By Deana Tareshawty
As a Soma Essential Healing practitioner, my job is to help you achieve optimal health and well-being by showing you how to incorporate the four pillars of wellness into your everyday life.
How’s your current level of energy?
One of the most common complaints that I hear from clients in a Soma Essential Healing session is that of fatigue and low energy. When low energy sets in, all the other pillars fall out of balance. Low energy and fatigue are then often blamed for not attending to the spiritual, mental and emotional pillars of the Soma Essential Healing program.
Many times, I’ve made sleep more of a priority than meditation and exercise. I used the excuse, “I am not a morning person” to justify why I could not get out of bed early in the morning. I would go to bed at a decent hour, before 11:00pm most nights. So, why was I just not able to get up? More importantly, why was I not refreshed and ready for my day?
In one of these bouts of low energy, I decided to look at my diet a little more closely. There is a connection between diet, fatigue, and low energy levels. I learned that the easiest and fastest way to turn my energy level around within a week is eating a better diet. I first observed my eating habits, and then made adjustments to my diet to increase my energy level.
So, I understand completely when a client expresses how he or she can’t get out of bed in the morning and how fatigue follows them throughout the day. I’ve been there and I still wage war on the battle with fatigue.
Observation #1: I was eating too much of the wrong foods, and eating too much at the wrong times of day.
I was eating the majority of my food at dinner, between 6-8pm. I was completely ravenous at this time when I skipped meals or didn’t eat a snack in the afternoon to keep my blood sugar stable. Then, at dinner, I mindlessly consumed too many calories, and sought out sugar, chemical-laden convenience foods, or pre-packaged meals for quick cooking. I did not eat enough live foods, like fruits and veggies, and instead ate too much protein and unhealthy carbs, like bread.
Before observing this, I didn’t realize that too much food after a certain hour in the evening interfered with my ability to sleep and interfered with my digestion. Part of an ongoing issue with constipation (that I was also experiencing) stemmed from eating large meals too late at night. With my body so full of food, I was not able to fully relax and fall into a deep sleep.
In contrast, when I was in Spain last summer, I lived like a European for two weeks. I ate what they ate, and when they ate. I noticed a remarkable difference in how I felt from adopting that culture’s habits. They seem to better understand the importance of dietary balance and the times of day to eat certain foods.
Hotels in Spain had breakfast buffets with “American” breakfast options, and the “Spanish” options on the opposite side. Unsurprisingly, the American buffets were lined with greasy sausages, sugar filled cereals, and pastries. The Spanish side had cheese, olive oil, tomatoes, bread, yogurt (real yogurt, not filled with sugar,) and other items more commonly seen on a dinner table. People in Spain do not eat sugar for breakfast. They eat lean protein, healthy fats, and vegetables, and they make eating breakfast a priority. The largest meal of their day is lunch, and dinner is very modest, more like a snack.
So I decided to go back to this approach to eating to see how I felt.
This meant that I had to start eating breakfast again, which I did not typically do, as I thought my body did not need food in the morning.
Clearly, I was wrong about this, as my energy level increased almost immediately from eating breakfast. I ate things such as eggs with vegetables and cheese, or I made a vegetable smoothie with chia seeds.
For lunch, I ate as much salad and veggies as I wanted. I skipped the salad dressing and instead used lemon and a few drizzles of extra virgin olive oil with some spices.
I find that cumin gives a great southwest flavor that kicks up a salad. If I add an animal protein source at lunch, I skip animal protein at dinner. I was surprised that my body did well with less animal protein each day. Previously, I had been conditioned to think that animal protein should be added to every meal.
I also added snacks between breakfast and lunch, and between lunch and dinner. This is when I ate fruit. I ate a piece of low glycemic load fruit, like berries, apples, apricots, or oranges. Sometimes I would include a handful of nuts. Dinner would be a modest portion of lean protein and lots of vegetables, or vegetables alone, depending on what I had eaten earlier.
By eating more throughout the day, I am less hungry at dinnertime, and my energy level increases and is sustained. I also attribute my increase in energy to the fact that I am feeding my body fresh live foods, full of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. I am giving my body what it needs to function, build and repair. In addition, I don’t consume any additional or hidden sugar.
From my own experience, when I eat processed and sugar-laden foods, I experience an increase in restlessness. My mind becomes so busy. I can’t seem to focus on tasks and my concentration is shot. When I eat too much sugar, it sends me into emotional overload. I become very sensitive, reactive, and “down in the dumps.”
Why is this so?
For example, sugar, regardless of its food source, affects every system in the body. Sugar breaks down into blood glucose, and then that glucose needs to be immediately transported into the cells, tissue and organs of the body. This requires insulin, which you can think of like a big bus that acts as a transport vehicle for blood glucose. Neither blood glucose nor insulin is supposed to remain in the blood stream. The bus (insulin) is supposed to transport blood glucose to its destination and then return to the bus depot (the pancreas).
With excessive sugar and carbs intake, the bus runs out of seats and standing room, leaving the sudden increase in passengers (excess blood glucose, a.k.a blood sugar) stranded on the highway (blood stream), waiting for another bus to come along. When blood sugar is stalled in the blood stream in this way, it is possible to experience symptoms of depression because excess blood sugar interferes with the brains ability to produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that produces the “happy” feeling in you.
Blood sugar also triggers the release of serotonin, a sleep regulator, so excess blood glucose can make you sleepy. It can increase pressure in the circulatory by way of insulin shock that occurs when the folks back at the bus depot (the pancreas) panic and send more buses than there are passengers to transport. The ‘highway’ gets backed up with that bus traffic (an overload of insulin in the blood). This causes tension in the artery walls, which can eventually lead to high blood pressure, and ultimately, makes a stroke or heart attack more likely.
My body was spending so much of its natural resources to fight the effects of elevated blood sugar and inflammation caused by these types of foods that it was wearing itself out. No wonder I was tired! As a result, when I am tired, emotional, and restless, I often neglect the spiritual activities—like meditation and chanting—offered in Some Essential Healing that pull me out of this “funk,” because I have little focus or concentration. Diet plays a huge role in well-being on all levels, especially energy levels.
Observation Number two: I was not consuming enough water.
Water is often an overlooked natural remedy for many ailments. When you have a headache, it could simply be from dehydration. Constipation? Diarrhea? Drink more water. Hungry? Drink water and see if you really are hungry. Sometimes hunger is disguised as dehydration.
The body needs fluid to function properly and to make sure all the nutrients are being properly circulated to all the tissues and cells. So, it makes perfect sense that if I was not drinking enough water, my body would feel sluggish. Nutrients were not being delivered, and wastes were not being taken away. I didn’t follow any formula or rule about how much water to get into my body. I drank at least 48 oz. and listened to my body. When I began to feel sluggish, I got up and drank a glass of water. Increasing my water intake also increased my energy levels.
My herbology teacher tells us that water is the first medicine to try. Without water, no other medicine will work. So instead of reaching for a caffeine-filled drink to recharge, try water first.
In Soma Essential Healing, we offer a healing modality in which attention to diet is one of the means to heal the body, as the first of the four pillars of our approach to total well-being. I hope sharing the results of my observations and dietary changes encourages you to make adjustments to your lifestyle through diet, to experience the difference for yourself. Within one week, I was able to wake up refreshed, get out of bed early, and have enough energy to sustain me throughout my day.
Fatigue or low energy is not something you have to live with. It is not who you are. It is a condition that is reversible with attention to what you put into your body.