Monica and I met during the time I was living in the DC area. Aside from being one of my favorite people, she is a well-spring of information and wise-counsel. What I love about her teaching is that is it so in line with being mindful and present to the ‘real meat’ of our lives! Here is a “taste” of Monica’s philosophy as we head into the Holidays and the New Year.
Monica, what led you to Health Counseling?
I was “the fat kid” growing up and I struggled with my weight up through college and beyond. After I graduated, I began working in the field of public health communication on childhood obesity issues. There, I researched and read numerous books and articles about nutrition. I attended anti-obesity meetings and press conferences. I was fascinated by the way that people are so influenced by the media to eat packaged and processed foods. I began to clean up my diet and started to exercise more. When I trained for my first marathon, I realized more than ever how what we eat affects the way we feel both physically and emotionally. That’s when the food-body relationship “clicked” for me. Between my work and my own quest to be healthier, I pursued more books on nutrition and health and pretty soon, I was the “go-to” person in my office and with my friends and family for nutrition advice. I still felt like I didn’t know enough and I was hungry for more information so I looked into programs for registered dietitians, but nothing really resonated with me. Through a friend, I heard about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition , and decided to enroll in their professional training program. While participating in the training, I knew that once I graduated, I wanted to help people discover their own journey to better health and to nourish them along the way.
What do Health Counselors do? What sort of issues would a typical client come to you with?
Health counselors offer a variety of support. I offer one-on-one counseling, group lectures, and teleclasses (interactive lectures on various topics held on the telephone). Primarily, I guide people to make better food choices within the context of their lifestyle. A single college student will get different recommendations than a working parent with three children or a corporate worker who travels most of the year. I also help individuals and families balance their wellness in other ways—I can coach people if they have problems sleeping, are lacking in exercise, or with their personal relationships. A typical client may come to me with a desire to lose weight, with binge eating or body image issues, or because their energy level is low and they don’t know how to cook healthfully. I believe that there’s no one “right” way of eating for everyone, and we each have the ability to find that way within ourselves. I simply help people find their own path.
You talk about Primary and Secondary foods on your website. Can you explain these concepts?
The food that we eat—eggs and rice and asparagus—are secondary foods. They nourish our bodies physically, and choosing healthful secondary foods helps us to balance our body—our cells, hormones, and organs. Primary foods are the things that nourish us emotionally—such as our work-life balance, our relationships (family, friends, romantic), our spirituality, our creativity, etc. When one or more of those primary foods is out of balance, then it can throw off our well-being, and it can make eating healthy foods quite challenging. When someone has a serious fight or break-up with a significant other, they may console themselves with cheesecake. When someone is working 12 hours a day and barely has time to sleep let alone cook, they may be surviving on vending machine snacks and caffeine to keep them going. I help people regain their primary food balance so that eating healthy secondary foods becomes much easier.
What are some ways that we can focus more on Primary Foods?
The first step is realizing that you deserve to have your primary foods in balance—you deserve to work at balancing them. Working on yourself to make your life happier and easier is extremely important and something that we all should do—after all, the better we take care of and love ourselves, the better we can take care of and love others. The second step is to identify your primary food imbalances. You can do this by journaling for a few minutes every day—pour out your thoughts and let them flow with no judgments and restrictions. After two weeks, read over your entries and see where there are common threads of consistent stress or imbalance in your life. Finally, make an action plan with simple, specific steps to work on pulling that imbalance back to a place that would make you happier and healthier. Be realistic and give yourself doable deadlines. And remember—you’re worth it!
Monica, the holidays are just so difficult for people, food-wise. What would be your suggestions for dealing with the pressures of this time of year?
One of the things that I tell my clients who are worried about the holidays is that “all foods will exist tomorrow.” We tend to have a “last supper” mentality when it comes to holiday foods, when in reality there isn’t any one food that you can’t have on February 19th, May 1st or any other day of the year—so why do we feel the need to eat so much of it during the holidays? Once you realize that this isn’t your very last chance to eat stuffing or pumpkin pie, it loses some of its appeal. Also, make sure to stay very well hydrated, and never go to a holiday party or sit down for a big meal extremely hungry. Eat a fiber- and protein-filled snack beforehand, such as an organic apple with 2 tablespoons of sunflower seed butter (like peanut butter, but made out of sunflower seeds, which are a great source of Vitamin E and magnesium). Having that filling snack will allow you to enjoy the foods without eating too fast due to hunger. Eating too quickly doesn’t allow you to listen to your hunger signals and you may end up overeating as a result. Chew slowly and enjoy each bite mindfully. Finally, take 10 minutes every single day for yourself. You could take a walk, stretch, take a bath, read or do the crossword. Taking time for yourself will reduce your stress, which is a major cause of over-eating.
I would like to thank Monica for sharing her expertise and knowledge with us! I love talking with her about food, life-balance, and family!
To receive Monica’s free monthly e-newsletter, find out more about working with Monica, either in person or by telephone, or attending one of her teleclasses, go to: Your Intuitive Health .