SOUL food | Seasonal

As I mentioned at the end of last year, my focus has been shifting from helping clients with their SOLE foods—the seasonal, organic, local, and ethical foods that I recommend underpin your eating choices, no matter where you fall on the spectrum between vegan and omnivore—to supporting them in the area of SOUL foods—all the other parts of our lives that nourish us…or don’t.

If you want to try a quick health coaching exercise for yourself and understand what are a number of primary foods, check out Kale or Kryptonite, which will give you a starting place to think about your primary nourishment. You will probably name a few more for yourself as well.

I ended 2017 with a month of posts on SOLE food, so it would form a nice parallel to start the new year with an exploration of what I mean by SOUL food. Just as in SOLE, the “s” in SOUL food stands for “seasonal.”

winterWith the “bomb cyclone” in the Northeast, unusual cold and even snow in the Southeast, and continued subzero windchill in the Midwest, the winter season has been front and center in the news these early days of 2018. And on the verge of my 53rd (WHATTT???) birthday, I’ve been thinking a lot about the seasons of our lives.

It’s pretty obvious that the food and lifestyle choices that suited us as babies, toddlers, kids, teenagers, young adults, and middle-aged and older adults don’t usually remain the same: often, we shift them without much thought. As older adults, we sometimes notice that we’re packing on pounds, we aren’t able to eat as much as before, or that even a single glass of wine in the evening can wreak havoc on our sleep at night.

If we are prone to looking for external “fixes,” we are likely to run toward adding any number of silver bullets when something is “wrong” with our bodies/minds/spirits: crazy diets and detoxes, supplements and smoothies, workouts and woo. But if we pause and consider that perhaps we’re just entering another stage of life, we may discover that what feels better is simply shifting our current food and lifestyle choices without adding new things to the mix.

In Integrative Nutrition®, the style of health coaching that I practice, the theory of bio-indiviuality holds that the food and lifestyle choices that work for one person may be toxic to another. There’s a corollary to that theorem: the primary and secondary foods that nourished us in one season of our life don’t necessarily nurture us in another season.

springSometimes, however, many of us resist change: we cling to the foods that no longer serve us because in a previous season, they were “perfect.”

In my own life, I’ve experienced this primarily in my food and exercise choices: I was a vegetarian for many years and even dabbled with being a vegan (yeah, I love cheese too much for that to happen!) But after moving in with a serious carnivore and being faced with the prospect of cooking two meals for every one mealtime, I gradually switched (kicking and screaming) to eating more animal products—and discovered that this shift did wonders for my thyroid issues.

I was never an athletic child—I was overjoyed to discover that I could fulfill my phys ed requirement in college by continuing my horseback riding lessons rather than taking up a more demanding club or team sport—but then I discovered how good it feels to be more physically active and from my later 20s into my late 40s was pretty much addicted to high-intensity workouts.

summerWhen I hit 50, I suddenly realized I could no longer sustain those workouts, which felt devastating: I worried I’d gain weight and suffer from all the issues that come with that. But my body just said no in message after message until I finally heard it. In the past two years, I’ve moved from lots of high intensity aerobics and weight training to walking and yoga and some gentle body-weight resistance training.

And my reward for listening came when I had a physical recently, and the resident told me that had he not seen my birth date, my numbers would have indicated I was 26.

The takeaway? Cultivating more awareness of the life season in which we find ourselves and being more intentional about the seasonality of our lifestyle choices come with their own rewards; reflecting on the times we resisted the change of seasons shows us that clinging to practices—even (especially?) those that are perfect for us for a time—can be counterproductive.

Drop a note in the comments and let me know: In what season do you find yourself? And what shifts in your SOUL foods are your body/mind/spirit asking you to make to accommodate this new stage and thrive in it?