Tag Archives: Mental Health

A Well Fed Life: How the Food We Eat isn’t the Only Thing that Nourishes Us

How well fed are you Emotionally, Physically, Spiritually and Creatively? Are you "eating" too much or too little in these areas?

How well fed are you Emotionally, Physically, Spiritually and Creatively? Are you “eating” too much or too little in these areas?

Something I’ve noticed about myself, but also in the women I work with is that the way we do one thing, is the way we do everything. The problem with this is that it can lead us to live very unbalanced lives. To give an example of this, with me, when it comes to making a decision, I’m either spontaneous and impulsive about it or I move at an exhaustingly slow pace. It doesn’t matter if it’s a really big decision or something minute. There’s no middle ground with me. It has always been the same way with food, relationships and even in my approach to work. It leaves me feeling perennially exhausted and unaccomplished all at the same time. My behaviors tend to leave me virtually starved or completely stuffed.

With food, up until the last 3 years, I vacillated between eating crazy clean or crazy unhealthily. I couldn’t’ seem to mix the two into any sort of balance. In college, I either drank heavily or not at all. When I jump into a new project or hobby, I’m either completely enamored and will bury myself in it without coming up for air for days at a time or I grow quickly bored and drop the project as soon as it began. With people, I either like them instantly or I will keep them at an arm’s distance.

The women I work with have similar traits of doing everything in life the same way (though they may not necessarily bounce back and forth the way I describe above). They overeat, they overwork, they overcommit themselves. They give everything they have to their friends and family. They never say no. They are physically, emotionally and spiritually stuffed. Or alternatively, they are constantly dieting, avoiding being noticed at work, lonely in their personal lives and uninspired creatively. They are physically, emotionally and spiritually starved.

None of us can live like this forever.

Everything we do in life “feeds” us in some way. Feeding ourselves with physical food is one way we are nourished but it’s not the only way. Our souls are nourished or malnourished by our daily actions and interactions. Work, creative pursuits, exercise, joy, social life, relationships, finances, spirituality and health are just a few of the different areas that we can go overboard on (and feel “stuffed”) or completely ignore (and be “starved”).  You may be “stuffed” in some areas but “starved” in others.

When we spend too much time working and not enough time connecting with others socially, we may find our health started to be affected by it. We’re stressed, exhausted and feeling disconnected. When we overeat physically, we may retaliate by depriving ourselves in another way – maybe you don’t allow yourself physical touch, or you spend too much time on social media and you come away feeling both stuffed and utterly ravenous despite your intake of food.

Our goal should be a well fed life – not too much, not too little. Just right. Our hunger in these areas should be satisfied, but we don’t want to feel gluttonous or famished.

I know if you look at your own life, before I go any further into this, you can see the effect your daily choices and actions have on your health and well being. You already have an idea of how stuffed or starved you are. If you are really perceptive and good about self-care, then you are probably one of few who feel sated (and good for you!)!

I divide the areas we feed ourselves in into 4 categories:  Physical, Emotional, Spiritual and Creative. Below are a few examples of the things in our lives that might fall into these categories and also how it will show up in your life if you are “stuffed”, “starved” or “sated”.

This list obviously doesn’t include everything and some of the items I list in one category could certainly be cross posted in another (but for the sake of brevity and clarity I’m going to avoid that). If there is something big in your life that I didn’t list here, where do you think it fits in?

4 Core Areas we need to Nourish to feel Sated


Examples:  food (how we eat, how much we eat and quality of what we eat), massage, human touch, sex, exercise/sports, play, movement, rest.


Examples:  social life, relationships, alone time, spending time with people you feel safe with and having outlets to express yourself, dealing with personal responsibilities, travel, connecting on social media.


Examples:  prayer, meditation, journaling, yoga, tai chi, volunteer work, spending time in nature, sense of purpose.


Examples:  work, cooking, art, dance, music, writing, imagination, beauty, decorating, gift giving, attending art / creative performances.

How it shows up in if we’re “eating” too much or too little in any category

Okay, so those are the 4 categories. If you are indulging too much in any one area or not enough, you will find you feel “off” and this is how it may show up:

Symptoms of being Stuffed – feeling lazy, lethargic, bored, apathetic, uninspired, tired, spent, pulled in too many directions, feeling distracted, feeling empty, overtaxed, unappreciated, indulgent.

Symptoms of being Starved -hungry for something but not sure what, excess nervous energy, depression, anxiety, sad, lonely, unfocused, agitated, tense, disconnected, feeling alone, loss of purpose.

Symptoms of being “Sated” – feeling light, energetic, at ease, happy, calm, grounded, sure of oneself, focused, comfortable, optimistic, confident, balanced, joie de vivre, satisfied, content, relaxed, at peace.

