Just as food is needed for the body, love is needed for the soul.
The Circle of Life is a tool that is used in the Health Coaching Program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition: it focuses on primary food – not only the food you put on your plate, but all the dimensions of life that affect our health.
Joshua Rosenthal, founder of the Institute, addresses these in chapter 7, “Primary Food,” of his book Integrative Nutrition: A Whole-Life Approach to Health and Happiness:
We hunger for play, fun, touch, romance, intimacy, love, achievement, success, art, music, self-expression, leadership, excitement, adventure, and spirituality. All of these elements are essential forms of nourishment. When we create nourishing lives for ourselves, then we are truly living a fulfilling life.
The areas of primary food are Creativity, Finances, Career, Education, Health, Physical Activity, Home Cooking, Home Environment, Relationships, Social Life, Joy and Spirituality. Some of these areas of our lives may be complete, while others may feel deficient. We may feel comfortable in some of these categories and insecure in others. Perhaps we are satisfied with the level of education that we have attained in life, but don’t feel secure about our financial status in anticipation of retirement. Do we have an outlet for our creative expression or our spirituality? Is a state of joy present in our lives or is it missing?
Health is multidimensional, and so we all have ongoing concerns to address. Are we getting enough physical activity? Are you in a career that satisfies you, or do you think you need to make a change? Does retirement satisfy you? Are you connected to a community or relying primarily on social media? Are we in positive relationships? Is our home environment comfortable and safe? How are your at-home cooking projects going, or do you find that you order in or go out to eat more often?
In my conversations with so many clients and colleagues, it became clear that many of us suffered during the beginning and worst stages of the pandemic. Social distancing affected our social lives and, in some cases, our relationships. We used FaceTime and Zoom in our personal space and work environment. I know I found it very stressful, perhaps less now that I have developed and grown accustomed to coping strategies and the convenience of using Zoom for business.
There were relationship changes and losses that occurred during the pandemic that resulted in deep sorrow for me. I couldn’t kiss and hug my little two-year-old granddaughter – she was allowed to hug me around the knees, but she didn’t understand why I couldn’t pick her up and cuddle her. It made her sad, and it made me sad, and it altered our physical closeness for a long time.
My mother’s death in October 2020 was a time of great grief for our family. During the pandemic, I could not risk traveling to her funeral. I watched on my iPad as she received the last rites of her Roman Catholic faith. Zoom meetings, organized by my brothers and sister, brought relatives from all over the world together for her wake and her funeral. I wrote her obituary and sent a blanket of orchids and white roses, but I wasn’t there to hold her in her last moments. Although I will be forever grateful to my siblings that they were physically present for her, I still carry the pain of this loss.
During the pandemic, there was an increase in drinking alcohol, eating comfort foods, and putting on pounds. It was even joked about in the media – the sheer number of people baking sourdough bread — and you could count me in! I made everything from scratch – even French fries. My health suffered: I gained another 20 pounds and my bone density declined with less exercise. I was not alone. So many of us are still recovering from the effects of three years of Covid-19 – either from the disease itself or the havoc it wrought on our lives.
On a positive note, I was able to turn my ship around. To date, I have lost 80 pounds since March 2022. I work out daily. I’ve embarked on a new career out of retirement. My husband and I celebrated our 52nd Wedding Anniversary. My grandchildren continue to be a source of joy and fulfillment, baking holiday cookies and painting eggs, and we attend every trumpet and ballet recital and soccer game that we can.
The food on my plate is minus the sugar and simple carbohydrates, but I have explored so many foods and new recipes – like the meal consisting of cauliflower steaks roasted with olive oil, olives, parsley, salt and pepper, sauteed spinach, and baked sockeye salmon. Flavor brings satiety. My energy and stamina have increased, and I feel better than I have in decades.
Are there areas in my life that seem incomplete? Yes, I need to make more time for friends and travel and community beyond social media. I continue to work on my health in the areas of bone density and root causes of inflammation. I am working along with my cohort of clients as we explore all the dimensions of our health concerns as well as the primary foods that affect our lives.
Please download the attached file and follow the instructions to place yourself where you are with respect to the 12 primary foods. Connect the dots to see where your satisfaction is greater and which areas may need your attention. Try it out every few months, as things will change.
Life is good. Nourish yourself.
♥ Susan L. Ward
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach