Spirit Matters: Feed yourself like the organic being you are

Jerrilyn Zavada Novak

You are what you eat.

How many times have you heard that before?

As I age, the truth of this idiom becomes more and more apparent.

I might be in the minority here, but I have always gravitated to fruits and vegetables. I remember as a young child, my aunt was having a party and I wandered up to the bright, colorful veggie tray, and began to nibble and graze.

My two aunts were amused as they watched me eat sliced red peppers, carrots, celery, cucumbers and more. Most kids they knew were reaching for hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, dip, cookies, and the like, rather than filling themselves with nature’s medicine. (Not that I didn’t like those too.)

I think this penchant for vegetables is partially innate, but as we grew up, my parents tended a large garden in our backyard. Fresh fruits and vegetables during the growing season were never out of our reach. While out filling a bucket of string beans, I often unnecessarily made the time it took to do it much longer, as I ate the beans instead of throwing them in the bucket. Same with pea pods. I could never get enough of those little guys.

This appreciation for vegetables has followed me throughout life. My husband and I often eat grilled or roasted vegetables for dinner. And I love a good, healthy, original salad – not the kind with fried popcorn chicken and iceburg lettuce. (Can that even be considered a “salad?”) But one with assorted fresh greens, beans, nuts, vegetables and some kind of healthy protein. I appreciate a good homemade vinaigrette occasionally too.

With all of that said, I also have a tendency to eat too many sweets. And that has been my problem in the last few weeks. Much of the discomfort has been self-inflicted, as I ran through McDonald’s a few times for my Coke fix, and stopped at Dairy Queen for ice cream a couple of times, while I was out and about. (I blame DQ on my dog Zeke. He looked like he needed a Pup Cup, and I was only too happy to oblige.)

Then, I decided I HAD to make a double batch of Nestle chocolate chip cookies last week. The problem with liking to bake cookies, is that someone has to eat them when they are done. I always like to give them away to family members, but when you make a double batch, there still are going to be some lying around the house, waiting for someone to eat them. So, then it becomes a matter of eating all of what’s left so I won’t be tempted to eat them anymore.

You following my logic?

Eating these treats occasionally is not a problem. It is when it becomes a habit that trouble arises.

When I was younger, I could get by with indulging in food that wasn’t good for me, and not feel awful for the next few days. That isn’t the case anymore.

These days, when I stray from a fairly healthy diet even for a couple of days, my whole body feels it. I experience an overall sense of lethargy, and the aches and pains that come with aging get more pronounced. My mood suffers, as well. Detox efforts take longer too.

I recognize that I often gravitate toward unhealthy food when my stress level is higher. Those cookies and that ice cream sure do taste and feel good, especially in large amounts, when some part of your life is in chaos. But that good feeling might last for a max of a half hour before the dreaded sugar crash, or upset stomach, and brain fog hit.

I feel, think and act better and have more energy when I consistently eat nutritious food. It is an ongoing effort for me to stay mindful of this, but I have gotten better at talking myself out of getting a Coke or Blizzard, when the whim hits. I just have to keep that up, and remember when I do indulge, to pick myself up, dust myself off and renew my intention to eat healthy.

I think what I am saying this week is summed up well by a meme I have seen on social media on various occasions, that says: “Don’t forget to drink water and get some sun. You’re basically a houseplant with more complicated emotions.”

We are organic beings, designed with a great deal of intelligence. We operate best when fed natural foods, free of fried batter, added oils, pesticides, additives, preservatives, simple sugars, flours and the like.

And not only does our everyday quality of life improve, but we reduce our risk of developing cancer, diabetes and heart disease, too.

This, to me, makes choosing what we are going to put into our bodies on a regular basis a whole lot easier.

To healthy bodies and long, happy lives.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column by Jerrilyn Zavada Novak that examines experiences common to the human spirit. Contact her at jzblue33@yahoo.com.

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