AAWC: SOLE food to SOUL food – Nutrition for the body, mind, and spirit


By Liza Baker

I’m often asked what the best diet is, and as a health coach, I don’t recommend a specific diet: it’s beyond my scope of practice, and it doesn’t make sense. The eating style that nourishes me (or the latest celebrity or MD who claims that their diet saved them) may not work for you.

The only recommendation I do make is that you eat whole foods—those that are as close to nature as you can find them, the ones that come without a nutrition label.

Ready to kick it up a notch? The “next level” focuses on SOLE foods: Seasonal, Organic, Local, and Ethical.

Our bodies convert our food into our bones, muscles, blood, etc., and highly processed foods are not recognized as viable building materials. Eating SOLE foods moves beyond nutritional content and brings a higher energy to our food: when we nourish not only our bodies but our environment and the lives of everyone who touched our food on the way to our plates, we are making the best choices for all.

In the Integrative Nutrition® world, the foods we put in our mouths are considered secondary. Primary foods are all the other areas of our lives that nourish us—or don’t! Think: career, physical activity, spiritual practice, sleep, time in nature….

I call the “next level” of primary foods choices SOUL foods, those which are Seasonal, Organic, Unique, and Loving.


As older adults, we may notice that we’re packing on pounds, a single glass of wine wreaks havoc on our sleep, there’s often a vague sense of unease with our careers and/or relationships.

If we are prone to looking for external “fixes,” we are likely to add any number of them when something is “wrong:” diets and detoxes, supplements and smoothies, workouts and woo. But if we pause and consider that perhaps we’re just entering another stage of life, we may discover that what feels better is rethinking our current food and lifestyle choices without adding anything new.


Organic, in the sense of forming an integral element of the whole and having a systematic coordination of parts, relates to our secondary and primary foods: we are complex beings made up of many parts and systems, both internal and external.

If we consider ourselves to be a systematic coordination of parts, then all these parts must be optimally nourished to perform at peak level. The primary food choices we make can either nourish us, conserve the environment, and grow the local economy … or they can ruin our health, toxify the environment, and destroy the local economy.

We face choices in our primary foods on a daily basis: go to sleep or stay up bingewatching Netflix? answer one more email or spend time with the kids? sleep in or work out? pay more for ethically-made clothes or save money on those made in a sweatshop? spend money on disposable “stuff” or on meaningful experiences? etc.
Considering the effects our choices have on ourselves and on our part in the larger ecosystem brings intention to our decisions—and these days, it feels as though our own lives and our world could use a little more intention and attention.


Have you ever noticed that some people can’t function unless they sleep 10 hours a night while others thrive on 7–8? Some love HIIT, others prefer yoga—and both can be in excellent physical shape. Some adore the city life, others prefer the countryside. Some are jazzed by a fast-paced work environment with plenty of colleagues, others prefer to work alone from home.

It seems there is no “right” answer to how we “should” live: we are indeed unique. A lot of us look for the answers outside ourselves, and our parents, colleagues, friends, children, media, and even the government are all happy to tell us how to live. Gurus and experts abound.

How often do we hear “I should” cross our lips (or even our thoughts)? Whose “should” is it? And of course, the reverse is true: how often do “should” others? It’s easier to look outside ourselves because we are spared the hard (but necessary and invaluable) work of experimenting and finding our unique way of nourishing ourselves.


Relationships are one of the most important primary foods in our lives, and we rarely (if

ever) think about our relationship with ourselves as one of them, so it is perhaps the one we rarely tend to.

Our ideas about love are most often rooted in our relationship with our parents: we grow up thinking that love means showering someone with material gifts or hugs and kisses; it may mean being strict or permissive; it may mean impossible-to-achieve standards or effusive praise for fairly insignificant accomplishments.

However it looks, we often perversely desire something else from our parents, and yet as we grow up, we carry that learned idea of love with us, filling our lives with people who treat us the same way, even if on the surface, they seem to be our parents’ opposites.

What are the first words that pop into your head when you see yourself in the mirror? “I look wonderful today,” or “When did I get so old/fat/gray…?” “I am winning at life,” or “Why can’t I ever get anything right?”

If you don’t hear, “You’re so beautiful, you’re amazing, I love you so much” on a regular basis from others in your life, maybe it’s because you don’t believe these things or say them to yourself?

Discovering truly loving primary food also requires that we have a sense of what our most deeply held principles and priorities are: asking ourselves at every turn whether the choice we’re making is in alignment with those principles is the path to that perfectly nourished lifestyle—one that is “right” for us … and doesn’t keep others from living their own best life.

READ ABOUT THE ANN ARBOR WELLNESS COALITION: https://weloveannarbor.com/2018/04/16/ann-arbor-wellness-coalition-takes-a-holistic-approach-to-the-whole-body/

Liza is a full-time Integrative Nutrition® health coach, cookbook author, part-time consultant, and woefully underpaid COO of a busy family of four. Her work is grounded in the belief that women can live happy, healthy lives, meeting all our obligations and honoring our own wildest, sweetest dreams. Her programs support women 40+ who feel that the only way out of their overscheduled lives involves a plane ticket, a wad of cash, and a change of identity. Liza coaches them in identifying and interrupting the patterns that contribute to overwhelm and in establishing simple, sustainable new habits that will help them not just survive but thrive in what—contrary to popular belief—can be the happiest, healthiest decades of our lives. Liza lives in a half-empty nest in Ann Arbor, MI and is passionate about health and happiness, education and exercise, SOLE/SOUL food and social justice. You can get a taste of her work at https://simply-healthcoaching.com and join her membership site, (Sorta) Secret Sisterhood, at https://is.gd/SSSsneakpeek.






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