Eat Your Way to Spiritual and Mental Health
Susan M. Mumm, MA
Before I became a psycho-therapist, I worked for ten years in the natural foods industry as an education coordinator at a food co-op. My experience in the natural foods field made me appreciate the role of proper diet and nutrition in mental and spiritual health. Skipping meals, eating in ways that produce constant sugar highs or lows, depriving your body of the important nutrients in fresh vegetables and fruits, abusing caffeine, etc., all reduce mental alertness, decrease your energy level, and make you more prone to getting sick with colds or the flu, or having chronic low-grade headaches. When you feel lethargic from poor eating habits, you are also less likely to engage in recreational activities or social outings. You tend to participate less in life, because you have diminished vitality.
Sitting down to a good meal three times a day is also incredibly nurturing psychologically. Cooking is an act of love and caring; therefore when you cook a good meal for yourself, you are engaging in an important act of self-love. Likewise, when you cook for your spouse/significant other or children, they will feel the love and caring connected to the meal provided.
Eating regular, delicious, healthy meals can affect your spiritual health as well. If you feel lousy physically from poor eating habits, you are less likely to feel motivated to engage in spiritual reflection. Eating well increases your overall feeling of well-being and helps you wake up every day motivated to live a spiritually balanced life.
I have included on this website many different kinds of recipes to help you launch into a new life of cooking good meals for yourself. However, if you want to eat in ways that enhance your physical, mental and spiritual health, you first need to phase unhealthy food out of your life. We have a lot of diet related health problems in the United States: heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, rampant obesity, etc. In order to reap the benefits of cooking healthy, nutritious meals for yourself/your family you need to work towards making the following overall changes to your eating habits.
I totally understand how changing your eating habits can be difficult, but your taste buds really will adjust and you will find your cravings for sugar and junk foods just naturally decline. However, I do not mean to be coming off as a food fanatic, because I am actually not one. I just believe in making the majority of your diet healthy, and then you can afford splurges like pie and ice cream, nachos, and lasagna once a week or so.
I also know that for most families, finding time and energy to cook regularly can be challenging. However, I firmly believe there are lots of ways to make meal planning and cooking easier and more efficient. In my article Weekly Menu Planning for Reluctant Cooks, also available on this website, I give step by step advice about re-organizing your life so you can cook healthy meals for yourself or your family.
In summary, physical health and mental/spiritual health are very intertwined. Cooking delicious, healthy foods is a multi-faceted act of self-love; It nourishes your mind, body and spirit. By the way, you need to eat your delicious, nutritious meal with the TV and your cell phone OFF! Lastly, let me say that to get the full health benefits of eating properly you also need to make sure you get adequate sleep and regular exercise.