This month, we’re sharing our thoughts on the connection between food and wellness to highlight our journey and encourage you to find your own definition of wellness.
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As Alex and I have expanded our cooking skills, our palates, and our health goals over the past few years, there’s one particular conversation we’ve had many times about the connection between food and wellness. Growing up, we were both picky eaters and didn’t always eat the healthiest. Which didn’t really seem to matter back then, because when you’re a growing teenager with a fast metabolism you aren’t too concerned about healthy eating.
But as we entered adulthood and faced the reality that we’d have to start focusing more on nutrition, we struggled to find a sustainable balance between healthy, satisfying, and tasty. I can’t even count on one hand the number of times we ate bland salads for dinner and then ended up snacking on salty foods or sweets later that night when our stomachs started grumbling. So when we started this blog, one of our goals was to figure out how to eat “healthy” in a sustainable way.
This meant learning to make more nutritious food that tasted good and was easy to prepare. Not the easiest challenge, right? That’s what we thought – at first. But as we’ve learned more about food and our own needs when it comes to wellness, we’ve determined three things:
- There’s no such thing as “healthy” food.
- Food should make your body, mind, and soul feel good.
- Everyone’s wellness journey is unique.
This is our perspective on the connection between food and wellness. We’re not licensed dietitians or nutritionists, and we’re not health experts. But we are real people dealing with the everyday challenge of nourishing our bodies in a way that’s sustainable for us. And we hope that by sharing our opinions and experiences with you, you might feel encouraged to seek out the necessary information and tools to take action on your own personal wellness journey.
Food Is Fuel
At the most basic level, food is fuel. Your body needs food to survive – that’s why most of us try to eat 3 well-rounded meals a day. That’s also why we believe there’s no such thing as “healthy” food.
To us, “healthy” is a very fluid concept. What’s considered healthy for one person may not be healthy for another, when you think about all the unique dietary restrictions, medical conditions, or food allergies that exist. If food is fuel, then each individual needs the proper balance of nutrients for their body to keep things running smoothly.
Take a look at individual foods, like eggs, and you’ll notice there’s a debate about what’s “healthy” and “unhealthy.” Tons of people swear by eating only egg whites since they’re lower in calories, cholesterol, and fat compared to a whole egg. But most of the vitamins and minerals are actually in the egg yolk. When most Americans have vitamin deficiency and could probably benefit from eating the whole egg, some people can’t – or choose not to – based on their own dietary needs.
Down to the ingredient level, the definition of “healthy” food varies from person to person. That’s why we like to think of food in terms of nutritional value. If food is fuel, then are we feeding our bodies the right mix of nutrients to support daily function?
Physical wellness is all about giving your body what it needs to thrive – exercise, nutrition, sleep. So when we think about “eating healthy,” we’re no longer debating how many salads we can eat in one week. Instead, we’re asking ourselves: Are we cooking with ingredients that are fresh, natural, and nutritious? Are these foods going to make our bodies and minds feel energized?
And if the answer is “yes” about 80% of the time, then we feel like we’ve succeeded at “eating healthy.”
Nourish Your Body, But Also Your Soul
So why do we call ourselves successful if we’re eating nutritious food only 80% of the time? One reason: food needs to nourish your body, but also your soul.
Like we said, most of us eat 3 meals a day in order to fuel our bodies. With food being such a big part of our lives, why shouldn’t we get all the enjoyment we can out of eating? Most of the time, we try to eat a balanced and nutritious diet using ingredients and flavors we love (because nutritious food doesn’t have to be bland). But sometimes, we cut ourselves some slack and indulge in a few not-so-nutritious foods to feed our souls.
Our core belief here is that food should make you feel good, in whatever way that means to you at the present moment. While it’s important to strike a balance and not over-indulge, we also believe that treating yourself is a necessary part of wellness. Whether it’s ice cream, cookies, or craft beer, the little things that bring us joy are just as important for our mental well-being as the nutritious foods are for our physical well-being.
Being kind to yourself and enjoying your favorite treats (with some self-control) is the easiest way to make physical wellness sustainable. We’ve learned this from experience! After a week of eating only super nutritious meals, snacking on fruits and veggies, and depriving ourselves of all our favorite indulgences, our bodies tend to feel good but our minds feel pretty miserable. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have weeks of eating total junk food where our souls feel more comforted and nourished but our bodies don’t feel so great.
So in the end, it’s all about balance. Instead of constantly swinging back and forth, nourishing your body one week and your soul the next, it’s important to find harmony between your mind, body, and soul. It takes practice to tune into your body and listen to what it needs, but this gets easier with time. This practice has definitely helped us make better – and more consistent – decisions about what we put in our bodies, so that we feel our best as often as possible.
Everyone’s Wellness Journey Is Unique
The final thing we’ve realized when it comes to food and wellness is that everyone’s needs are unique, so wellness looks different for everyone. For instance, my body doesn’t digest kale properly so I avoid eating it at all costs (that’s one popular superfood off the table for me). But somehow, a cheese quesadilla or a slice of pizza often settles my stomach when it’s feeling uneasy. I couldn’t tell you why, but that doesn’t really matter to me when it comes to my individual wellness. What matters is realizing how certain foods make my body feel, and doing what I can to respond to my body’s needs.
So when you think about your own physical wellness, here’s our best advice: don’t be distracted by what other people think is “healthy” or “unhealthy.” What’s good for their body might not necessarily be good for yours! Your digestive system is different than theirs, your needs are different than theirs, and your guilty pleasure foods might be different than theirs. Wellness is an individual journey, and making smart choices about the food you eat based on what your body needs, what you enjoy, and how you feel mentally and physically, is step one towards feeling your best.
That’s our two cents on the connection between food and wellness, and why we’re focused on feeding the mind, body, and soul. The recipes you’ll find on our blog are a mix of nutritious meals and guilty pleasures because we don’t believe in depriving ourselves of food that makes us happy. No matter what, food should taste good and be easy to prepare – two tenets at the core of all our recipes! To kickstart your personal wellness journey, discover your new favorite recipe here.
What is your perspective on the connection between food and wellness? Do you have any guiding principles for your own wellness journey that you want to share with others? Leave your thoughts in the comments below so we can hear what you think!