This month I want to introduce you to the FIRE Aspect of Health (and Self) as per the concept of Food and Spirit™. We will slowly be working our way through each Aspect, though I have more “generic” explanations is the pipeline! I am gradually weaving the concept of Food and Spirit into my way of practicing, focusing more and more on helping people specifically with struggles around food and emotional eating.
Having spoken to people in interviews about this over the past weeks, have given me further insights. Food and eating can be so complicated sometimes… And when it is, it can become all-consuming and very draining too. A real energy sucker, that’s for sure. I know, because I have been there.
So with that in mind, lets dive into the FIRE Aspect. This Aspect is all about, digestion, energy, thoughts and transformation.
I think that the FIRE Aspect is where most people can easily recognise their own imbalances. We live in such an incredibly fast paced society, and it seem to be increasing by the minute. Faster internet, shorter attention-span…
We consume more added sugar than ever, which means quicker energy into the body. We often relay on easier and more convenient ways to eat, whilst we take less time to stop and enjoy it. We always seem to be going somewhere, doing something. We’re encouraged to think BIG. Do more. BE more. And sometimes it begins to feel like we’re on this never stopping merry-go-around…
Visualise a burning fire. If you pour petrol on it you will have a big blaze, but it will burn out quiet quickly. This is us when we are living the fast paced lifestyle. We don’t have time to plan or shop, let alone cook meals from scratch. We crave sugar, which is natural because the stress hormone cortisol is tied in with the liver and pushes blood sugar levels up. So we eat more sugar. Of course it’s just so super easy to do, because all the added sugar tends to hangout / hideout in processed convenience foods. And as you know, eating healthy on-the-go is like an (almost) non existent option. Ever paused to notice what’s on offer in every petrol station and corner shop? Unless you bring your own food with you, making healthier choices when on the road is so hard.
When the blood sugar drops, we get low in energy and to pick us up we fuel up with caffeine and / or something sweet and the roller coaster ride continues. I actually wrote a more in-depth article about it for Workout Empire here .
What people also told me in these interview were, that when they would “cave in” and have something sweet / processed they said that they tend to start beating themselves up about it, or even obsessing about what they had or why they had it. Adding more stress and more fuel to the already blazing fire. And that leads us on to the part of the FIRE Aspect that’s connected to thoughts.
It’s estimated that we have between 50.000 – 60.000 thoughts per day. Luckily most of them are filtered out. However the thing is that, the ones we do tend to pay attention to are mostly the negative ones, which we play on repeat over and over. And other times we are so wrapped up in our minds and the speed of life that we don’t really pay attention at all. We hold such incredible power within when it comes to our thoughts. So much more, then we appreciate sometimes I think.
I’ve come to realise that this power can best be harnessed by working on changing our perception to what we are experiencing. (I was going to write either, or but to be honest I think changing our perception is really where it’s at). Changing our perception means that we are then empowered to take a different approach entirely, or respond to an event that’s happening to us with better clarity and this may mean not to take any action at all. Sometimes leaning in and experience the uncomfortableness or pain is (only) what it takes to let it pass, because it may just be a thought or feeling. Not an actual event that needs solving…
We really don’t have all that much control over what happens in life, as much as we like to think we do! But we have the power to choose how we respond and react to things that comes along. For me to release (and relish) this power it has to start with awareness. Without awareness, any kind of response will always be subconscious, out of an old established pattern and on autopilot. When I am aware; aware of the situation, aware of what I am feeling, aware of how these feelings feel in my body and aware that I now have an opportunity to decide for myself how I want to react and respond, that’s when I am empowered.
How does that old saying go?
“Life is 10% of what happens and 90% of how we react to it”
From experience, I’ve found that sweeping things (feelings) “under the carpet” is not the way to go. They tend to show up in some other form at a later stage. And this is coming form someone who use to clean her room by simply sweeping everything on the desk into a drawer – to be dealt with later… How symbolic is that?
Luckily I have learnt a few things since I was 10… One of these being that when life is hard, as it is sometimes, the most efficient way of dealing with these hardships and curve balls is to not run, but to face them. And by not running, I mean from the emotions themselves. By all means if you realise that you are in a situation that is not serving your health and wellbeing, then use this realisation as away to muster up the courage you need to get out! (I’ve had a few of those too.)
