Every January, there’s this pressure to eat “healthy.” But what does eating healthy really mean?
Every human needs to eat food to survive, but we don’t require the same eating style to thrive. Bio-individuality, a term coined by the Institute of Integrative Nutrition founder Joshua Rosenthal, recognizes the diversity of nourishment required for individuals to flourish. No single style of eating works for every person, and physical food is not the only nourishment that human beings require to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Humans live in stages — infancy, toddler years, childhood, puberty, adolescence, older adolescence, adulthood, pregnancy (for some), middle age, and the elder years. During each stage, the body requires different physical foods for optimal performance.
Newborn babies can only process breastmilk or formula, while the body of an elderly person may not process animal proteins or even plant-based diets effectively. Pregnant people crave various foods that they never wanted to eat before because there is a human forming in their womb. Children require different foods than adolescents. The vegan style of eating that works for someone in their 20s or a woman going through menopause may not work for a pregnant person or for a bodybuilder, who might need to eat plants and animals.
Whether we choose what we eat due to access, politics, or stage of life, human beings are benefited by bio-individuality.
Like the old song from the Stylistics said: “People make the world go round.” The relationships we experience in life are forms of sustenance.
Have you ever noticed how good you feel after associating with some people and how depleted you feel after spending time with others? We are so often placed in situations where we must compromise our true feelings about a person to keep the peace. It could be a coworker or a family member just makes life more laborious.
In our personal relationships, we do not have to force ourselves to be connected to people who continuously do us harm. The people we invest in is the community that will care for us in the future. We can also give ourselves permission to compartmentalize our diverse relationships. It’s okay to have your gym friends and your college friends who you go out clubbing with and another group from church.
It’s important for many to have a core group of friends beyond their life partner and family. These friends can have shared values and can mutually have one another’s back during life’s challenges like divorce, sickness, or the death of a parent.
Whether it’s going to Bible study with a group of beloved friends, attending a silent mindfulness meditation retreat, or jamming in a spin class to your favorite house music with a fantastic instructor, a vibrant spiritual life is an essential element to health and wellness.
Like physical food, spirituality is not one form fits all. Finding what spiritual practice works best for you is an individual journey well worth taking. For many, consistent physical activity creates a connected embodied experience that brings people to their highest selves. Vibrant mental health often stands hand in hand with a strong spiritual practice.
Life will always be challenging. Having the mental health resources readily at hand really does help folks work through whatever roadblocks occur. Yes, you can be a spiritual person with a strong spiritual practice and have support from a mental health professional. It takes a village.
Equity and Access
It’s hard to adhere to many of the popular diets out there when you live in an area without access to grocery stores. It’s also not easy when you work several jobs in order to pay the rent and take care of your family. With social media and the pressure from health and wellness influencers, it’s really easy to feel like you aren’t enough if you aren’t juicing or vegan or paleo or whatever diet is in vogue at the moment. Let’s all give ourselves some grace when picking what’s on our plate.
2021 was the year of “The Great Resignation.” The pandemic has shifted how our culture looks at work. According to The Washington Post, in November 2021, over 4.5 million people resigned from their jobs and made career shifts.
The pandemic has amplified how precious our lives really are. Do we want to spend our lives in jobs we hate toiling for pennies only to live paycheck to paycheck, or can we reclaim our lives? Being sheltered in place for almost a year revealed that there is a better way of working. What if, as Tricia Hershey of the Nap Ministry once posted on her Instagram, our ancestors’ greatest dream was for us to rest? Gen Xers, Millennials, and Gen Zers are embracing minimalist lifestyles and realizing the value of living more simply and working mindfully.
A meditation teacher once told me the story of a poor merchant and his wife who lived in a nice house but were always in crisis and stayed upstairs working to attain more. They worked their fingers to the bone, but no matter how hard they worked, no matter how much money they saved, crisis and striving for more always kept them in debt. The couple lived lamenting their fate, always focused on working.
Their young daughter loved to play in the basement. She would beg her parents to just stop and play with her and enjoy how beautiful the space was with her. They never took the time to go to the basement. Another crisis happened that made them sell their house. They never realized that the floor of the basement was pure gold; in fact, the entire foundation of the house was gold.
The merchant and his wife already had what they were working for. Their young daughter could connect to it, but the merchant and his wife were so blinded by their focus they couldn’t see their joy.
All human beings have that joy connection. No matter what temporary challenges come up in life, if we are able to remember we operate at a baseline of joy, we will be able to find whatever we need in order to thrive.
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Jeanine is a Writer, Actor, member SAG/AFTRA, AEA, Podcast host, Producer, CEO VisAbleBlackWoman Productions, Certified Health Coach and Conscious Dance facilitator. Jeanine's mission, centering Black women's stories to preserve our legacies.