After 13 days, I finally have my boy back in my arms and one of the first things he said to me was, “Mum, I think my body is asking for kefir, kombucha, brothy and lots of veggies.” A timely and appropriate request given that he’d come down with a fever and upset tummy on his arrival home. For those of us travelling over the silly season, or even if we weren’t, we may have indulged in a range of foods that we don’t usually eat on a day-to-day basis. For many of us, those foods would have been eaten joyfully, and quite possibly, if we were surrounded by family and friends, and lots of love, would have been a big dose of social and spiritual nutrition despite their not so great ingredients.
In our every day lives, we can often find that food has become laced with confusion or conflict. Is this good for us? Is it Paleo? Is it gluten free, grain free, sugar free? Will I gain weight? Food seems to have been reduced to being on a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ list. But food really is so much more than this. Isn’t it?
D’s trip to America over Christmas would have surely seen him indulge in American cuisine… from hot dogs, pizza, hamburgers and probably much more sugar than he would ever have on a daily basis. Was I concerned? Of course! But, over time, I knew I had to let this go and allow him to experience this trip and all the joy that went along with it. I also had to let go of a whole lot more than just food.
2014 has been a roller coaster of a year with one of my biggest challenges being a marriage separation. This meant D travelling to the USA with his Dad to spend Christmas with his family he had never met. As this trip grew closer I realised how much more than food I needed to let go of.
As a mother who has nurtured an extremely close attachment to my son; home-birth, extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, baby wearing and gentle parenting, letting go and seeing him, at 4 years of age, travel to the other side of the world without me was a huge ask. At the first thought of this prospect, my body reacted fiercely with an, “over my dead body” response. This response did not feel great; physically, mentally and emotionally and over time, and with much reflection and inner strength, I freed myself from this harsh stance as I began to loosen my grip.
A solo trip to Mullumbimby for some self love and self care helped guide me and free me from so much pent up stress, worry and resistance that was only causing more pain than good. It was through this time alone with reflection and deep inner thought that I came to realise that I needed to honour, respect and above all, trust the relationship between my son and his father. Although he was on the other side of the world, I had to trust that his father could too, parent, nurture and care for our son.
One of the biggest struggles I had with ‘letting go’ was around food. I have to be honest and share, that as a mother, who has been on a health journey since before D was born, I have done absolutely everything possible to ensure the food my four year old has eaten has been optimal. I was beside myself at the thought of him being away from me for this long, and not having ‘control’ over what he would be eating. But, as the trip grew closer I knew there was a greater lesson in this for him and especially for me.
Since D was young I have not only ensured he has eaten nutrient dense food, but I have also strived to educate him on the whys of eating real food and have also helped him tune in and listen to his body. I believe that children especially, if not tainted by a diet riddled with processed foods, sugar and MSG, are innately aware of what their bodies need. They can have more insight than we do and because they often haven’t developed the labels, judgment and emotional connections to food, are able to tap into this awareness at a far deeper level. I have also taught him that people have different beliefs and views around food and that it’s OK to have a different opinion to someone else.
I have recently been reading about the four aspects of food and nutrition: biological, psychological, social and spiritual nutrition, which has helped my perspective on food deepen and grow and has given me peace around D’s trip to the US and also helped me let go of the control I tried to enforce around food, realising there is a much bigger picture to be understood.
Biological nutrition consumes a great deal of what we discuss and share on Pinkfarm- Nutrient dense foods that have the power to nourish and heal. All the foods I long for D to be consuming daily! Science backs this up and there is a growing awareness around the healing properties and power of real food and how important biological nutrition is. Read more about our take on real food here.
Psychological nutrition is another aspect that Pinkfarm places great emphasis on as this relates directly to gut health and how food can influence mood, emotions, behaviour and food choices. Gut health is the driving force behind our food journeys and after gaining an understanding of the intricate networks of our micro-biome and its connection with our entire bodily functions, in particular the mind, psychological nutrition is key. Read more about gut health here.
Social nutrition is about the joy of eating. The love and laughter we share around a meal at the dinner table and how eating like this can lead to nourishment on a far deeper level than eating stressed or on the run or eating in a state where we are worrying about each and every ingredient in the food in front of us. I knew D’s time in the US would be filled with love, joy and excitement, so despite choices I may not have agreed with, I wasn’t there to stress him out or add any element of concern about the foods he was eating. He would have been nourished with the love of family as well as nourishment from the food. The final aspect, spiritual nutrition, is one of wonder and mystery and is about this mystery of life inherent in both food and human beings. As we know, real food is life- living giving and life containing. As we teach our children, we want to eat food that is from nature. Spiritual nutrition is about acknowledging all parts of nature that food depends on- the sun, earth, soil, water and air. So, can this impact our health the way biological, psychological and social nutrition can? You bet. To derive the health benefits from spiritual nutrition one must be fully present, show gratitude and love each time you eat. This mindfulness, graciousness and love that is put into a meal slows us down and ensures our body is in the “rest and digest” mode.
There are two important systems in our body “fight or flight” also known as the sympathetic nervous system and “rest and digest” our parasympathetic nervous system. When we are in “fight or flight” our body is in an alarmed state and ready for action. Adrenaline and cortisol are up and running through the body and it is less able to break down and draw nutrients from the food we eat. Ever eaten a meal on the run only to have indigestion or a sore tummy afterwards?
The biological opposite is our parasympathetic system of nerves. When we are in “rest and digest” we are able to heal and regenerate. The body is able to digest, detox, eliminate and build immunity, just what we need if we are consuming food!
As we have journeyed on Pinkfarm, we have realised how much spiritual nutrition has played a role in our journey. We realised that we now put more thought, love and intention into our food, whether we are cooking for 7 or making a meal for just for ourselves. This purposeful act shows gratitude for the food we make and serve and slows us down to appreciate the beauty in the food we consume. We have also often laughed about the photos we capture of our food before we eat. We now take these pictures and give thanks for the wonderful food that we are able to provide for our families, another way of slowing down and being more mindful before digging into the meal.
D is now back in my arms and I can’t wait to reconnect and share a nourishing meal with him and to hear of his adventures in the states. Despite remaining in excellent health whilst travelling in the middle of winter, he has returned home with a fever and a bad case of jet lag. It is amazing how the body waits to be in this ‘rest and digest’ state before shutting down and allowing it to become ill. We can probably relate, when we work long hours and then fall ill on a relaxing holiday! Of course I can’t wait to nurture him with bone broth, fermented foods, nutrient dense pate and healthy fats, the foods that his little body was asking for on his arrival home. As I feed him these nourishing foods, I will remember how far I have come. I am proud of my decision to let go and know what it means for the future. Sometimes we think holding on requires strength, but I have learnt that it requires the most strength and courage to let go.
As the saying goes, “there are two gifts we should give our children; one is roots and the other is wings.”