Holistic Nutrition is the practice of a natural healthy lifestyle, integrating and improving all aspects of your life: physical health, emotional health, and mental well-being.
I have always had a great love of food. It has been something that I look to for comfort. Gathering with friends and family for a nice meal is a wonderful way to socialize. I also come from a long line of food lovers and talented cooks. Years ago my relationship with food was not serving me well. I grew up eating very nutritious whole foods, but my diet also included foods that were not actually that healthy, like milk, orange juice, white bread, pasta, and processed foods that contained substantial amounts of hidden sodium and sugar.
As I got older I began to develop health issues. I was very lethargic, struggling to focus in school, and eventually diagnosed with ADD. My doctor prescribed a drug named Concerta, and though it helped me focus in school, the side effects were troubling. I had difficulty sleeping, nausea, and loss of appetite. I felt awkward and antisocial, and I wasn’t happy.
By the time I was in University my anxiety and depression were overwhelming. My moods alternated between incredibly high and despairingly low. I again experienced difficulty focusing, and keeping up with the demands of my coursework. I was prescribed Xanax for my anxiety, but was constantly drowsy and never had a clear head. I would drink Redbull and, like most university students, I would also drink alcohol regularly.
I was eventually prescribed anti-depressants. Everything that I was putting into my body had side effects. Although each medication or substance temporarily helped me with one issue, the side effects caused other issues. I didn’t discuss my concerns with anyone. I just wanted to feel “normal”. I believed that as long as I was listening to my Doctors and taking the pills everything would be under control, but that was not the case. At the age of twenty-two, I was already dependent on five types of medication, and didn’t feel better. What would come next?
I knew that I needed a change. I began to reevaluate my life. Was I not able to focus because I had no interest in, or passion for what I was doing? Everyone has strengths in different areas, maybe I was not being true to my strengths. I asked myself some crucial questions – What do I want? What makes me happy? How can I make a difference? Who can I help? What is my passion?
The first thing that I needed to do was get healthy and clear my mind. I needed to regain my physical, emotional, and spiritual balance.
I began by focusing on nutrition as a means of healing my body and restoring my vitality. I stopped taking all of the pills. Initially I felt lost, but in a way I was found. It took willpower, but I convinced myself that I would SWEAT IT OUT. I needed the toxins out of my system so that I could think with a clear head again. I read about exercise releasing happy endorphins and dopamine. I was always cooking for my friends in university, and I loved everything about it- I loved to grocery shop, go to every market I could, create recipes, cook the food, and make the presentation beautiful and the flavors pop! I cooked myself into shape, eliminating unnecessary fillers from my diet and replacing them with whole, nutrient dense foods. Because my energy level increased I started going to the gym everyday, practicing yoga at least 3 times a week, and rollerblading for hours on my days off in the summer. I started to feel alive again, strong and clear headed.
Now that I was feeling healthy and in control again, I could refocus on the big questions – What is my calling in life? What can I do with my University degree? Can I do something meaningful? I wanted to help people. I wasn’t going to do that at the corporate job that I had started after graduation.
As cliché as it sounds, I decided to leave my position in the city, and travel. I wanted to go on a food journey, to discover what really inspired me. The fact that I went with my Mom made the trip all the more special and memorable. We share a passion for food and good wine. We were excited to experience different cultures, their traditional dishes, the new and exotic tastes, smells, and textures!
We started in Portugal then traveled to Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Amsterdam, staying in beautiful small towns and large vibrant cities along the way! I tasted everything I possibly could, I was a food critic, I was a chef, I cooked, I paired my food with beautiful wines, I took advantage of every day and tried every cuisine that I could. After a few months in Europe, we decided that our last destination should be somewhere exotic. After going to a Thai restaurant in Amsterdam I knew where that would be!
Thailand, and especially a small island off the coast, was so full of life, different sounds and smells, intense flavors, and beautiful weather! I went for runs on the beach, practiced yoga, swam, and ate fresh Thai food every day. I was farther away from home than I had ever been, but had never felt so in touch with myself. I was ready to go home and take control of my life. I love to tell people how I changed my life through food. What I eat now and what I cut out from my diet has contributed to my emotional and physical well-being. I no longer need to self-medicate, or binge drink to have fun. I found joy in a healthy lifestyle, and get great satisfaction from helping people find the same balance that I did. I went back to school and am now certified as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. I teach other people about my love for holistic nutrition, how to incorporate it into their own lives, and how important a balanced lifestyle is.
What was it that finally made me happy? Learning how to help other people find their way, just like I did, through the practice of Holistic Nutrition.