A few months ago, I started with the Institute of Integrative Nutrition to become an Integrative Health Coach. Immediately, I felt connected with this school as the first lesson introduced was about Primary Food. When I read the heading of the unit, I figured this was going to be all about fruits and vegetables, the “primary” foods we should be eating no matter which diet we follow. Boy was I wrong. Primary Food as discussed with IIN is about the activities, experiences, and relationships that fill our lives.
Primary food is having a loving partner or family to come home to at the end of the day, that will give you a hug when you walk through the door, or ask you how your day was. Primary food is going to a job where you feel inspired and fulfilled. Primary food is having a spiritual practice, whether that means actually going to church, or maybe just coming to your yoga mat a couple times a week. Primary food is being able to go out with others to laugh and have fun, for no reason at all.
Secondary food is what fills our plates and our bellies. However, without the right amount of primary food, no amount of secondary food will do. We can eat as much as we want, but we will never feel satisfied. The fun, excitement, and love of daily life have the power to feed us to a point we are so full, food simply becomes secondary.
I have never felt so related to a topic in my life. When I was working full time three years ago, I fell into a really dark place. I was extremely exhausted and unhappy, so much so that I found myself bingeing, especially on caffeine and sugar. I recognized already that this behavior was from my emotional state, but fully connecting how I was missing the primary food of my life made it all make sense.
I was in an unfulfilling career, I didn’t live near any of my friends or family, and I became so busy and exhausted I was no longer able to keep up with the intensity of the training program I loved. Couple all of this with just the basic fact of adjusting to the adult world, and it’s pretty clear I didn’t have any primary food in my life…so it’s no wonder I was trying to fill the void with as much secondary food as I could.
In our fast paced society, we get so caught up in all of the things we have to do. All the pesky lines on our to-do lists constantly loom over us, draining us from the vibrant energy we could be living our lives with. Our world is now plagued with chronic stress, the ultimate root of most diseases. Thus, if treating an ailment with pure secondary food, we’re just putting a band-aid on the problem, and the illness is bound to recur. If we’re not fulfilled and looking forward to each new day in our lives, then what’s the point of being physically healthy enough to live a long life? If we’re alone and unhappy, then what’s the point of dieting to create a specific image for ourselves?
My point is that even if we are follow the strictest meal plan, work our asses off in the gym, and spend hundreds of dollars on supplements- all in an attempt to make us physically our best selves- does any of that matter if our emotional states are in absolute turmoil?
Almost all spiritual traditions encourage people to fast at different points during the year, in hope that if they reduce secondary food for awhile, they can become more aware of their primary food. I’m not saying you have to fast, but for a moment, step away from all distractions. Stop, pause, and evaluate the primary food in your life. Are you starved or stuffed? What needs improving? What do you need to back off of? Are you eating from an emotional state? Or worse, malnourished from lack of hope? One thing I’ve learned first hand these past couple years is that life is short and tomorrow isn’t promised, so we can’t wait another minute to start filling our lives with the people and experiences that matter the most!