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Emotional Nutrition PLUS Nutrient Dense Foods = A Match Made In Healing Heaven

Note* We here at Heal At Last have a profound desire to bring you offerings that fit our model of equity in health care. Dr. Rankin, as our founder, is tuned to this position and we present this to you in that spirit.

By Lissa Rankin, M.D.

In my first TEDx talk, I caused a bit of a stir by beginning my talk with a provocative question: “What’s the most important part of your health? What do you think? Is it eating a balanced, mostly plant-based diet, balancing your hormones, daily exercise, getting enough sleep, taking your vitamins, seeing your doctor for regular check ups? These things might all seem like important, even critical, factors to living a healthy life. But what if I told you that caring for your body was the least important part of your health?”

The point I went on to make is that many critical factors influence our health even more than what we eat or drink, how many pills we pop, how many supplements we consume, giving up bad habits, going to the gym, or whether we’re up to speed on the CDC’s preventive health guidelines. Factors like loneliness, social isolation, untreated trauma, lack of community support, financial stress, work that causes us moral injury, and toxic, oppressive relationships with narcissistic individuals can harm our health even more than a poor diet, lack of exercise, or even cigarette smoking.

I talked about the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania, who ate pasta, pizza, and meatballs fried in lard, while smoking and drinking- and they had half the rate of heart disease as the rest of the country. Why, researchers wanted to know? Because, the concluded, these Italian immigrants were never lonely, never isolated, never left to solve life’s insurmountable problems all by themselves. They had each other, and the health benefits of belonging seemed to far outweigh the potential harm caused by what they ate or drank.

I told those stories not because I don’t care about nutrition or focus on what I eat, but because most health conscious people have already had it hammered over our heads what we should and should not eat or drink. I was interested in drawing attention to some of the health behaviors we rarely talk about, like the impact of untreated trauma on medical illness and the potential for healing when we treat the chronic nervous system dysregulation caused by trauma.

Because there are plenty of people focusing on these issues, I didn’t put much attention publicly on teaching nutrition or talking about exercise. But privately, I’ve been counseling physicians and patients about the healing potential of marrying all kinds of wellness behaviors together- not as an either/or, but as a both/and. 

So…after many people have asked me to publicly talk about what I do in the privacy of my own kitchen, I’m teaching my first “un-cooking” class, alongside gourmet chef and gentleman farmer Jonathan McCloud. After fifteen years of teaching about everything that impacts your health but nutrition, it’s time to round out the rest of my health advice.

In the EAT TO THRIVE program, me and a team of hand picked experts will be guiding you through a high density nutritional green juice cleanse (emotional support for your parts included.) We’ll also be teaching you how to make my renowned raw chocolate and the kale chips my family loves. We’ll even be bringing in special guests like Dr. Sara Szal Gottfried, who has written seven books, largely about nutrition, as well as Dr. Jeffrey Rediger, who found in the research for his book CURED that high density nutrition was one of the interventions radical remission survivors employed to become “health outliers” who were the Olympians of healing.

We’ll also be discussing nutrition and detox cleansing in a trauma-informed way, with an Internal Family Systems lens on parts related to eating and drinking, and with sensitivity to disordered eating parts and how they can disguise themselves under “good nutrition.”

Learn more about EAT TO THRIVE: Raw, Racy & Revolutionary here.

In EAT TO THRIVE, we’ll teach you to make yummy raw foods and invite you to join us for a green juice cleansing restart in a safe, brave community. We’ll be instructing you on how high-density nutrition may reverse some medical conditions and how to feel better in your body nutritionally (without disordered eating and without bypassing the impact of trauma on how and what we eat.) 

