that you are in a situation that is not serving your health and wellbeing, then use this realisation as away to muster up the courage you need to get out! (I’ve had a few of those too.)

So cut a long story short, we hold some tremendous power if we choose to harness our thoughts in a positive way. This doesn’t mean that you will always be happy and think positive thoughts though. I’m not sure that it’s even possible, natural nor necessarily healthy. But it will mean that YOU have the power to tune into how your thoughts are effecting how you feel, and with some awareness practice you will be able to pay more attention to which ones you want to fuel and feed, and which stories that you need to drop.

 

Nutrition Emotional Eating

The Digestive System is also included under the FIRE Aspect of Health. It makes sense as our digestive system is where the assimilation of the food we eat happens. This is the system where what we take in from the outside world is transformed into fuel and energy for our cells, which in turn make sure that our bodies function as a whole.

If you have, or have ever had, issues with your digestive system you know how it can take over your entire life. When it’s functioning well we don’t worry about it or hardly notice it at all. But, boy when it doesn’t function, is it ever present on your mind! As a Nutritional Therapist, it has been drilled into me from the start that all health / disease originates in the gut. Gut health is the place to start, with almost everything, regardless if your patient is presenting with mood / mind symptoms or if there’s an autoimmune condition going on. Why? Because it’s all connected. (If you’d like some help to sort your digestive system out, then please feel free to contact me)

In the past few years, research has also intensified on what is going on within our digestive system, particularly when it comes to intestinal health and the bugs that live there. These organism are called Microbiota and their collective genes are called Microbiome. It turns out that we have MORE microorganisms living in our digestive tract than the amount of cells we’re made up of. So who’s the host really?

As research is emerging we are beginning to understand, not only who these guys effect the digestive process, but also how they can influence other areas of our health, such as cognition, mood, immunity and skin. I even recently heard at a conference that our microbiota is the first line defense when it comes to detoxification(!) So we need to mind these dudes. Best thing to do is; to reduce stress load, reducing added sugar and intake of processed foods and to make sure that they get fed their preferred fuel, which happens to be good for the rest of our bodies in general to. The preferred fuel? Colourful wholesome fruit and vegetables!

 

How to deal with stress

 

So how you can keep your FIRE nicely fueled whilst preventing it from burning out? Here are three tips and take aways that you can put into practice straightway!

 

 1. Food – Do a food inventory. How much added sugar are you consuming? What colour is the food on your plate? Is it full of colour from the rainbow or is it mostly brown / yellowish foods dominating the picture? Is your food representing a symbolic “burnt out” state of you?

Focus on adding more warming spices like ginger and turmeric which are also bright yellow. And other spices like cinnamon and cardamom which support blood sugar balancing and digestive health. And add more brightly coloured yellow fruits and vegetables to your diet too. This soup from last month is a great place to start!

 

2. Eating – Are you eating to pick yourself up when you feel tired? Are you eating on the go? Do you eat when you are stressed? Once you have gathered some awareness around what your eating habits look like, try to counter act it by carving out at least one meal a day where you take your time to fully engage with your meal. Slow down, smell it, tastes it and chew it! You will most likely be more satisfied and may even eat less as a result. And I can guarantee you that your digestive system will thank you too!

You can pick up my Food & Emotion Log here if you need some help to get clear on this.

 

3. Lifestyle – Do an energy inventory. This exercise is one of my favourites from Food & Spirit™.

Divide a piece of paper in two. In one column write down anything that gives you energy. People, places, foods and activities. If it feels a little hard, stay with it for a bit and try to dig deep. Make it as exhaustive as you can.

Then on the other side, make another list of everything that takes your energy. Again make it as exhaustive as you can.

Now compare the two lists and imagine that you only have one pool of energy to draw from. Where would you rather spend your energy? It might not be possible to let go of all the energy drainers, but see where it actually is possible to make a change. As well as that, see what you need to do more of! Balance is always where it’s at.

I love this quote (not sure who said it) when it comes to energy and life balance.

 

“If we are not willing to spend our energy on creating what we want, we will have to spend it on what we get.”

 

P.S I’ve included a picture of my dog Ojay as he’s one of my greatest ways of balancing my stress & FIRE Aspect!

