According to the Random House College Dictionary, food is "any nourishing substance that is taken into the body to sustain life, provide energy, promote growth, etc. Nutrients on the other hand, are chemicals within foods that our bodies use to conduct the myriad biochemical reactions of life. From the killer cells of the immune system to the most delicate reproductive cell, every fiber of our being depends on the presence and balance of nutrients within the body.
Nutrients In Food Work As A Team
In the body, nutrients function like an orchestra. In order for a symphony to reach its full expression, all the instruments must perform together. Similarly, in symphony of human biochemistry, nutrients always act in concert.
If you were attending a symphony and the entire string section went on strike, you would certainly notice the difference. If however, only one violinist chose to walk out you might not consciously notice the difference in sound, but something would be missing.
To take it a few steps further, any nutrient deficiency, no matter how small, is going to have a very wide impact. Like a snowball rolling downhill, a seemingly insignificant nutrient deficiency can grow to enormous significance as its effect spread through the nutritional system.
From a recovery perspective, the thing to remember is that the nutrients in food work as a team, and that it is crucial to your body's health to have all the team members present at all times. This means looking beyond the mere appearance or amount of food and considering its contents.
Being Well Fed vs. Well Nourished
The degree to which a given food is "nourishing" depends on the number and proportion of nutrients it contains. Food, like gasoline, can be either high or low octane. The more nutrients a food contains, the better its ability to sustain life, provide energy, and promote growth.
In these days of ready-to-eat meals, few of us think about where our food comes from, or what it contains, or what it can do. It's easier to just put something into our stomachs to stop pesky hunger pangs or nagging cravings than to think about what our bodies are going to do with the food once it's in there.
But there is a big difference between being well fed (having enough food to fill your stomach) and being well nourished (having the right food to fill your nutritional needs). If you ate a box of cornstarch you might feel full (and a little nauseated), but you certainly wouldn't be nourished. Even very overweight individuals, who seem to have too much nutrition, are critically malnourished as they are consuming the wrong balance of nutrients in the wrong amounts.
Good nutrition encompasses not only the foods we eat, but every aspect of the way we live our lives. It is affected by anything that affects our bodies, including our emotions, our relationships, and the stresses we encounter in day-to-day life. It depends not only on foods, but on our bodies' ability to digest, distribute, use, and store the nutrients contained in those foods. Anything that interferes with the body's ability to carry out these tasks is going to interfere with nutrition.
Using The Principles of Nutrition For Recovery
Addictions, eating disorders, emotional stress, and many other disorders addressed in recovery interfere with almost every aspect of the body's ability to carry out its nutritional tasks. Add to this fact the harsh reality of what most of us are eating, and it's small wonder so many of us in recovery begin our journey as nutritional disasters. If it can be done wrong, nutritionally, most of us have been doing it.
If you are battling an addiction or eating disorder and want not only to survive but thrive in recovery, you must counter the toxic and malnourishing effects of your condition. You need to rebuild your body from the inside out, cell by cell.
The first and best way to start this process is through nutrition. Food truly can work for recovery, when you understand your body's needs and how to meet them. You can give your cells the fuel and tools they require to heal, and build a strong foundation of physical health that will make your recovery a joyous, vital, lifelong process.
In order for you to begin "eating for recovery", it is important to understand what addiction has done to your body and what proper nutrition can do to help you recoup your losses. And in order to do that, you must have at least a basic groundwork in the principles of nutrition and by reading this blog you are one step closer to that goal.
Health and Happiness,
Mary P. Cheney, B.Sc., P.T.A.