You may find that when your life is heavily weighted in one area, that you are more likely to feel some of these symptoms more than others. For example, if I’m lacking (or “starved”) in the “Physical” realm – not getting enough movement/exercise, spending too much time sedentary, being sloppy with my eating, I can guarantee that I’ll start to feel anxious, agitated and have excess nervous energy. As far as the other symptoms under starved, I don’t feel those ones so much. You may be different than me! Everyone manifests this stuff a little bit differently! For another example, let’s use the “Emotional” category. If I’ve been “stuffing” myself emotionally – maybe going to a lot of social events and tending to a lot of personal obligations, I tend to feel overtaxed, pulled in too many directions and distracted. You may find that the symptoms that show up for you when you’re stuffed emotionally, aren’t the same symptoms that show up when you are stuffed spiritually. Don’t read too much into this – I think it’s fluid!

Ultimately, your health and wellness is deeply connected to how well you are nourished – physically and emotionally – soulfully. You’ll notice that if you start aiming for more balance in each of these categories, that some of your recurring health concerns seem to be less of a problem – we all sleep better and have more energy when we are taking good care of ourselves. Even emotional eating becomes a much smaller issue when you feel supported, nourished and balanced.

The most important takeaway from this is that it’s important to pay attention to how you are spending your time, who with, and if you are getting enough nourishment physically, emotionally, spiritually and creatively. If you know when you are not getting enough in an area, you can make plans to change that – and that can go a long way in how you feel on a day to day basis.

Writing this post has made me realize that I’m really feeling starved in the creative realm. Yes, I do a lot of writing for work and I certainly do a lot of cooking – but neither have been serving a creative purpose lately (the writing is all business and the cooking is mostly for nutrition). So, now it’s up to me to go out and change that!

How well fed are you? Which area (Physical, Emotional, Spiritual or Creative) seems to have the biggest pull in your life right now? And how well is your hunger satisfied in that area? What do you think you need to do differently?

Day 13 – Don’t get SAD

Don't let the winter blues get you down.

Don’t let the winter blues get you down.

For day 13 of 31 Days of Healthy Ways to Enjoy the Holidays More we’re talking about how to avoid getting SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) this holiday season.  Your tip today is to arm yourself against SAD with these strategies to keep seasonal depression from ruining your holiday mojo.

Winter technically hasn’t even started yet but the days are shorter and the nights longer which we’re exposed to less daylight.  This can disrupt our sleep cycle, affect our mood, sex drive and even cause crazy food cravings.  Do you find you have a hard time getting out of bed this time of year? Do you feel cranky and overwhelmed? Is that double burger from Five Guys impossible to resist?  You might have a tinge of SAD and it can make winter seem even longer than it is.  So what can you do about it?

Take a Vitamin D3 Supplement

Vitamin D is responsible for several important functions in the body, including regulating the immune system, building strong bones, and keeping muscles and nerves functioning.  Our bodies create vitamin D for all these vital processes through exposure to the sun.  Unfortunately, people living in the northern hemisphere can’t produce enough Vitamin D during the colder months because we’re at a farther angle to the sun.  There are only a handful of foods that contain Vitamin D naturally (cod liver oil, egg yolks, beef liver, swordfish and salmon).  Odds are this time of the year, you’re getting most of your vitamin D from fortified dairy and cereals but the form that is used for those foods (D2) is not as effective as D3.  Research suggests that low levels of Vitamin D contribute to seasonal depression and since we’re not able to get it from enough sun exposure or from our food sources, the next best thing to do is to take a supplement.

The Vitamin D Council recommends adults take 5000 IU a day during the winter months if they suspect they have a deficiency.  Vitamin D is a powerful supplement so if you are on any medications or have any medical conditions you should talk to your doctor about whether vitamin D is right for you.

Stock up on Omega 3s

There are a whole world of health benefits associated with the consumption of Omega 3 fatty acids, including improvement of depression symptoms and cognitive function. Studies have shown a correlation between low levels of Omega 3s and depression and with our long winter it’s important to make sure you get enough of them.

Eat wild caught fatty fish once or twice a week and be sure to check out the mercury content of those you buy regularly.  If you’re not a huge fan of fish, a fish oil supplement is a great idea.  Look for one that contains both DHA and EPA and has been tested (and passed) by IFOS for purity, stability and heavy metal levels.

If you’re vegetarian, load up on walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower to get your Omega 3s.  The health benefits are a little less powerful than eating fish or taking a fish oil supplement but it’s far better than going without.