The FLOW

The FLOW

This month I will talk about the Aspect of FLOW. This Aspect of Health as according to the concept of Food & Spirit™ is the second Aspect and is represented by the colour Orange, (my least favourite colour) it’s connected to the reproductive organs and thus it involves fertility, sexuality and partnerships of two. 

The FLOW is where we tie in the emotional and the creativity parts of ourselves.

From a physiological perspective, this Aspect covers the bladder, the kidneys and our pelvis area (which holds all these vital organs as well as the reproductive organs). The large intestine is also included here. In fact constipation can be considered a FLOW complaint. Thing are “stuck” and not moving through. Often people who experience constipation may be holding on to some underlying unresolved emotional issues too.

When we talk about foods to nourish the FLOW we talk about water, healthy fats, fish (water), nuts and seeds (healthy fat), orange coloured foods and tropical foods (which usually have a high water content).

chakra-info_Flow-page-001

 

Out of all the 7 Aspects this one is very symbolic (well they all are really, but this one more than some others, I think) and perhaps looking at it in this light makes it easier to remember. Fats, and oils in particular are fluid. Water is fluid and flowing. Our kidneys and bladder is in control of the water regulation in our bodies, and we need healthy fats for healthy cells, healthy reproductive organs and of course essential fatty acids can have a positive impact on our emotions too. Our brain is made up of fat so we certainly need it!

Let’s talk about emotions. Or perhaps calling them e-motions would be better. Well at least it would be better for us if we could just let them flow through rather than getting stuck in them. Easier said than done though… Have you ever had someone say something to you which made you all upset, only to have the scenario playing on repeat in your head, over and over afterwards? I know I have.

Or like how we are often taught or perhaps even told as kids that showing our emotions makes us vulnerable. So rather than letting our tears flow, we try to keep it all in, putting on a brave face trying to get on with things. This may work for sometime but it usually comes back and bites us in another way, sometimes in form of dis-ease and other times as cravings or even outburst of anger if one feels like it’s all over-flowing. And if we don’t let it out in one way or another and instead shut it all off, try to bury it we will also close the door on all the positive emotions to flow through too. This is something Brené Brown talks a lot about in her books. She says ” You cannot selectively numb one emotion. If you shut off one, you shut them all off.”

I think we all have our own “numbing tools” for some it may be drugs or alcohol, for others it’s food, whereas others use busyness, shopping or perhaps even excessive exercising. Anything to take that edge of feeling, when it’s too painful to feel. And sometimes we need to do that, just to survive. The problem is when this becomes something we do all the time. We’re feeling sad, mad, bad or angry upset or any other kind of negative emotion that hurts. It’s not a nice place to be. So we use whatever seems appropriate to take the edge off.

For me, my drug of choice was food. Looking back I’m not sure that when it all started, it was something that I was even aware of that I was doing. I was stuck in a situation which left me feeling sad, hopeless and stuck. And as I couldn’t see a way out at the time, I used food as a way to numb things. I actually think it started off as a subconscious act. To take the edge off.

The thing is though, that if we keep numbing ourselves we are also shutting off the ability to let the light in. To be able to feel happiness and joy. And the other side of the coin is that usually the drugs of choice; food and alcohol at least, also effects our nervous system so from a biochemical perspective we become even more susceptible to feelings of low mood and even depression. A vicious cycle in other words.

Healthy Fats

 

Let’s talk about cravings. So many times we eat for other reasons than physical hunger. Many times we eat for purely emotional reasons. I know, because I spent a long time doing just that. It took a long time to wean myself off the impulse of eating just because I was feeling. And I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one having had this experience either… I’ve seen so many women, but also men, doing the same thing in my clinical practice. It can be an utterly debilitating experience. Stuck in this stuffing-our-emotions-down-with-food cycle.

So what did I do to finally break the cycle and to step off the merry-go-around? I wish I could tell you that I met someone who just waved their magic wand and it was all easy peasy ever after… Not really. But I am here to tell you that it can be done. I’ve done it myself and I’ve coached others to the path of doing the same.

