Feeding the Root
Food is a necessity, but people, especially in the Western world, often have more than is needed – and we often eat emotionally, not necessarily providing the best fuel and nourishment for our bodies. When we meditate, and examine our lives, our lifestyles, our activity levels, our cravings and our weaknesses, where we were born and raised – and when we look at how to nourish our bodies, we can plan to eat successfully and enjoy all aspects of life. Food, like water and air, is essential for survival.
Healthy eating habits are important but challenging. I had always considered myself to be pretty good at food. I love food, and I tend to enjoy most things that are healthy, but I also had an insatiable sweet tooth and did not view water as the elixir for good health. Also, I followed the Canada Food Guide brainwashing and thought fats were evil, and to be healthy I had to eat mostly carbs. I was one of those people who actually ate up to twelve servings of fruit and vegetables every day. I did not think about balance. I did not know about the chakra system, nor did I listen to my body. But I did try very hard to have healthy eating habits.
We tend to experiment with diets. I’ve had a tendency to dabble with nutrition. I tried most of the nutrition fads out there. Luckily, I don’t believe in dieting and I never bought into those crazes, but I have witnessed many friends and relatives struggle with yo-yo or restrictive diets. I became obsessed in trying to find a food cure for my debilitating fast-flaming arthritis and gout that began in my adolescence. I spent one year as a strict vegetarian (no animal proteins, including dairy) and I initially found that my energy improved, but over time, the flare-ups increased and my inflammatory issues worsened. Therefore, although philosophically I wanted to refrain from eating meat, and actually preferred a non-meat-based diet, I gave it up.
When our daughters were younger, with one of them priming to be an elite athlete, we ate what we thought was a very healthy diet. We cut all red meat from our meals and increased our fruits, veggies and grains. I continued to have frequent bouts of painful inflammation – and worse, we likely caused severe anemia in our athletic daughter, which resulted in an extreme nutritional change as well as medical intervention.
We intellectually know the consequences of unhealthy habits, but often we tune out or ignore our knowledge. I actually gave up trying to be healthy for the first time in my life. I was not healthy – I puffed up, and fed my body with what I craved: sugars, fruits, breads – and I was also drinking sugary alcoholic drinks with my friends. I had always maintained a healthy weight, but I ballooned up to a very unhealthy weight for my small frame. I was at my unhealthiest for a two-year period, the years when I lived in the car driving my daughters to their various activities, or sitting and watching them. I worried about their healthy food intake, but not my own.
Often it takes an ‘aha’ moment and lots of motivation to make a change. One day while watching my daughter swimming, as I sat on my butt for two hours, I turned to my swim-mom friends and told them that was the last time they would see me sitting there doing nothing while we waited for swim practice to end. I vowed to change – and I started to walk, then to run. Over the course of a year I lost twenty pounds, and I was able to run five and ten kilometer runs with ease, and I even completed my ultimate goal of a half-marathon. It was not pretty but I did it with the coaxing of my best pal Jackie, who had completed it way ahead of me and then came back and ran me in. I learned a lot about nutrition and hydration, mostly from what I did wrong. But it was an eye opener. What we put in our body has a huge impact on how our body works and performs.
I still had pretty severe inflammatory issues, and most days of running started with me near tears due to the severe pain in my feet, especially my big toes. I persevered, though, and I’m sure the activity helped, rather than hindered me – plus the weight loss was obviously good for my overall health and fitness.
Sometimes we need help from an expert. My revolutionary dietary lifestyle change did not occur until we met Ashley Toye, a nutritionist and former varsity athlete. Prior to meeting Ashley and enlisting her into our food adventures, we had witnessed and been rather horrified by the sudden and serious illness that hit our dear friend Lloyd. Lloyd is an active gym teacher who led a pretty healthy lifestyle. He and his wife, my best buddy Jackie, are avid campers, and when the school year ends they follow their gypsy hearts to various off-the-beaten-path camping experiences. They are serious about their camping, and little gets in the way – even when Lloyd succumbed to an illness that ultimately hospitalized him and robbed him of a year of health, as well as his ability to work. He had a rare and serious liver abscess condition, and there were times I was uncertain if he would recover, but eventually he did.
However, a sickly pallor and decreased overall fitness and vitality took the place of Lloyd’s usual vibrant, healthy presence. We were unaware that he and Jackie had met Ashley at a local gym and embarked on a nutrition adventure that I can only describe as remarkable. Ashley had her own nutrition counselling business and our interest was piqued, due to the astonishing results we saw in Lloyd. I, however, was a skeptic and thought I knew everything there was to know about nutrition: eat lots of fruits and vegetables, decrease red meat consumption, avoid fat. I knew it all.
A side-effect of healthy eating is often weight loss. My husband Kirk is athletic, but since his football days ended, he has felt frustrated by his relentless battle with weight gain, despite spending thousands of hours on his bike or in the gym. Kirk decided to find a nutritionist, and when Lloyd gave him Ashley’s number, we became lifers. Ashley’s teachings, attention, support and consultation overhauled my way of eating, and how I thought about food. I relearned how to shop for, prepare, and enjoy food.
