Healthy Eating as Soul Care
January 1, 2104: “Today I’m starting my first Whole30! My reasons for doing a Whole30 are wanting to be more mindful of how I’m fueling my body (and by extension, my breastfeeding son’s body!!), kicking unhealthy cravings and compulsive eating to the curb, and maaaaybe dropping a few of those last post-baby pounds that are hanging on (not my main goal, but I’d be lying if I said it isn’t something I want to happen!). I’ve been listening to It Starts With Food on audio book and so wholeheartedly believe in what they’re saying. Here’s hoping this program changes how I view food for life!”
Self care often brings to mind visions of aimlessly wandering target or drinking a glass of wine after a long day because you need to escape from your life. I prefer the term soul care. I define soul care as self care that digs deep to uncover and address needs instead of pushing them down further. For a long time it felt easier for me to push my needs deeper and deeper because I was afraid of dealing with them. Click to read more on my definition of soul care.
My Whole30 journey began three years ago, when my first son was six months old. Since then I’ve completed 5.5 Whole30 resets with long stretches of Whole30-inspired eating in between. For the past year and a half I have specifically been working toward my Food Freedom. Some may see healthy eating as deprivation and say, “Why don’t you just eat whatever you want?” Over the years my perspective has shifted, and I see healthy eating as soul care. This journey toward Food Freedom has led me to deep places within myself as I explore my relationship with food.
This lifestyle is compelling to me because it is about so much more than changing body composition. My first Whole30 did help me lose some extra baby weight, but more than that, it re-centered me. The time spent meal planning, prepping, and cooking became a grounding exercise and something that I felt proud to do for myself.
Postpartum was the first time where I really felt an internal battle to love my body. This battle was wrapped up with my unplanned C-section and how I felt betrayed by my body. The Whole30 played a big part in returning me to a place of honoring and trusting my body. I also struggled with postpartum depression after my first child’s birth, and to see tangible results from my efforts reminded me that I had power in a season where I felt powerless and lost.
Healthy eating as soul care can look different for each person. For most people, it boosts self efficacy. For me, when I feel like my emotions are spiraling out of control, I can make the decision moment by moment, day by day to eat well. It helps me to reframe what rewarding myself looks like.
When I’m eating mindfully, I am forced to come face to face with my negative emotions. This has been huge for me on my journey to health (mind, body, soul). When I’m feeling sad, trapped, (fill in the blank), I no longer want to escape into a bottle of wine or chocolate bar because I’ve learned that those don’t serve me physically or emotionally. Physically, I’ve become more in tune with the way that sugar and alcohol affect my system in negative ways, and emotionally, I’ve learned that when I numb and avoid, it only comes back a hundredfold.
In the Whole30 world we often refer to this as our “why.” Why do I choose to eat this Whole30-inspired diet? Hint: your why has to be deeper than just, “I want to lose weight.” Maybe you do want to lose weight; but your reason is deeper than that. For some, there’s shame, self-judgment, or lack of control for what and how much you eat. The Whole30 teaches us how to trust the signals our body is sending us and to eat when and how much we need to. It helps bring awareness to the ways in which the foods we’re eating affect our bodies so that we can make choices based on how we want to feel. It’s empowering to me that I know how to eat to feel at my best. I am able to set myself up to make good choices and then make them.
What’s your why? I’d love for you to comment or join the conversation on Instagram.