For me the first step was to decide that I no longer wanted to be where I was at. I finally had enough. Let’s call this part acknowledgement. After that, I bought a day-to-day diary and started to write down everything I ate and drank every day, with a few notes to how I was feeling, on occasion. When I started my food diary, I didn’t actually change anything I was doing. In the beginning I simply just wrote. And with my best ability I tried to be as non-judgmental as I could towards myself too. If you’ve never done a seriously to-the-core honest food diary, then I urge you to try it. There are so many things and so many times we eat without paying attention. At. All.

This became my first step to cultivate awareness. I believe that without this kind of insight into what was truly going on, there would have been no possibility of longterm, sustainable change. After all I had already tried numerous diet plans and systems, which  I could never stick to. From my new found awareness I finally had a place from where I could start making conscious decisions. This is true power, or empowerment. Once you are aware, every single choice you make is your own. No more driving on autopilot! Perhaps this seems like a scary place to be. But this is where trust comes in. Trust to know that you are capable of making the best food choices for you. Trust that even if you make a choice that you think you may regret later, (and even if you do regret it) you just put trust in that it was a great learning opportunity.

Trust that with this kind of empowerment comes freedom.

 

Then there’s the emotion and feeling side to the equation of course. If we are to be able to let our feelings flow through, we need to trust that they will do just so. I love reminding myself of the saying “this too shall pass”. Or what the renowned father of Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) John Kabat-Zinn says “Breath and let be”.  It serves as a reminder that we don’t need to act or re-act to everything we experience. Sometime the best thing to do is to just stay with the uncomfortableness rather than trying to fix it. And when you stay there, you will realise that just like after rain, sunshine always follows. But we must trust that it does, even if in the beginning we don’t necessarily believe that it is so.

 

the FLOW as in food & Spirit

 

So how can we express our emotions in a more healthy way, so that they don’t become stuck and stagnant causing issues in our body and with our health? Creativity! “But I’m not an artist or very artistic”, I hear you say. Something the majority of us will say in fact. Followed by “I don’t have time for that.”  Taking time out of our busy, hectic life for some creativity is a bit like schedule in exercise, it is necessary for our health and it serves as a way of refueling the tank, which give you more energy to do all your “must-dos”.  Have you noticed all the adult colouring books that seems to be on display everywhere? Someone somewhere is obviously on to something…

And don’t limit your thinking to that being creative is just about writing, painting / drawing or singing and dancing. If none of those are calling your name, then why not get creative in the kitchen, or in the garden? Or go build something with your hands. I was pondering this the other day and though of my dad and brother. They may not being good at drawing or “art” but they are certainly creative as they both love making and building things. They have already built a house and is on to the second one!

In my book, anything that you do which will take you to a state of bliss, to a place where you forget time and space and where you exist solely in the here and NOW, a state of utter FLOW – use that as your creativity.

 

passion fruit the flow

 

This month I invite you to take some time to nourish your FLOW. Here are three ways you can do it:

1. Food – Focus on incorporating healthy fats into your daily diet in form of avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil or any other coconut product. Eat some fish (oily fish will give you a two-in-one), if you eat fish. And of course try to get as wide a variety of orange coloured foods as you can in too!

 

2. Eating – Try paying attention to if you are eating out of physical hunger or if you are eating for emotional reasons. A great question you can ask yourself everytime you reach for food is “Why do I want it?”. Some of the answers that come up may surprise you!

 

3. Lifestyle – Get creative! What does creativity mean to you? How can you get some more FLOW and creativity in your everyday life? Put your hands in the dirt, bring out a paint brush, try a new recipe, use your camera, or perhaps buy one of those mandala colouring books. Do whatever it take so get those creative juices flowing! You will be duly rewarded – it comes in the form of joy 🙂

 

Oh and if you don’t believe me or want to take my word for how important it is to bring some creativity back into our lives (for those of us who may have gotten sidetracked on this one) then have a listen to THIS AMAZING podcast.

HOW ARE YOU GOING TO CREATE SOME MORE FLOW IN YOUR LIFE? PLEASE SHARE WITH ME BELOW!

I’d love to know 🙂

 

If  you are curious to see how balanced the Seven different Aspects of You are, Sign up below and take the Questionnaire!