How Embracing Local And Celebrating Natures Gifts Makes Health Decisions Easy
I am nestled away in the Ubud mountains, listening to the trickling of the river and a hazy chorus of tropical bugs, with the occasional bark of a dog and crow of a rooster in the distance.
Looking out into the expanse of earth and cliffs draped in deep green tropical shrubbery, with no spaces in between, is ten times more entertaining than anything you can find on Netflix.
Sometimes, taking a break from your normal routine can help you see things in a new light. In my case, being somewhere very different from my usual routine in Bondi has been refreshing. Although my opinions about health haven’t changed (I’ve had the same philosophy for many years), the nuances of being in a new environment have sparked some new perspectives.
Health Means Different Things In Different Places
We often hear that health is individual, but this phrase is sometimes used as a cop-out when there is confusion or a lack of understanding. It’s become so commonly said, that it can easily go over our heads.
But here I hope to show you what this actually means.
Embracing Local And Natural: How Different Foods in Different Places Shape Our Decisions, Tastes, and Needs
Different things are available in different places, and they taste different as well.
It may seem obvious, but if you approach it from the perspective of “what to eat,” it can easily guide your decisions and naturally narrow down your choices.
Through the magic of nature, what is available where you are is generally what you need.
In hot and humid climates, replenishment, electrolytes, and hydration are essential, which is exactly what you get with endless coconuts and tropical fruit so sweet you can’t believe how you’ve ever eaten it outside of its natural location before.
It’s easy to forget sometimes that we are nature. But by paying attention to what is available in our local environments and listening to our bodies, we can create our own personalised approach to health that is sustainable and enjoyable. It’s about celebrating the gifts that nature provides us and using them to nourish ourselves in a way that feels good and makes sense for our individual circumstances.
This all contributes to eating well with ease, as I prefer to focus on clarity, flow and enjoyment rather than confusion, desperation, deprivation and force.
On the other hand, currently in the winter of Sydney, tropical fruit is unavailable (and if you can get it it’s traveled many miles and tastes only of water). But more importantly, it likely not what you need to feel your best, instead needing warming and grounding foods.
Having a bowl of fruit in the morning in Sydney would be too much for me, leaving me feeling sluggish and unsatisfied. However, here it’s exactly what I need to energise and feel hydrated and alive. What at home causes too much of an insulin spike and makes me crash, does the opposite here. I haven’t tested this with my actual blood sugar here, but with simple inner and connection wisdom, I know.
This is an example of how we can move towards a place of peace with our health and food decisions. It’s just a small illustration of tuning into your inner wisdom, which I always talk about. Often, you need to block out the noise from the rest of the world and allow that little wise voice within to speak to you. It never leads you astray.
Celebrating Nature’s Gifts
The Reality Of Modern Science
There is much to learn from traditional cultures, and throughout my journey of life and health, I have always drawn inspiration and knowledge from many sources, ancient wisdom being one of them.
Though they may not speak the scientific language we are accustomed to in the modern world of science (which I am grateful to understand), they often arrive at the same conclusions. And I find this fascinating!
In the world of nutrition science, there are many that are overly obsessed with modern scientific literature. And while this is undeniably important (I studied only this for four years of university), it is not the be all and end all. And this is something I never see addressed. There are major limitations of modern science:
- Some things can take 50 years, or more, to prove, if it can ever be proved at all (very few things are). As amazing as science is, there are some things in my personal health that I’m happy to act on hypothesis, instead of wait until I’m 90 for it to be proven when the change won’t be of much help for me. Some of these things include the contraceptive pill, botox, EMFs, sugar, seed oils, the affect of stress on health. These things are all reported but not necessarily “proven”. I don’t need exact proof that diet coke and doritos aren’t supportive of my health…. It’s obvious to me.
- There is an ethical code. Some things can only be studied in dead people. Other things are simply unethical to test. A randomised controlled trial on smoking? A trial to see how effective anti-depressants are at preventing suicide? These would be completely unethical.
- The human body is inherently complex and is still not completely understood, so achieving definitive answers in human health is rare.
All of this is to say that science, like anything, has limitations. While we have made incredible discoveries and advancements that should not be discounted, it is important to stay grounded in reality and acknowledge these limitations in order for us to move forward and live better lives.
Health Flows From What Grows
I’ve been extra inspired, here in Bali, by what grows naturally. I’ve mentioned a few standards, such as coconuts and tropical fruits like papaya, pineapple, and dragon fruit.
But it extends further to highly medicinal plants:
Being closer to the source of the ingredients I use weekly or even daily, or at least closer than I am in North Bondi, has given me a new appreciation for them. It truly changes the eating experience, and in my belief, probably the nutrition of them too.