Eat up Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds are awesome because they’re loaded lots of goodies including magnesium, manganese, phosphorous, zinc and tryptophan.   They’re also a good source of fiber, protein and those fab omega 3 fatty acids we talked about earlier.  The reason they’re good food for people suffering from SAD is because of the tryptophan.  Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that converts into serotonin in the body.  Serotonin is known for helping us get a good night’s sleep as well as preventing depression.  Eating foods high in tryptophan will help you get a good night’s sleep, prevent depression and even reduce social anxiety.

Other good sources of tryptophan are egg whites, spirulina, Atlantic cod, milk, chicken, game meat and sesame seeds.


Exercise is a well known mood booster.  All that hard work releases endorphins, adrenaline, serotonin and dopamine! Your body and brain loves these chemicals.   Studies show that a regular exercise program can improve mild to moderate depression.  It’s probably related to the release of those chemicals but there’s also something to be said for the personal satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with finishing a hard workout.  Put on your sneakers and get moving.

I hope some of these strategies come in handy so you can feel good all winter long.

Day 10 – Take a Technology Break

Take a technology break!

Take a technology break!

I admit, I have a little bit of undiagnosed ADD.  I bounce from activity to activity, both online and in real life (watch me clean a room in my house sometime).  I usually end up far from the original task I was working on, all because I decided to bring the dirty laundry downstairs and ended up reorganizing the linen closet on my way to do the dishes!.  When I feel like a windup toy because of all my fluttering about, I don’t really get anything done and that makes me feel even more scattered.  I don’t think I’m unique, I think this happens to most of us during the month of December and our obsession with technology doesn’t help.

So the tip for day 10 of 31 Days of Healthy Ways to Enjoy the Holidays More is to take frequent technology breaks. Don’t get me wrong,technology is so wonderful and I would be lost without it in so many ways but it is not a friend to those of us with ADD potential.

Here are a few ways you can reset your focus:

  •  Check email and facebook at set intervals that make sense for your situation (for example: once every 3 hours for work, once a day if email part of your job)
  • Unless urgent, respond to emails on specific days or hours of the week so you aren’t responding to email all day long
  • Put down the smartphone, ipad or laptop a couple hours before bed
  • Try a “technology free” day on a weekend (read books, have tea with a friend, go snowshoeing etc.)
  • Dedicate one night a week tech free
  • Keep your smartphone in your purse or car when socializing.  Facebook will be there in an hour.

    I feel so much more human when I come back from a break and I’m ready to work hard.  I get more done after these little resets.  If you’re struggling to get done all that you need to this month, take a little breather from Facebook, stop reading this blog (it’ll be here when you come back),  stop spending an hour trying to find something to watch on Netflix.  Take a few minutes to breathe and let focus come back into your life.  You’ll be glad you did and so will everyone around you.

Day 7 – Be Okay with Doing Less

Does your daily to do list look like this?

Does your daily to do list look like this?

It’s day 7 of 31 Days of Healthy Ways to Enjoy the Holidays More and today’s tip is to be okay with doing less!  We’re all overbooked, over-stressed, over-stimulated and overwhelmed!  Everyone has the urge to do more no matter what is already on their plate.  I’m urging you start doing less, and be okay with it.

There are so many ways you can interpret this.  Choosing to do a yankee swap instead of buying for everyone you know.  Ditching your regular 200 person handwritten Holiday card list for a one stop shop New Years Letter.  Deciding to stay in on Friday night and read a book instead of going to that work party.  Using gift bags instead of wrapping each gift.

Sit down and make a list of everything you need, want or should do this holiday season.  Do you feel overwhelmed by all that’s on it?  If you do, you need to prioritize that list and let some things go.

What are the absolute “must be dones” or attended to things on your list?  Rank them in order of importance.  Ditch the least important ones.

What are your favorite things on the list? What are you looking forward to?  Rank them in order of how much joy they give you or how much joy they give others.  And keep them all!  We deserve to receive and give joy this time of year.

What are the things on your list that you are dreading? What do you find yourself putting off?  Don’t even rank this last list.  Unless one of these items is visiting your 98 year old Grandma on Christmas week or delivering a sleighfull of toys to children all over the globe on Christmas Eve, you can just ditch them all and feel ok about it.  If Grandma or sleighs are on your list, you need to suck it up for the greater good.  Sorry.

Is there anything that didn’t make it on to one of those three lists?  Go with your gut on these.  Will you miss doing one of them?  Will your kids?  Is it financially or emotionally possible for you to do it?  Trust your gut.  It won’t lead you astray.

What will you do with the free time you’ve just given yourself?  How much better do you feel with a little less on your plate? By giving yourself permission to do less, you are making room for the things you really care about.  Know that you are in control of creating the life that you want.  Fill it with things that bring you and those around you happiness and joy.