Eating well does not mean deprivation. I’ve always loved food. I love entertaining and cooking for my friends and family. However, I often thought about food as a necessary evil, and I was often attracted to the evil side – then recovered with guilt, avoidance, splurging, and redemption. I was also hideously unaware of hunger states and thirst requirements, and I often was so depleted in nutrition and hydration that I had physical symptoms: headache, dizziness, nausea, irritability, fatigue, and an inexplicable desire, in the late afternoon, to want to yell or to punch someone.
It’s critical to eat frequent meals throughout then day. I thought I knew everything about eating well. I have always eaten breakfast so at least I was off to a good start. However, on a usual work day, I usually forgot to eat or drink (except to finish my coffee) all day long. Often, after my 6:30 am breakfast, I didn’t eat again until 6 pm, when I’d eat a huge meal. Then after chores, art projects, or other responsibilities, I would be exhausted and head to bed. I felt pretty good about things, though, because I was a weekend warrior exerciser and I had maintained my weight for ten years without any difficulties. I starved and splurged as I desired and it all seemed to balance out. My joint pain, headaches, irritability, and fatigue were just signs of aging, working in a stressful environment and working long hours. Or were they?
Minor life changes helps with success. Kirk signed up with Ashley, and I reluctantly agreed “to try,” with the caveats that if I gained weight I would quit, and that I was not going to give up coffee, chocolate, or red wine. Ashley promised I would not gain weight. I was pleased when she encouraged my indulgence of using real cream in my coffee. She also let me continue to have my one or two glasses of wine per weekend, and she tried to encourage me to eat dark chocolate, but I stuck to my milk chocolate, likely as a sign of rebellion.
I was sure I would be the one client who would never lose the craving for fluffy chocolate cakes, and apple pie and ice cream, but she assured me that eventually I would no longer crave such things. I was known for eating cake and ice cream for breakfast, and the more icing the better. Initially, all she asked me to change was to eat at least three times per day, to increase my water intake, and to journal my food intake. She focused on balance and a slow, steady change.
She did assessments of us, our pantry, and our habits, and over the course of a year, I completely changed my eating habits. I eat frequently throughout the day now – and every time I eat, even if it is just a snack, I try to include healthy protein, carbohydrate, and fat. We eat animal protein, all vegetables, limited fruits, and an assortment of healthy fats. Coconut is essential to our diet, as are green and colourful vegetables. I feel satisfied and rarely have cravings, and when I do, it’s usually when I’ve skipped a meal.
Anti-inflammatory meal planning works. My health has improved remarkably. For two years, I have had no inflammatory pain, my headaches are almost completely gone, I have increased energy, I sleep better, and the best side effect was that I lost fifteen more pounds without trying. I eat more than I ever did, I rarely crave sweets or simple carbohydrates like breads and pastas, but the rebel in me eats a small piece of chocolate every day – and I thoroughly enjoy it. Kirk has had the same results. We try to eat as many organic products as possible and avoid processed or artificial foods.
Balance is the key. Because working with chakras is so important to me, exploring healthy eating as it relates to the the first chakra, is a critical first step in achieving balance in life. Some of the most important aspects to balance are nutrition, health, and fitness. Balanced eating is critical for us to maintain and improve health. It’s essential to understand what our bodies need, and to fill ourselves with wholesome, real food.
Everyone is unique, and it is important to eat in a way that feels clean, healthy, and balanced, rather than weighted down and stuffed. For everyone, ensuring that the basic needs of the first chakra are met is necessary; otherwise, managing to fully awaken the higher chakra levels is nearly impossible. This idea corresponds with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Erikson’s stages of development.
Recipe for my Daily Breakfast Smoothie
· 1 cup frozen blueberries (organic)
· ½ cup frozen spinach or kale (organic)
· ½ scoop beet root powder
· ½ scoop greens powder
· ½ scoop ground chia seeds
· 1 scoop highest-quality vanilla-flavoured New Zealand grass-fed whey protein powder
· ¼ cup highest-quality organic coconut milk
· ¼ cup almond milk OR coconut water OR water (I use almond milk)
· 1 teaspoon of MCT oil OR Bulletproof Brain Octane (I prefer Bulletproof)
· optional: 1/8 teaspoon each of pure organic vanilla and agave syrup or honey (this is my sweet little rebellion)
Blend well in blender and enjoy.
This is my breakfast five to six days per week. It is delicious, quick, efficient, and packed full of nutrients, and it provides ample energy to get the day going. I have found that my sweet cravings are almost nonexistent when I consistently start my day with this colourful, yummy smoothie. You can adjust this smoothie recipe to be vegan by changing the protein to a high-quality vegetable – based protein powder (but NOT soy based).
For more information about finding balance and the chakra system, check out my website and my book: Finding Balance and Forgiveness Through Chakras and Art.