If you’ve been struggling with health conditions that aren’t improving, if you’ve been sluggishly waning in energy and vitality, if you can’t seem to get to a healthy weight, or if your mental health isn’t doing so well, sometimes the solution is regulating the nervous system by healing trauma with cutting edge trauma healing methods like Internal Family Systems (IFS.) Trauma can impact our “parts” and lead to all kinds of protector parts that are related to medical illness, low energy, chronic fatigue, physical pain, and trouble sleeping. Traumatic stress is widely understood to lead to the kind of chronic inflammation that underlies almost all medical conditions. Healing our “parts” can help reduce trauma-related chronic inflammation. Trauma can also impact how we eat. It can cause addictions. And it can inform ways we try to exercise control when we feel out of control, like eating disorders. So, healing the parts related to disordered eating and addictions can guide us in finding other healthier ways to manage our stress.

But it’s not just “parts” that can predispose us to medical or mental health conditions. What you eat can be either medicine or poison. While trauma can cause chronic inflammation and impair healing, what you eat can also inflame you and disable healing as well. It can also help you fight off disease with maximal efficacy. Suppose you’re filling up on nutrition-free foods or poisoning yourself with processed chemicals. If your beautiful cells aren’t getting the nutrients they need to keep inflammation at bay and power your biology to function optimally, you can be doing everything else right. Your body might still not have the building blocks to optimally impact your cells, genes, organs, and whole functioning system. 

But suppose you’re eating to thrive, filling your body with foods with the highest nutrition-to-calorie ratio. In that case, you’re now using food as medicine, as an adjunct to everything else you might be doing to try to thrive- physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Your body is a self-healing detox machine, perfectly crafted to heal and cleanse itself. But part of what your body needs for self-repair is dense nutrition. We often think about those in Western countries as being over-eaters, taking in too much nutrition. 

But what’s often eaten is not nutrition; it’s a nutrient-free filler that leaves the stomach full but the body functionally malnourished and metabolically unable to complete its tasks. Even when copious nutrient-free calories are consumed, what we really need to eat to give our bodies the highest chance for optimal health outcomes is high-density nutrition,

To thrive at peak levels, we need to heal from above (mind and nervous system) and below (gut and nervous system.) We must heal trauma and benefit from healthy relationships and a loving community. We also need to feed ourselves nutrient-dense foods that can help us detox naturally and feed our cells what they need to heal. According to the National Cancer Institute, nutrient-dense foods are ” foods that are high in nutrients but relatively low in calories. Nutrient-dense foods contain vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, lean protein, and healthy fats.”

The good news is that nutrient-dense foods can be delicious and affordable, but only if you know how to shop, what equipment you’ll need, and how to properly prepare these foods in your kitchen. That’s where our new online Zoom course, EAT TO THRIVE, comes in. We’ll guide you, step by step, through an uncooking class in high-density nutritious foods, including a three-week detox cleanse to give you a jump start into a new way of eating to thrive.

But we won’t ask you to sacrifice the enjoyment of being in community and enjoying tasty meals and treats. We don’t want you to sacrifice la dolce vita—the sweet life—in communion with others who support us and help us have fun, laugh, play, and thrive because we need to enjoy our lives and not just militantly monitor our diets like drill sergeants on a mission to get us healthy. La dolce vita also helps us heal.

We know from the scientific investigation of the people of Roseto, Pennsylvania that optimal health is far more than just what you eat. So optimal health isn’t just about nutrition and food as medicine, as some folks might tell you it is. But we also don’t need to throw what we know about dense nutrition out the window just because some Italian immigrants had unusually good health outcomes with foods that we know can also impair healing. Imagine if the people of Roseto had also consumed green juice, raw foods, salads made from their gardens, and other high-density nutrition while eating communally, laughing, playing and celebrating together, protecting each other from social isolation, mending their relationships, healing their trauma, and learning to love the parts of themselves that might eat poorly? What if we tried that? Then what might be possible?

That’s what we hope to help you explore in EAT TO THRIVE. We hope you’ll check out the extensive offerings in this program and consider whether it might be the right next step for you in your healing journey. 

Explore the EAT TO THRIVE offerings here.

We hope to see you there!

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