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Are You Neglecting Your Primary Food?

Primary Food
Nicole Wilson
Written by Nicole Wilson

As anyone who has undergone this transformation into good health knows, once you begin to make small healthy changes, bigger ones will indefinitely follow.

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As anyone who has undergone this transformation into good health knows, once you begin to make small healthy changes, bigger ones will indefinitely follow.


In my humble opinion, we are all fortunate to live in a day and age where there is a huge emphasis on health and wellness.  I can infer that much of the current trend has emerged as a counter movement to all the damage that has been done to the overall health of the American population via S.A.D. or the Standard American Diet.

One of the things I love most in my work as a Holistic Health Coach is when I see people genuinely juiced up about getting healthy and making impactful change in their lives, as it can be the first step of a great journey into self- exploration and growth.

As anyone who has undergone this transformation into good health knows, once you begin to make small healthy changes, bigger ones will indefinitely follow. Some people are ready to start cooking more vegetables, taking a new yoga class, adopting an organic shopping regime but as those positive changes begin to cause a ripple effect throughout their lives they are reluctant to make the bigger changes.  As our buddy Hamlet would say, “ Aye, there’s the rub!”

Sometimes we are comfortable “eating” healthy, but when it comes to really being healthy in our relationships, our work life, our physicality – we begin to dig in our heels and say “Whoaaaa buddy! That’s about as far as I go with this healthy mumbo jumbo!” I get it. I’ve been there myself.

One of the great ironies that I often observe in my clients, friends and even the merry bunch known as my family is that while people are willing to spend large amounts of money on organic foods, the latest cutting edge supplement, gyms , trainers, and coaches – they will often simultaneously, and without a second thought, poison themselves in other ways such as surrounding themselves with toxic people, sleeping 4 hours a night, neglecting their passions and creativity, or working a job that sucks the life out of them.

Most people have a way of compartmentalizing their health and believing they are living a healthy lifestyle simply because they are in the habit of doing all the “right” things.  The problem is if you are neglecting what I call Primary Food – a term that originated at The School For Integrative Nutrition of which I am a graduate–then no amount of Organic Blueberries is going to help.

So what is Primary Food?

When people hear the word “food”, we typically conjure thoughts of things we would find on our breakfast, lunch, and dinner plate, in the fridge, or in the cupboard of our kitchen.  When people are said to be “unhealthy” we immediately think they are abusing their bodies by engaging in eating foods with low nutritional value such as fast food, soda pop, junk food, as well as perhaps abusing alcohol, drugs, or cigarettes.

However, a more integrated approach to health, of which I am a firm believer, is that when we talk about food and good health we have to consider the ENTIRE person, which includes much more than just what we’re  stuffing down our gullets.  Primary Foods are the Foods that sustain life – the things that make life worth living, the things that bring joy and meaning and fulfillment to our life and peace to our hearts. Making the food that we consume actually Secondary. Thus I divide food categories into Primary and Secondary Foods.

As the Institute for Integrative Nutrition explains, “When primary food is balanced and satiated, your life feeds you, making what you actually eat secondary.” What a novel concept, and yet it is pretty straightforward.

The principle is that you require both Primary Foods and Secondary Foods to live a healthy, balanced life.  When we neglect a critical area in the realm of Primary Foods, we just feel “off”.

One of my first clients was an older Mom who had left her 15 year career in advertising to raise her two young sons and was frustrated because she was still carrying around about 15lbs of baby weight. I was able to put her on a great diet plan to help her lose the weight; she simply needed tools and encouragement. Once she had reached her goal of losing weight I noticed something very peculiar – she was still extremely frustrated. When I asked her what she felt was missing after achieving such a big goal, she confessed that while she adored her children– she no longer felt significant and creative . While some women are perfectly happy at the helm of the 3-ring Circus that is being a stay at home mom, my client was clearly needed MORE in her life to feel like herself.  She was lacking some key Primary Foods. So instead of focusing exclusively on her diet plan which she already had under control, we focused on getting her back to work so she could once again feel both significant and creative. It worked like a charm.

When the needs of our Primary Foods are not being met, we often use and abuse Secondary Food as a way to suppress our underlying hunger for Primary Food. Our body’s suffering is often the physical manifestation of an unmet hunger for Primary Foods. Everyone knows the cliché of the lonely, single, gal sitting at home on a Saturday Night stuffing her face with a tub of ice cream and watching romantic comedies. It’s a cliché for a reason – when we are not fulfilled in one area of our life – we often use food as a temporary remedy. However, that temporary fix is short lived as there is no ice cream tub deep enough to fill someone who needs human contact and more profound relationships.

When we look at Secondary Food-related issues such as weight gain and obesity, and widespread epidemics such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer; one of the chief causes for these problems is that we are filling ourselves with Secondary Foods when what we are really needing  is to feast on Primary Food. If you’re not getting the Primary Food you require to be a happy human being, eating all the healthy, holistic, organic, grass-fed, GMO Free, Vegan, Super-Food, Gluten Free, food on the entire planet will not satiate your appetite.

 So what are the crucial areas of Primary Food that we need to focus on improving?

Well the first and most obvious one that comes to my mind is that we need to form healthy relationships with around us. We need to surround ourselves with positive healthy people and engage in generous exchanges between friends, family, and in our most intimate relationship with our significant other.  We need to take and make time for the people that matter most to us, and protect those relationships.

Another area is work. While I was raised with two wonderful parents who really encouraged me to “follow my bliss” as Joseph Campbell would say – a lot of people did not grow up with this model. A lot of people equated their job with money and financial security, but as anyone who has been in a job that they hate, if you don’t also LOVE what you do – you’re going to be miserable. So another area to focus on building up is finding something you love to do with your life and make it your job!

There are so many more areas of Primary Food that have a significant impact on us so I will just list a few more that I believe you need to focus on in order to feel healthy and well “fed”: love, play, romance, sleep, generosity, creativity, adventure, self-expression, fun, intimacy, spirituality, physical activity, leadership and so on. Basically all the things I mention are crucial ways to feed and nourish your life. Pay attention to where you may be “starving” and look for ways to feed yourself with them on a regular basis!

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What have you accepted within your life, physically and/or mentally? What are you still working on accepting?

That I am not on anyone else’s life timeline and that my life is unfolding exactly as it should and when I am truly ready for it.

What have you learn to appreciate about yourself and/or within your life, physically and mentally? What are you still working on to appreciate?

My ability to love and nurture those around me. I have always had a big heart and I love sharing my heart with those who matter most such as my family, my friends, my boyfriend.

What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life? What makes YOU most proud? What goals and dreams do you still have?

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We all have imperfections, so we think. The truth—we are all perfectly imperfect. What are your not-so-perfect ways? What imperfections and quirks create who you are—your Identity?

I am very open to the world which some would say is good, others would say I need to be more protective of that vulnerability.

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About the author

Nicole Wilson

Nicole Wilson

Nicole Wilson is a writer, blogger, Life / Health Coach and is a graduate of The School for Integrative Nutrition. She is owner of Sprouted in the City [www.sproutedinthecity.com] a health and life coaching practice that empowers women to transform their bodies and lives into SEXY & HEALTHY works of art! Additionally Nicole works successfully as a painter as well as a TV & Film actress appearing on such shows as “The Good Wife” ,“All My Children” and “Law & Order”.

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