Empowered Living – Becoming our own expert in our health
The book “Chicken Soup For The Soul” by Canfield and Hansen became a New York Times best seller in the 1990’s and was an inspirational book for many. For those who haven’t read it, it is a compilation of stories about people’s lives and the stories are all really positive and uplifting. The book wasn’t about food or religion but the title captures how food and especially chicken soup can be really heart warming and nourishing and indeed soulful.
For me, health is a fascinating and engaging subject and as I have developed my psychotherapy practice over the years my lens has got wider and I have become very aware of how there are so many factors affecting my clients’ sense of health and well- being.
As a psychotherapist, I recognise how factors such as the nature of our early attachments, trauma, bereavements, relationship difficulties etc can all effect how we feel about ourselves and how we are in relation to others. There are of course many other factors effecting our sense of well being, it is now widely recognised that factors such as whether we take exercise, get time in nature, feel connected to others and have a sense of being in community, have the opportunity to be creative and whether we eat good food, especially food that suits their bodies, are all vitally important in terms of our capacity to feel well in ourselves.
This awareness of the many facets of health, has led me to recently set up a new initiative called the Good Food Initiative and is concerned with the role of food in how we can manage our health generally and stay well. I am not a nutritionist, nor do I wish to be, I am a psychotherapist who understands that ultimately we all need to take responsibility for ourselves, and whilst at different times or stages, we may need help in coping with past issues or patterns that effect our lives, it is also important that we get to know and understand ourselves as best we can and ultimately manage our own health in the broadest sense. In my work with clients I not only assist them with past issues which may still be impacting on their lives but also seek to support my clients in developing greater self awareness and in developing an awareness that there are always choices we can make in our lives, no matter “how bad” things are or seem. Ultimately I see the work as about supporting people to feel more empowered in their lives. The Good Food Initiatve is concerned with individuals and communities becoming more empowered around their food and so their health and well being. Taking more control of the food we eat, where it is sourced, how to prepare it and enjoying the deep but simple pleasure of eating together is, in my view of huge importance in not only feeling more empowered but also in terms of nourishing us, body and soul and in keeping us well.
As someone who has been interested in good food for a long time, particularly since I became a parent, I have realised that there is a lot of information about food but that its not particularly consistent. There is always new research but often what is being presented contradicts other researchers. I attended a talk recently on food and its link to mood and the nutritionist who presented argued that animal protein is of great value in alleviating depression. ( see www.choosinghealthnow.com) Other food writers and nutritionists have warned us that meat, especially red meat, isn’t good for our health and some say it can lead to cancer. I have often read contradictory evidence that butter, eggs, dairy etc etc are either good for us or not so good for us! The research needs to isolate factors so that something can be proven, but humans are so multi factorial that really I think research cannot help us with our own individual predicaments, in that we each have a particular and unique body, and our health is determined by many things including diet, background, genetics, attitude etc and that ultimately the old adage “Know thyself” is really what’s important. For some raw food and vegetarian diet may well suit, but not everyone. I know personally I feel more inclined towards warming casseroles and soups this time of year, irrespective of the alleged health benefits of juices and smoothies. I think what is good for our health is complex and depends on time of year, our bodily constitution, stress in our lives, how we eat, the atmosphere in which we eat etc etc. In my book “the secret of the mince pies”, a tribute to my late mother, I argued that whilst she used white bread and refined sugar in her cooking that it was her love that made whatever she cooked healthy!
So what I am coming to believe is that we need to develop our own expertise and get to know our own bodies and that of our children’s and discover what suits us and them. To become more empowered about our health. If we became more empowered about maintaining our health, we would feel better, have less need to rely on outside interventions such as medical doctors and our hospitals would not be bursting at the seams as they seem to be currently. Our health service could then be used to treat those who have serious medical conditions but also to help us stay well. ideally our health service could shift from treating disease to supporting health.
The Good Food Initiative is about supporting people around sourcing good quality food and learning how it can help maintain their health. It is also concerned with promoting good food and the pleasure of cooking good, healthy food, enjoying food and especially the coming together with family and friends around food. My aspiration is that more of us can become experts in our own health and learn ways to keep ourselves and families well, through finding what suits our own individual situations . I see psychotherapy and counselling as also offering us an opportunity to grow towards health to become more self aware and heal past issues that may be effecting us in our lives and ultimately feel better and also more empowered in our lives.
The word psychotherapist, derives from the Greek language and literally means soul attendant and many writers such as Thomas Moore (1992) writes about the focus of therapy being about the impoverished soul. Jung described neurosis as “the suffering of a soul that has not found meaning” Stevens 1994
So this is where the chicken soup comes in, especially if its good for the soul! If it doesn’t help then find a good therapist as both are helpful for soul nurturing!