October 27, 2013

Eating as an Opportunity for Personal Growth. ~ Deanna Minich

There is no question that my path to health comes primarily through food.

For decades, I believed I could explain every symptom I had based on the amount and type of food I was eating. If I had a headache, I’d spend some time to reflect on what I had to eat the day before. If I had PMS symptoms one month, I’d be scrutinizing the last 30 days to evaluate whether I had indulged in any forbidden foods. If I was low in energy, I blamed the fatigue on my inclination to eat too much sugar.

Food always seemed to be the culprit, and through my sense of logic I could rationalize how I got to feel a certain way by what I ate. But my path with food went beyond sheer rationality. In many ways, venturing into the nutritional unknown was like opening up a can of self-discovery.

When I had joint pain years ago, I stopped eating gluten and my joints came back to normal. I became a gluten-free evangelist, spending significant time delving into the gluten-free world, reading books, listening to experts, until I found I was eventually giving talks on living a gluten-free life.

I immersed myself in that world for years, and still do, although now in a different way—by being less preoccupied and more detached. Becoming gluten-free was more than a way of life; it was an integrated journey that had me learning much about my immune system, gut, and how to use my creativity to try other foods that I wasn’t accustomed to like quinoa and millet.

Similarly, when I was teaching detoxification to practitioners or running nutritional detoxification programs, I remember that everything in my life was seen through the lens of detox. I began examining my own digestion, liver function, whether or not my food was “clean” and truly pesticide-free beyond what I am normally tuned in to.

When I would emerge from weeks of detox—the readings, stringent eating, supplement regimen, brutal self-examination—I had learned much more about myself than at the start. My sense of self-discipline, my ability to “come clean” with emotions, finding new toxins in my home environment, and even letting go of the fear that normally comes with becoming preoccupied with toxins. I still venture into bouts of nutritional detox when I feel I need to shed the layers of toxic living. It’s a remarkable experience and gives me the renewed feeling through body, mind, and spirit.

Another example of nutrition immersion was when I lectured internationally on women’s health for over a year. During that time, I saw everyone as a mobile biochemical milieu of estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, and cortisol. Every health issue I witnessed seemed to be some derivation of a hormone imbalance. Investigating and teaching about hormone health caused me to have my own hormone levels tested and to track them over months.

The beauty of exploring hormones in this initially intellectual way was that it wasn’t just a nutritional exercise—it opened me up to my creative, feminine self. I began painting more and even showing others my art through my science-based presentations. It was a radical shift for me to delve into reclaiming my femininity through creative expression just through the seemingly simple study of hormones.

Knowing that I connect so dearly to foods, perhaps it is no surprise that the first place I looked in the past week when I was having some symptoms with my gums was at the foods I was eating. Was I getting enough vitamin C? Should I be using neem oil topically on my gum line? What about taking supplemental coenzyme Q10?

My head was racing and within a day of thinking it through, I felt satisfied that in some way, I had conquered my own condition. I knew how I was going to solve it and I was already feeling the hint of a personal journey beginning to unfold.

With a sense of accomplishment in my voice, I relayed my thought process to my acupuncturist husband when he came home from work. After my long diatribe, he said to me, “So you’ve got the next ‘shiny object,’ right?”

I knew what he was saying; he was tapping into my own personal pattern of applying nutrition as the cure-all, fix-it approach to a health issue with potentially many facets.

On the surface, I would agree with him. However, upon reflection, I came to the conclusion that the “nutritional shiny objects” that I had become whisked away by in all my decades of study, whether gluten, detoxification, or hormones, could seem to the outside observer as just that; a mirage, a fascination, a fleeting trend.

Yet, each time I would get caught or snagged on a new nutritional topic, I had a cathartic experience of personal growth.

Each discovery served as an anchor for me, a deepening. I was led down different paths by exploring food and picking apart my eating.

Our involvement in nutritional shiny objects, whether it’s the latest antioxidant drink, gluten-free food, or dietary fad, may be a merry-go-round to appease our intellect; but these seemingly superficial escapades have the capacity to lead us into spiraled realms of self-realization, as long as we are careful not to let them grip us so tightly. If we can use them wisely, they can help us to reflect on the larger scope of our lives, who we are, what we aspire to be, how we live.

Actually, I am quite grateful for my nutritionally-inquisitive mind. Studying nutrition for decades was not just a mental jog, but a life unraveling, bringing me square into the grounds of introspection.

As long as we are able to lovingly observe the information—juice it to extract its wisdom—and take our time to digest and savor our findings without being too attached to the outcome, food can take us on a rewarding spiritual journey.


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Asst. Ed: Jane Henderling/ Ed: Sara Crolick

{photo courtesy of xiaming on Flickr}

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