• Alicia Assad

Are You Well-nourished?

“An authentic life is the most personal form of worship.

Everyday life has become my prayer.”

~Sarah Ban Breathnach

Photos by JLM

WHOLE is my holistic approach to resilience, the outcome of a decade-long experiment in applying the tools and theories of well-being to motherhood.

This is experiment was inspired by my broken childhood and insecurities, fostered by my postpartum struggle, born in trauma, and nurtured by my determination to break the stranglehold of maternal guilt. Therefore, sharing my WHOLE journey with you is one of the hardest things I have ever done.

I dared to bare my soul, because I believe vulnerability is the birthplace of growth. WHOLE is the state of well-being I claimed by finding and honoring my most authentic self.

No, I am not perfect. I am not happy all of the time. Still, I am Well-nourished, Humble, Optimistic, Loving, and Engaged.

WHOLE is how I thrive, and today, I want to delve into what "Well-nourished" means to me.

From Diets & Deprivation to Well-nourished

Not long ago, I was at breakfast with my kids when I overheard a woman behind me place her order:

“I’ll have an egg white omelette. No, just plain egg whites. I do not want cheese, home fries, or toast. May I also have a Diet Coke?”

I cringed at this flavorless meal void of grains, healthy fats and colorful veggies, but my judgment is not of negative nature. My heart ached for this woman who I assume feels so unworthy of love, she stripped the joy out of eating for the sake of a low calorie diet.

Ok, I am projecting here, because I well remember the days I survived on coffee and half a bran muffin alone, fearful that real food would make me "fat" and "uglier" than I already believed I was.

I learned the hard way that the more you deprive yourself, the stronger your cravings will be. Eventually, you fail, and rock bottom is downright ugly when you struggle with low self-worth.

When you are done beating yourself up, you try another diet. At least, this is how I ended up caught in a vicious cycle of deprivation, guilt, and shame.

For example, how many diets have you tried? How well did they work? I mean, I’m sure they did…until they didn’t, right? Then, how did you feel?

What I gather from countless conversations with women about diets and weight struggles over the years is that you, me, and our egg-white/Diet Coke friend at the diner are NOT alone.

Eating with Joy: A Perspective Shift

My determination to overcome my struggles with food and body image inspired me to become a student of holistic nutrition - my intention was to “heal myself” by learning how to eat “perfectly.”

However, while studying every dietary theory under the sun from Atkins to Blood-Type, I had an aha moment:

I can figure out how to eat “perfectly,” and still not be "happy."

Yes, understanding HOW to nourish my body directed me onto a healthier path. We are fed so much misinformation about what and how to eat that we loose touch not only with our values and traditions, but our food/mood connection. Another time, I will delve further into the confusion surrounding diets, but today I want to take a broader perspective and say,

The most important change I made in “eating” was shifting my perspective from deprivation to abundance.

This is where my studies of positive psychology came into play. In fact, the science of happiness validated how important the perspective we choose is.

When I stopped trying to eat perfectly and instead became determined to love the body I have and feed her with nutrient rich foods, my body, mind, and life transformed.

True Nourishment: Beyond Food

Studying holistic nutrition and positive psychology certainly gave me a leg up on fostering healthy habits, and these days, I NEVER stress about food.

In fact, I LOVE to eat which is why I also garden, I am an avid cook, and I take pride in nourishing my family. Eating colorful, organic, "whole foods" filled with life-force is important to me (or ordering takeout when there is no time to cook), but know that nutrition is merely where my nourishment begins.

No, food alone is not enough to satiate your WHOLE self:

A Well-nourished mom makes herself a priority. She gives herself the love she deserves through nutrition, movement, inspiration, play, rest, and savoring moments of joy.

Now I'll ask you,

"What are you really craving these days? Is it just food, or is there something else you need and deserve?"

Drink While You Pour

A dear friend recently asked me,

“How on earth do you tackle all the things you do everyday?”

My response was,

“I work on my well-being relentlessly as though I am still a professional athlete.”

Indeed, my dancing years fostered disciplined habits I'll keep, but what's different (and healthier) now is my approach. I make a concerted effort to eat well, rest, and engage in soul-nourishing activities NOT to be good enough for a job (or fit into a mold), but to THRIVE.

My goals are to maintain a healthy marriage, be present for the children I cherish, and follow my calling to be a writer and coach on resilience and motherhood. This is a tall order that requires stamina.

My days are busy, but there is ALWAYS time for me, because I learned the hard way (via a postpartum burnout) that I must make myself a priority.

As a new mom I assumed taking a break or breathing beyond my baby was selfish. Four kids and a decade deep into motherhood, I can state with conviction, that the most healthy, well-adjusted moms I know nurture their children and themselves.

Defining your self-care routine is a personal journey, but I'll begin sharing recipes along with tips on things from workouts to beauty secrets on my blog in case my very practical regime (that typically happens in 15 minute increments) inspires you.

There is so much more to come, but I'll leave you with the thought that my "W" in WHOLE transcends the ordinary definition of nutrition.

Being Well-nourished begins with self-compassion, and since it fosters joy I continually remind myself to,

Drink while you pour.

My body is my temple, my mind is strong, and my spirit is thriving, because I nourish myself with the things I need and deserve.

Indeed, everyday life has become a prayer that began as a journey to find my most authentic self. She is worthy, and staying Well-nourished is one of the many ways I honor her.