by Janice Polansky, MS, MBA
Have you noticed the central role food plays in your life? From the time we are born, we develop a deep association linking food with emotions. From infants whose cries are answered with either their mother's breast or a bottle, we move through life linking food to emotions. We celebrate holidays, weddings, graduations, and promotions with food. We drown our sorrows, have power lunches, and look for aphrodisiac food to boost our sexual appeal. And who can forget the tears and lust created by food in the movie "Like Water For Chocolate"? We use food to express, suppress, and deal with love and many other emotions.
Is there any wonder we have so many mixed feelings about food? And experience so many extremes with food, including cravings, dieting, stuffing, fasting, gorging, starving, and the bingeing/purging of anorexia. Advertising barrages us with models and messages of how to achieve beauty and have a desirable figure and physique to be appealing and loved by women staying thin and men beefing up. We evaluate ourselves and base our feelings about ourselves on whether we control food - or feel controlled by our food cravings. Do we eat to live, live to eat, or eat as a way of coping with life?
Concerns about physical health, heart disease and cancer have increased awareness of the nutrients in our food - especially cholesterol, saturated fat, antioxidant vitamins - and the benefits of eating more of some foods and less of other foods. Yet in reality, the way America eats has changed little in recent years. Americans still use coffee to boost their energy and get started in the morning, and fast food burgers, fries, pizza, shakes and soft drinks to support busy, stress filled lives. We have too little time for ourselves or our loved ones, let alone time to cook - or stop and think, until we get sick.
How do you feel about the food you eat? In addition to these physical results that we try to achieve, food affects us in many mental, emotional, and spiritual ways which most people aren't aware of and don't connect the results with the food they eat. Have you considered whether your food is supporting you and how food affects your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health? Are you controlled by food, eating out of habit, or consciously eating to create the life you want? Let's explore how food affects you and your health - and how conscious eating can support your healing process and your creation of health and a dynamic, joyous life filled with energy and love.
Food is Life
Food provides us with more than the sum of its nutrients - protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Food is condensed and transformed energy. Eating is a way to extract life sustaining energy from food. When you eat, you process and absorb the forces of nature stored in your food. For example, plants store light through photosynthesis. Eating food releases the energies and nutrients stored in food for your body to absorb. In assimilating your food, the physical and energetic forces of your food interact with you on physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual levels - and in turn determine your health and the quality of your life.
What you choose to eat determines the quality of the nutrients and energy that you bring into your body. We are affected quite differently by fresh, whole, live, organic foods compared to processed foods containing the chemicals of artificial colors and flavors, preservatives, pesticides, hormones, and antibiotics. Think of the vital energy you get from organic foods which have either been freshly harvested or which can create a plant from the whole grain or legume when planted. In comparison, consider the energy you get in eating meat and processed foods which also give you pesticides, hormones, antibiotics, preservatives, and artificial flavors and colors.
In addition to digesting the food, our liver and kidneys must work harder to process all these chemicals in meat and processed food compared to organic food. Furthermore, when you eat meat, you take in the animal's energy, including the energy of how it was raised and the fear and trauma from being slaughtered.
The American Diet
Other common foods not only bring you poor quality energy, but deplete instead of provide nutrients, resulting in many people who are malnourished while being overweight. Sugar, caffeine, white flour, and artificial and junk food are illusions of real food with little nutritional value that bring artificial energy into your body. Sugar, caffeine, and stress contribute to the hypoglycemia and adrenal exhaustion that occurs in 70-90% of individuals in the United States. Sugar and caffeine create repeated temporary bursts followed by crashes in your energy as your body tries to handle the extreme effects of these foods on your blood sugar, pancreas, and adrenal glands. Your energy is also drained in eating refined white sugar and white flour because they are devoid of minerals, vitamins, fiber, and water - they take these from your body instead of giving you any nutrients.
The World Health Organization found our standard American diet results in dramatic increases of chronic and degenerative disease when it is introduced into other countries. The excess sugar, salt, fat, and protein, and lack of fiber, vitamins, and minerals of artificial, junk, and processed food are major contributing factors in heart disease, cancer, diabetes, AIDS, and chronic fatigue. For example, due to processing, white rice loses 70% of the nutrients in found in brown rice. In addition to lacking nutrients, white flour affects your body differently than whole grains, raising your triglyceride levels and creating imbalances and cravings.
