Tonight was "Family Night" - the only weeknight of the week we get to spend time together as a family. Jim works his second job 2 evenings a week, and the other 2 evenings he spends at his EMT class. So, on Wednesday nights, we get dinner and the 4 of us have a great time together, usually outside of the house so that we're not tempted by the never-ending beckoning of household duties. Tonight, while Jim and Emma played at the trampoline party place, William and I got some dinner at Core quick - a restaurant that's "focused on healthy, active lifestyles. [They] source food locally & make every meal from scratch." While Will housed his purple rice, corn, and mandarin oranges and I ate my beautiful Mediterranean falafel salad, this graphic poster caught my eye - "There is only one You. Be the best version of yourself." And it was then that it dawned on me - this is the basis of my motivation. Most of the decisions I make for myself revolve around this seemingly simple quote. It's my ultimate goal in life; my reason for living - to be the best version of myself. For myself, and for my family. And I've found that eating the right foods (among other lifestyle choices) helps me be that person.
I'll get to the food connection in a minute. First, let's get deep here. Although this realization finally came to the forefront while I sat there eating with William, it's a subject I've thought about vaguely from so many different angles, a million times over. And the biggest question I ask myself (although usually not in the form of an articulate question) is: How does someone even know what the best version of their "self" is, when in that moment, there's no other self to compare your "self" to? How do I really even know what my "best self" is? Well, there's always comparison of past "selves" of course - which happens to work out really great in my case, since I spent most of my 20's completely drunk, depressed, narcissistic, and self-sabotaging. But besides all that - how do you know? How can you tell that in this moment - right here, right now - you're your best self? There's a few measurements I go by, and just for extra zen-points, I'm going to write them as affirmations:
1. I am not reacting to other people and situations from a place of Ego. I am in control of the way I react to the world.
2. My thoughts are positive and healthy.
3. My emotions are calm, peaceful, and balanced
4. My behavior, based on my thoughts and emotions, is balanced, thoughtful, and kind.
5. Mindful choices are easier to make, because I feel good.
6. I make choices out of love and with others' well-being in mind, rather than out of fear and because I've met all my needs already.
And there you have it. That's how I measure my "best self". Am I 100% all of these things all of the time? Do I walk around all day like some sort of contemplative Buddha, completely calm and devoid of all emotion and attachment? Ha! No. Absolutely not. My passion and emotions are stronger than ever - but they're a LOT more productive than they used to be. It's all about an ability to be mindful. Not making decisions out of a cranky mood, not going from thing to thing (from food to food) out of craving or addiction or a need that I just can't put my finger on. And food has a huge impact on our emotions, thus, how mindful we're able to be.
How does food tie into all of this How does it effect our emotions? Sugar is addictive. It changes the way our brains and bodies function. Every time we overload our bodies with sugar and carbs, our blood sugar rises rapidly. When our blood sugar to too high (out of a balanced, healthy range), our bodies release stress hormones to lower our blood sugar - and when our blood sugar is lowered via this route (carbs, to high blood sugar), our bodies overshoot, and our blood sugar then falls too low. And how does the body try and raise the blood sugar again? It signals the brain to eat more sugar or starchy carbs! And so the cycle goes. When our diet is imbalanced with sugar and carbs (and caffeine!) we are literally living from sugar-affected mood to sugar-affected mood. And when we break those cycles, we free up space to be a little more mindful in our thoughts and actions (even a little bit helps!)...thus, leading to a better version of ourselves.
How has food had an impact on me? Without getting into the long, drawn-out details of my past, I will say this: I used to suffer from crippling panic attacks and agoraphobia. I don't anymore. In fact, my life is fuller than many other people's lives because of the time I spent in mind-prison, and my resulting new path of "making every moment count". My path toward mental health recovery didn't start with food - it started with an amazing therapist, a LOT of therapeutic work on my part (meditation, breathwork, EFT/tapping, yoga, essential oils, and many other strategies), a spiritual life and amazing group to worship with, and a LOT of unconditional support from my amazing family. Then, this past Spring, I finally focused on food. You know how sometimes you feel like there's something missing, and you can't quite put your finger on it? That's how I felt. By the time I'd made all sorts of progress and was discharged from therapy, I knew I felt better than I did before, but I just knew there was something more. I did a digestive cleanse through an essential oil company, which had amazing effects, and then I opened Kelly Brogan's book, "A Mind of Your Own". For 1 month, I ate nothing but lean protein, vegetables, a serving or two of fruit per day, nuts, seeds, healthy oils, and an occasional piece of dark chocolate. To put it simply, the effect on my emotions and behavior is ineffable. I try to put it into words, but words can never quite describe how I feel.
Nutritional Psychology changed my life, and I can honestly say that food is helping me be my best self. If you're reading this asking yourself, "Why does any of this matter?" consider this: When you're sick with the flu - actually even just the common cold - how well do you function? How do you talk to those around you? Your family? Do you keep conversations brief? Do you spend time relishing in the moment? Do you try to make every moment as good as you know you can make it? Do you "get into it" or do you "get out of it"? What about when you're tired? When you're in pain? We tend to accept, in ourselves and others, that its ok to take a break from "optimum functioning mode" when we're not tip-top, physically, but have you ever considered how what's going on with your thoughts, emotions, and behaviors may inhibit your relationships and day to day life? And besides, don't we all deserve peace and balance? To feel at ease and at home within ourselves? Now for the part that so incredibly hard to get other people to believe...Food has the power to change how we think and feel, and how well we function in the world, and I feel so lucky that I finally figured it out. I have the power to be my best self, to dictate my own life, and words cannot describe how good it feels.