As I drive around Kansas City now, in the second week of January, everything is brown. The grass is brown, the trees have dropped their leaves and all that remains is just spindly brown branches. I find myself really looking forward to the first burst of spring when we will see the brilliant green grass and vibrant flowers return.
Right now, it’s clear the entire landscape is dead, or at least dormant. There’s no life and energy in it right now. When the buds start to swell and the little green shoots start to appear, we’ll see life come back to the landscape, and with that life comes energy.
Just like we can see the difference between a dead landscape and a living landscape, we as humans have that same expression. We can wander around dormant, brown, and lacking life-force energy, or we can be vibrant and full of life-force energy. One thing that impacts whether we are dormant or vibrant is the food we eat.
If we are eating dead food, we will not get energy to fill our life-force and make us vibrant. A small change we can make is to eat live food that is full of energy.
Eat Your Veggies
Fruits and vegetables are full of energy. They top the list of energy-filled foods.
Dr. Suzanne Rowden, an integrative medicine family doctor, says that the most important small change you can make is to eat your veggies. She says when she tells people that, they either admit that they never eat veggies or they only eat carrots and green beans. She explains why it is so important to eat vegetables:
“Vegetables are the number one food that give us a source of minerals and vitamins. And they’re the most important food that helps the liver to function. The liver is our detoxing organ, so it’s extremely important. Our liver also controls all of our hormones, so if we don’t give it the nutrients it needs, the body starts to get out of balance.”
To help our bodies function the way they should, we need to nourish it well. Vegetables give us the vitamins and minerals we need to fuel our body, and they also boost our energy.
Make Little Swaps
Robyn Johnson, an integrative medicine dietitian, recommends thinking about changes to your diet as little swaps. As you work on changes to the food you eat, don’t set it up as “I can never have ___(fill in the blank)___ food again.” Depending on the changes you are making you might be filling in that blank with cake, or chips, or chocolate. Robyn explains that saying you can never have that food again will make you feel deprived and then you will want the chips even more.
Instead of completely eliminating cake from your diet, find a healthier alternative that you can have once in a while. Try a gluten-free cake sweetened with honey instead of white sugar. It will have fewer harmful ingredients and can still be a delicious cake for you to enjoy as a treat once in a while.
You can also treat healthy snacks as a little swap. If you regularly eat chips and sour cream dip, try swapping it for cucumber slices with hummus as a dip. You’ll get crunch and salt and a dip, but you will also be getting a serving of vegetables. Hummus comes in a variety of flavors that you can experiment with. I also like cherry tomatoes with hummus, and it means I get those bright colors.
Reward Your Brain and Your Body
Robyn explains that making little swaps will allow you to reward your brain with the thing that it is craving, but you will also be rewarding your body with something that is healthy.
I think the best reward system is something that makes you feel good. I think about bright colors on my plate because I know that means the food is alive and will make me feel alive. I think about whether the thing I am eating will make me feel good in a hour, in four hours, or tomorrow.
To find the things that make you feel good, tune into your body. Take time to sit quietly and assess how you are feeling. Ask yourself why you are craving cake. Ask yourself how the cake will make you feel. Then stay still and listen to your body respond. As you practice tuning in, you will get better at hearing the answers and you will be able to apply them and make big shifts in your life.