You can take this as either the spiritual sense of what you actually take in when eating, or take the scientific knowledge that because these are grown wild and picked right here in their natural climate, plant to plate in a matter of hours (instead of weeks), where the active ingredients are more potent or available. It’s interesting to see how science, internal wisdom (or common sense, as I like to call it), and cultural wisdom always seem to come to the same conclusion in different ways.
So we take what we have with science, and we combine it with other sources of knowledge, one of which lives within you, and another of which lives in ancient and indigenous cultures.
Understanding The True Source Of Food Is The First Step
Biologist Robin Wall Kimmerer eloquently combines these two ideas in her book, Braiding Sweetgrass (a must-read).. She does not shy away from modern science, as evidenced by her qualifications, but also recognises the value of other forms of wisdom.
If we are truly seeking answers and wellness as practitioners, it is vital to seek understanding from various modalities. Upon deeper examination, it becomes clear that many of these modalities come to the same conclusions, despite using different language and methods to get there.
In her words:
“When we eat what grows locally and in harmony with the Earth’s rhythms, we receive not only the physical sustenance our bodies need, but also a sense of belonging and gratitude for the abundance that nature provides. It is a reminder that our well-being is intimately tied to the well-being of the land, and that by nurturing the land, we nurture ourselves.”
“Each bite of food is a reciprocal gift from the earth, a gesture of giving and receiving that represents the intricate web of relationships in which we are embedded. When we choose to eat what grows on the land locally and seasonally, we acknowledge our place in the larger ecological community and honor the wisdom of the natural world. It is a way of living in harmony with the cycles of life, embracing the interconnectedness of all living beings, and savoring the flavors and nourishment that come from aligning our diets with the gifts of the land.”Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass
I have often said that eating is the strongest connection we can have to our earth. To be a being on earth means not only to be connected to it, but also to be it. When we eat, food (the gifts of nature) literally becomes a part of us.
Looking at food from this perspective, it seems laughable that calories are often considered the only metric for measuring food. Comparing a box of Oreos to a sweet papaya or turmeric root grown naturally from the earth, I hope your common sense prevails here and shines light on what is truely supportive of human health, numbers aside.
So what now?
Like I said, I’m on a journey of discovering what wellness truely means, and these little experiences and moments are all a part of the journey.
As incredible it is to be here drinking coconut water from coconuts plucked from the tree this morning, connecting to the source of my food, in my daily life in Bondi this is not so possible.
But I reject the idea that you have to turn your life upside down just to feel a little more connected to source and to earth. And here I hope to inspire you of that! There are plenty of things you can do to feel more of this connection, and in turn feel more aligned with your best self, and feel and actually be healthier!
A few simple things I do at home include purchasing my food and groceries from local and organic farms, I use a service called Oooby but there are plenty out there. You can do this with meat too, I use a company called Our Cow which is direct from the farmer.
But that’s not all, there are even simpler things
- Go to the farmer’s market local to your area. I find this, or alternatively a delivery service like I do, makes eating local and seasonal natural without having to google “what’s in season”. If it’s there, it’s available, no questions needed.
- Consider eating what naturally comes in your area at that time, whether it’s seafood, wild game, tropical fruit or root vegetables. You don’t have to search high and low and pay premiums to get your hands on ingredients just because you saw them on social media.
- Be an aware conscious consumer. When purchasing something, or eating something, check in with how it was made and where it came from. I guarantee, if you are somewhat of a conscious human (which I know you are), you’ll be eating very well just by making this small shift. You’ll start to see this will naturally flow into other areas of your life, like skincare and home products too.
- Explore growing something of your own. I am just trying to learn about this, however growing up in a relatively urban place, I’m a complete beginner. I’ve managed to grow lots of oregano in my Vegebag (yay!), and even just this feels good. Avoid the trap of feeling like if you can’t move to the mountains and grow all your own food that there’s no point. Invite in whatever makes you feel good and is available to you, even if it is just having one herb plant. When I was living in my last apartment I had a Composta which allowed me to compost a little of my natural waste, and grow three kinds of culinary herbs. This is so exciting for me, and helped me to connect and eat well without the stress of diets. And let it be known, my balcony was barley big enough to fit two people, and there was not enough room to sit down.
- Get comfortable with change and flexibility. Don’t expect to eat the same things every day of your life. This ebbs and flows over time, and in different life seasons or life locations, you need different things to thrive. Embrace it.
Above all, just think about it, and keep your mind open! Really, this is often the only thing that is required. Let your life blossom from this seed of thought.
And soon, like me, you’ll feel it is so easy to rise above all the calorie and diet-obsessed information out there. You’ll know deep within you it is about connection to yourself and to source.