However the nutrients and energy of synthetic vitamin and mineral supplements that we use to try to replace the nutrients lost in processed food are artificial, incomplete, and further tax your liver and kidneys. Scientists are discovering these supplements lack other compounds found in natural foods that work synergistically with identified minerals and vitamins to support your health. While supplements can be more expedient on a short term basis in dealing with deficiencies, long term use can result in imbalances and create cravings. The combination of nutritional supplements and processed foods does not produce the same benefits as balanced eating of fresh, whole, natural, organic foods.
Natural Food, Natural Energy
In comparison to this artificial energy, whole grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds bring you natural energy and a more complete and balanced set of nutrients. Compared to processed foods and supplements, nature also provides more assimilable nutrients in whole, natural foods in the proportions we need. For example, processed foods are high in sodium and low in potassium, the inverse of what your body needs and what occurs naturally in whole foods. More specifically, 3.5 ounces of fresh raw peas contain 316 mg of potassium and 2 mg of sodium; the same amount of canned peas contains up to 236 mg sodium and 96 mg of potassium.
Similarly it is not only the amount of calcium you eat but how well you can assimilate and retain the calcium in your food. We are concerned about calcium due to osteoporosis. However osteoporosis occurs most frequently in the United States and other countries which consume large amounts of dairy, animal protein, and processed foods. Eating excess protein depletes calcium from your body. Calcium utilization also depends on the proportion of calcium to phosphorus and magnesium. Dark leafy greens and whole grains are abundant in the necessary magnesium. Compared to the calcium in dairy foods, your body can better use the calcium in dark leafy greens and sea vegetables due to their more optimal phosphorus ratio. Which nutrients and energy do you want to take into your body?
Fresh food loses a vital life force the longer the time between harvest and eating. We see this in the appearance of vegetables which turn limp and lose their color and flavor the longer they are stored. Scientists have identified the chemical bonds and positioning of molecules that store energy in food which change as food is stored and processed, causing the food to lose this its stored energy and life force. We are just becoming aware that the comparative value of a certain food lies not only in its nutrients but in the amount of light energy it brings to us which through photosynthesis. Which nutrients and energy best support you?
Other Food Energy
In addition to the physical nutrients and the energy of the food components, food also absorbs the energy of the individuals who prepare, sell, distribute, harvest, and grow the food. An IBM research scientist, Marcel Vogel, demonstrated the effect of the energy of those in contact with the food. His experiments showed that food prepared with love not only tastes sweeter but actually changes the chemical structure of the food.
The amount and quality of available energy in food as well as its impact on your body also depend on the equipment and techniques used to store, prepare, and cook the food. For example, experiments published in the prestigious British medical journal The Lancet and other journals indicate microwave cooking alters food which results in damage to our health. A study published in The Lancet showed microwave cooking causes structural, functional, and immunological changes in the body, and transforms certain amino acids in food into toxins that damage the nervous system, liver, and kidneys. A study published in Raum & Zeit compared the impact of various cooking methods. This study found food prepared in a microwave oven resulted in changes in the blood indicative of an early pathogenic process similar to the actual start of cancer.
We are scientifically validating the impact of cooking methods on the energy contained in the food and its nutritional content as well as the impact on your health. Who provides and prepares your food and how your food is stored, processed, and prepared can be just as important to your health as what you eat.
Besides these physical and energetic effects, food affects you emotionally and can trigger food cravings. In addition to eating food for nourishment and energy, we use food to cope with life. We give food to infants to comfort them and make them stop crying, even though hunger may not be the cause of their tears. Similarly you may also eat certain foods in an attempt to create a sense of comfort and security and make up for voids in other parts of your life. You may be using food to deal with feelings because you can't understand the true message of those feelings, just as we misinterpret a baby's crying. Or you may eat and overeat to suppress your feelings, avoid painful aspects of your life, deaden and make yourself numb.
These ineffective, unconscious ways of dealing with feelings, stress, and life's crises and challenges can result in food cravings that you can't control because you don't know how to interpret - or aren't ready to hear - the underlying messages. Being unable to control your food cravings can increase your feeling of helplessness, increase your stress, and lower your self image and self esteem, making your life seem even further out of your control.
