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File 4 - Article 10 Previous Index Next
Author: Joanna Thomson
Title: Nutrition

I could have chosen to write an essay on the importance of brassicas in our diet, or the trace elements in foods and where to find them or why calcium is vital to muscle movements. Instead I looked up the dictionary for a definition of 'nutrition', then I looked up the same word in the Thesaurus and another option was 'sustenance'. I went back to the O.E.D. and found 'the quality of being sustained' under sustenance. I liked that.

There are endless books written about food, nutrition, calories and diets. (I have excluded cookbooks from this definition for the purpose of this piece) You can read all about food, solid food, organic food, wholesome food, food that can be counted in calories. They tell you what every morsel can do for you, good or bad. There is no doubt that it is very important to eat a 'good' diet to maintain a reasonable level of health. Goodness me, even the orthodox practitioners admit that there is a correlation between what you eat and your state of health!

None of these books on food seems to be interested in the complete sustenance of the individual or the quality of sustaining the whole person; they are concerned with nutrition on a building blocks level. Of course we need air and water too - we can survive for three minutes without air, three days without water and three weeks without food and, what?, approximately three months without love?

Food alone does not nourish us, and I am not talking about the current problems caused by the empty calories of modern convenience foods. You can eat the best organic, well balanced diet with every one of the two thousand calories brimming with nutrition and goodness but you can still be left with a hunger that simply cannot be satisfied. No matter what you eat, that hunger remains, no cake, no bun, not even the best Green & Blacks chocolate will fill the hole. The emptiness or hunger experienced by so many of us when our close relationships no longer nourish us will not be satiated no matter how many treats we ram down our throats. Yet that lack of emotional nutrition can make our health fail faster that any poorly balanced diet. Happily, it is amazing how quickly that gap can be bridged by a phone call from a loved one, or a letter from a good friend.

The phrases 'starved of affection', 'a feast for the eyes', or even 'drinking in the views' have been adopted into common parlance for a very good reason. The world around us nourishes us too. If there is one subject that exercises the Nature Cure adherent more than any, it is food. I would be the last one to decry the place of a well balanced enjoyable selection of wholesome foodstuffs in a healthy person's life.

There is no doubt it is vital to good long term health to eat properly, but it can also become an unhealthy obsession. One glass of wine does not destroy your liver or one bar of chocolate turn you into a diabetic. My father once told me that no matter what subject he started off with at his Friday question time session at Kingston, the topic always came round to food! Eating the perfect diet does not automatically assure that you become a happy, balanced, healthy person.

Balance, we often talk of balanced diets - doesn't that mean fresh fruit and vegetables on the one side of the scales and the 'naughty treats' on the other? All work and no play make Jack a dull boy. There is no argument that muscles need good clean blood, oxygen carrying blood, and that they also need calcium to work properly, but they also need movement and activity and variety of activity at that to be truly healthy. What we eat forms the building blocks that allow us to enjoy life to the full, but it is only part of our overall nourishment.

How miserable we feel when we are weakened and lethargic from lack of exercise and how good we feel when we reach the top of the mountain and look back over the miles we have climbed and 'drink in the views' . Even more amazing is how little fuel we need to achieve that climb, exercise of the right sort is an appetite suppressant.

One of the joys of chocolate is that it contains a particular chemical, I think it is theobromine; this chemical gives you the same endorphin high as falling in love. Just think about that heady feeling of falling in love with someone new and how little food you need to feel completely full. Wasn't there an experiment carried out some years ago with three very young chimpanzees? One was taken from his mother and given to another adult female to care for; one was kept in a cage with a soft furry toy; the third kept in a bare cage. All three were fed the same diet and had the same minimal input from the keepers. The first chimp thrived with his replacement mum, the second clung to his furry toy and survived, the third declined rapidly. Now convince me that we only need a good diet to enjoy full nutrition or a genuine quality of being sustained.

Next time you reach for the cookbook or scan the supermarket shelves to find a tasty confection just ask yourself which part of you are you actually trying to nourish!

Reflecting on the foregoing I realise that I have not even touched on the importance of creativity to the nourishment of the soul and body - an interesting omission from someone who earns some 80% of her income from the creative arts! Maybe 'Creativity' could be a topic for a future Nature Cure File.