So cut a long story short, we hold some tremendous power if we choose to harness our thoughts in a positive way. This doesn’t mean that you will always be happy and think positive thoughts though. I’m not sure that it’s even possible, natural nor necessarily healthy. But it will mean that YOU have the power to tune into how your thoughts are effecting how you feel, and with some awareness practice you will be able to pay more attention to which ones you want to fuel and feed, and which stories that you need to drop.
The Digestive System is also included under the FIRE Aspect of Health. It makes sense as our digestive system is where the assimilation of the food we eat happens. This is the system where what we take in from the outside world is transformed into fuel and energy for our cells, which in turn make sure that our bodies function as a whole.
If you have, or have ever had, issues with your digestive system you know how it can take over your entire life. When it’s functioning well we don’t worry about it or hardly notice it at all. But, boy when it doesn’t function, is it ever present on your mind! As a Nutritional Therapist, it has been drilled into me from the start that all health / disease originates in the gut. Gut health is the place to start, with almost everything, regardless if your patient is presenting with mood / mind symptoms or if there’s an autoimmune condition going on. Why? Because it’s all connected. (If you’d like some help to sort your digestive system out, then please feel free to contact me)
In the past few years, research has also intensified on what is going on within our digestive system, particularly when it comes to intestinal health and the bugs that live there. These organism are called Microbiota and their collective genes are called Microbiome. It turns out that we have MORE microorganisms living in our digestive tract than the amount of cells we’re made up of. So who’s the host really?
As research is emerging we are beginning to understand, not only who these guys effect the digestive process, but also how they can influence other areas of our health, such as cognition, mood, immunity and skin. I even recently heard at a conference that our microbiota is the first line defense when it comes to detoxification(!) So we need to mind these dudes. Best thing to do is; to reduce stress load, reducing added sugar and intake of processed foods and to make sure that they get fed their preferred fuel, which happens to be good for the rest of our bodies in general to. The preferred fuel? Colourful wholesome fruit and vegetables!
So how you can keep your FIRE nicely fueled whilst preventing it from burning out? Here are three tips and take aways that you can put into practice straightway!
1. Food – Do a food inventory. How much added sugar are you consuming? What colour is the food on your plate? Is it full of colour from the rainbow or is it mostly brown / yellowish foods dominating the picture? Is your food representing a symbolic “burnt out” state of you?
Focus on adding more warming spices like ginger and turmeric which are also bright yellow. And other spices like cinnamon and cardamom which support blood sugar balancing and digestive health. And add more brightly coloured yellow fruits and vegetables to your diet too. This soup from last month is a great place to start!
2. Eating – Are you eating to pick yourself up when you feel tired? Are you eating on the go? Do you eat when you are stressed? Once you have gathered some awareness around what your eating habits look like, try to counter act it by carving out at least one meal a day where you take your time to fully engage with your meal. Slow down, smell it, tastes it and chew it! You will most likely be more satisfied and may even eat less as a result. And I can guarantee you that your digestive system will thank you too!
You can pick up my Food & Emotion Log here if you need some help to get clear on this.
3. Lifestyle – Do an energy inventory. This exercise is one of my favourites from Food & Spirit™.
Divide a piece of paper in two. In one column write down anything that gives you energy. People, places, foods and activities. If it feels a little hard, stay with it for a bit and try to dig deep. Make it as exhaustive as you can.
Then on the other side, make another list of everything that takes your energy. Again make it as exhaustive as you can.
Now compare the two lists and imagine that you only have one pool of energy to draw from. Where would you rather spend your energy? It might not be possible to let go of all the energy drainers, but see where it actually is possible to make a change. As well as that, see what you need to do more of! Balance is always where it’s at.
I love this quote (not sure who said it) when it comes to energy and life balance.
“If we are not willing to spend our energy on creating what we want, we will have to spend it on what we get.”
P.S I’ve included a picture of my dog Ojay as he’s one of my greatest ways of balancing my stress & FIRE Aspect!