However you may unknowingly be setting yourself up for food cravings due to imbalanced eating and poor quality food. Food cravings may have an emotional basis or be due to a lack of balance in the foods you eat. Your body has many internal mechanisms for creating balance and maintaining health. If you don't make wise choices that meet these internal needs for balance, you can set off cravings for food to offset the imbalance.
However your body can only choose food to create balance from what it knows is available, based on what you eat on a regular basis. If your diet consists mainly of junk and processed food, your body tries to use junk and processed food to create balance, but this is like putting water in the gas tank of your car. It isn't good fuel and doesn't give good results.
For example, you need carbohydrates to fuel your body. If you are eating refined white sugar to meet this need, your body absorbs and uses its simple carbohydrates too quickly, leaving you feeling tired instead of energized. You feel much better with the "high octane," long lasting, slow burning fuel of whole grains. Your body slowly breaks down the complex carbohydrates of whole grains. This gives you long lasting, even energy that doesn't disrupt your blood sugar levels.
Whole grains also provide an abundance of vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber that result in you feeling calm and being better able to handle stress. However if you only eat refined white sugar and processed grains in the form of flour in bread, pasta, and baked goods, your body can't tell you it prefers and feels better with the carbohydrates and energy it receives from whole grains.
Food also affects you mentally by affecting your body's chemistry. For example, Prozac, the "feel good" drug of choice in America, pools and increases the level of serotonin in the brain. Whole grains have a similar impact of increasing the level of serotonin, resulting in a feeling of well being and being better able to handle stress. Danger and stress trigger the flight or fight response in your body, raising your level of adrenaline. Higher levels of dopamine, adrenaline, and its precursor, norepinephrine, can result in increased aggressiveness. Eating meat also raises the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine in your body.
Similarly, other foods affect your memory and your ability to focus, think clearly, and relax. There are many ways in which foods you choose to eat effect you mentally, emotionally, and physically.
How does food affect your spirit? Your body's desire for food has its roots in your soul's need for spiritual substance. Your attitudes and beliefs about yourself and what you eat determine the choices you make in what you eat. As we grow spiritually, we often see our body as a temple in which our spirit dwells, and we realize our connection with all living things. We want to be healthier in our thoughts and actions and live in harmonious ways that align us with the spiritual truths and natural laws and ecology of our body, our planet, and the universe. As we develop and evolve, we want to integrate our mind-body-spirit. How can food support this evolution and help us to heal and develop mentally, emotionally and spiritually as well as physically?
Eating food appropriate to your needs is a means of extracting energy from your environment in a harmonious way. It reflects the integration and totality of your ongoing harmony with yourself, the world, the universal laws, and all of creation. As you evolve in body, mind, and spirit, your dietary needs change. As you develop and mature emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, your sensitivity to your mind-body-spirit response increases. You become more aware of the more subtle energies stored in your food. What you eat is both the cause and effect of your awareness.
You may recognize that choosing natural foods brings you into harmony with nature and helps you to heal and maintain your health. But how do you make this transition in the way you eat to realize your desired benefits and results? To make this shift into harmony requires making a conscious decision to change your lifestyle. Changing your way of eating to support your healing and development involves not a single step, but is an ongoing process that becomes an integral part of your journey.
You can best make stable and lasting changes in your way of eating through step by step changes in what you eat and an increased understanding of the effect of the food on you. You develop awareness of your own inner sensitivity and begin to observe your food choices without judgment. You learn to recognize and understand the results of your choices. You begin to pay attention to your own inner messages and how you feel after eating various foods. You become aware of a new world of natural foods - how they look and taste, how to prepare them in tasty and appealing dishes, their benefits and healing properties.
You learn cooking techniques that enhance the healing energy of the food. You identify and determine the specific effects of food and your way of eating on you - physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. You sense which foods support you and make you feel better. You don't just respond to external messages of what you should do for better health. Nor do you merely react unconsciously by eating to meet your emotional needs or deal with stress. Instead you start to make conscious choices that make you feel better and honor your spirit.
