Earlier this year, I focused the Healthy Choices column on the food we put in our mouths—our secondary foods, where small shifts toward the whole, SOLE foods end of the spectrum can optimize our health.
Last month we dug into primary foods—our lifestyle choices, which can be equally nourishing (or not) as our food choices. Over the next few months, we’ll move from SOLE (seasonal, organic, local, ethical) secondary foods to SOUL primary foods (seasonal, organic, unique, loving).
“Organic” has a lot of meanings—perhaps the most familiar in today’s world is its reference to foods grown without synthetic inputs (that’s right: organic farmers can use pesticides and herbicides—but they cannot be synthetically derived) using farming methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
On a more general level, “organic” can mean “fundamental or basic, forming an integral element of the whole, organized in the sense of having a systematic coordination of parts.” This definition speaks to our primary foods—everything that nourishes us (or doesn’t) in addition to what we put in our mouths: we are complex beings made up of many parts, pieces, and systems, both internal and external.
On a physical level, organic SOUL food involves treating our bodies as a whole, much the way traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurveda do when compared to the conventional Western medicine model. The latter reduces our systems to specialties (doctors treat ears/nose/throat, bones, kidneys, livers, hearts, lungs…) while the former looks at the whole to see what systems may be out of balance. (For a primer on Ayurveda, check out Season 1 Episode 7 of the Fearless Self-Love podcast.)
Just to be clear: I believe that Western medicine has a place at the table—it excels in treating urgent/emergent conditions … and it’s often not so much health care as it is disease care: it is curative rather than preventative.
If we consider ourselves to have a systematic coordination of parts, then all of these parts must be optimally nourished to function at peak performance level. How do we nurture them? With primary foods.
When we think of taste as the only sense having to do with nourishment, we are ignoring the fact that we “eat” with all our senses: we consume media with our eyes and ears, our senses of touch and smell take in the world around us, and so on.
So what does it mean to nourish ourselves organically on a SOUL food level?
I like to compare it to eating organic secondary food: the choices we make can either nourish us, conserve the environment, and grow the local economy…or they can ruin our health, degrade the environment, and destroy the local economy.
Our primary foods present us with choices on practically a minute-to-minute basis: to go to sleep or stay up binge-watching Netflix? to answer one more email or spend time with the kids? to sleep in or get up to work out? to pay more for ethically-made clothes or save money on those made in a sweatshop? to spend money on disposable “stuff” or on meaningful experiences? etc.
I feel that when I make better choices, I am more in tune with the Universe, I vibrate at a higher frequency and do more good in the world. (Yes, this is the point at which my kids start rolling their eyes and muttering under their breath about “the woo-woo part of the program.”)
Whether you subscribe to the woo or prefer to consider the more practical approach, being more mindful about the effects our choices have on our own bodily systems and on our part in a larger community system can bring some intention to our decisions—and perhaps our own lives and our world could use a little more intention and attention than they’re getting from us these days….
I’d love to hear from you: how will you commit to “eating organically” on the primary food level? (And remember, we’re all bio-individual/unique—the only “right” answer is the one that’s right for you.)
Ann Arbor’s Liza Baker, a WLAA health columnist, is a health coach, cookbook author, nonprofit consultant, and woefully underpaid COO of a busy family of four spread across the globe. Liza lives in a half-empty nest in Ann Arbor and is passionate about health and happiness, education and empowerment, SOLE/SOUL food and social justice. You can get a taste of her work on her website and/or join the (Sorta) Secret Sisterhood, her membership site for women over 40.