As you change the way you eat and become more in touch with and integrate your mind-body-spirit, your cravings for various foods may disappear, change, or even develop. During this process of changing the way you eat, you may face challenges as you deal with your self image and the emotions affecting your food choices. You may go back to some your old ways of eating - until you feel ready to address the underlying issues and emotions, see yourself more clearly, and bring in the healing light and energy of natural foods. These can be gestation periods where you rest, internally restructure, integrate, and prepare for the next set of changes by marshaling your energy and awareness.
Remember, this is your journey, to take at your own pace and in your own direction. You need to follow your own inner guidance and honor, love, and respect yourself. Don't be critical or quick to harshly judge yourself by perceiving a temporary return to your old way of eating as failure. Learn from your experiences and understand why you made your choices so you can transform your life and health by bringing more harmony, peace, and balance into your life.
A healthy vegetarian diet can be a powerful aid to your development and healing process. Vegetables bring the light and energy they absorb and store through photosynthesis into your body. Grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds bring into your body the light, energy, and life force that can create a new living plant. This way of eating creates a whole new experience and lightness in your body.
The energy of natural food changes the vibration of your nervous system so that it forces the lower vibration, negative thoughts out of your system. The negative thoughts become incompatible with the higher vibration of energy that begins to fill your body. In this manner, the energy work of Reiki and other healing energy modalities work synergistically with a healthy vegetarian diet to support your development and healing process.
As you work with healing energy to release blocked energy in your body, you often release dense, contracting, negative thoughts. Your body often stores negativity in excess fat as blocked energy. You release this negative, stored energy from your body when you let go of the negativity of anger, fear, hate, blame, and guilt. You can support this movement and release with fresh, natural foods abundant in healing energy. The light and vital energy of fresh, natural foods help you to face your life issues so you can more easily release repressed emotions and thoughts from your mind and body. If you are ready to handle it, the light and energy of a healthy vegetarian diet can also activate an equal inner light that increases the strength of your inner spiritual light.
Healing and personal development involves changing your attitudes and beliefs about yourself and what you bring into your life to create and sustain your health and well being. You learn how to eat and live in a healthy and harmonious way that aligns you with the natural laws and ecology of your body, our planet, and the universe. These changes and shifts occur over time and are affected by the support you choose to bring into your life. A solid support system is crucial for making successful, sustained, permanent changes in the direction of your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health.
As you experience more joy and positive ways of being, you may recognize areas of negativity in your life that drain you and better understand what nourishes, satisfies, and supports you. You may decide to restructure your life and change your perspective, behavior, relationships, and situations so you experience life differently. You learn to honor yourself and support your growth by choosing food, relationships, experiences, thoughts, and behavior that nourish and heal your body.
You transform your body into a temple in which your spirit can live with integrity, in harmony with your mind and body. It is not only a matter of intellectually knowing what you should or shouldn't eat. It's a question of how you want and choose to live. How do you deal with your emotions? How developed, evolved, and integrated is your mind-body-spirit? They need to work in harmony to support you and enable you to consciously make healthy choices. Are you making conscious choices about how you are living? Are you aware of the impact of these choices?
Janice Polansky, MBA, MS, works with individuals who want to live a joyful, effective, peaceful life with optimum health. She helps individuals to make healthier food and lifestyle choices and increase self awareness to create healthier, more balanced, and fulfilling lives. Jan combines holistic, natural, Oriental understandings with Western, scientific approaches to health and healing to bring you a unique perspective for understanding how to improve your health and life. Jan has a background in health, natural foods, enzymes, herbs, energy medicine, macrobiotics, essential oils and Oriental medicine. She is certified in enzyme therapy with the Loomis Institute and has studied at the Natural Gourmet Institute for Food and Healing, Himalayan Institute, Vega Center, Kushi Institute and Ann Wigmore Institute. She has a bachelor degree in chemistry and masters degrees in systems analysis and business from Carnegie Mellon University. Janice is a naturopath, Reiki master, and founder of Personal Health Dynamics. Jan provides seminars and consultations based on integrative medicine for individuals and companies to support to a healthier life and way of eating. For information, contact Personal Health Dynamics at 412-492-0767 or Jan@PersonalHealthDynamics.com.
Ó Copyright 1997 Janice M. Polansky Personal Health Dynamics