I’m not a lover of labels. They can restrict and disempower rather than liberate and empower, and “empath” is territory that definitely falls prey to this in so many ways.
Basically, an “empath” is someone with empathy, which is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing. It means that even when the other person isn’t verbalizing their emotional state, you can just sense it.
This can be immensely powerful and certainly has benefits, if you learn how to practice the appropriate self-care and make it work for you. But it can also leave you feeling completely overwhelmed, compromised and weighed down, as I often did.
Why is this relevant in a discussion about nutrition? In my experience, when working with many women who also have empathetic abilities, I’ve found it to be an essential component in deciphering our body’s ability to digest food and remain feeling comfortable, grounded and light.
We process emotions, whether our own or other people’s, in the same energetic center that largely governs digestion. It takes energy to feel and process emotion, which means there is less available energy to nourish our digestive organs.
This results in a number of physical manifestations. A compromised digestion leads to continual bloating and discomfort, regardless of the food you ate. Or you may experience wild swings in appetite at curious times, from not hungry at all, usually during the day when you’re busy and with people (which, incidentally, is when you need food the most) to often feeling ravenous at night when you are at home feeling more relaxed and ready for bed.
All this wreaks havoc with your digestion, metabolism and hormones. Acknowledging that these “symptoms” have an emotional root, rather than just blaming your body and going on countless diets and workout regimes, is an essential first step. That’s because your own emotional response to your physical discomfort and weight problems only compounds the overload of emotion that your system is trying to process.
In my book, Your BeUtiful Body, I talk about the importance of nourishing the sacral chakra and spleen energy, as this is your “emotional feeling” center.
Ironically, typical diet foods like salads, juices and raw veggies are a digestive nightmare if this center is already overwhelmed with emotion, and will often lead to bloating, discomfort and heaviness.
This is when it’s really important to stop listening to external information about what you “should” be eating, and instead start trusting your body to tell you what will make you feel comfortable. Imagine the difference in comfort levels between a fresh, crisp salad and a warming, cosy soup, for example. The latter is definitely easier to digest and warmth comforts the body, which will strengthen your emotional center.
Here are some ways to better support that center (and your empathetic super powers).
- Take five minutes at the end of each day to think about what you ate and how you felt during the day. Note any feelings that arise and use this biofeedback to inspire your choices tomorrow, and then stay conscious of your body’s response.
- Try doing five minutes of conscious stomach breathing every morning before you leave the house. Visualize the energy in your sacral energy center and solar plexus building and strengthening with every deep inhalation. Do not underestimate the power of this practice, if done daily.
- Start the day with warm water and avoid chilled drinks throughout the day. Always drink room temperature water and lots of warm herbal teas or golden lattes.
- Favor warm, gently cooked foods over raw food. Choose baked apples or pears rather than a raw fruit salad, vegetable soups rather than salads and gently-cooked evening meals, like curries and stews rather than chunky foods like a stir fry. I’m not suggesting you avoid all raw food – just be conscious and pay attention to how your body feels.
- Use warming spices that enhance digestion, like cinnamon, turmeric and ginger in your food and/or drinks.
- Build your sacral chakra energy with foods like quinoa, yellow split peas, rice, oats, pumpkin, sweet potato, carrots, butternut squash, mango and papaya.
- Try not to skip any meals and eat at regular times every day so there are no ‘shocks’ to your system.
- Eat slowly, chew your food really well and remember to breathe. Don’t eat on the run, in a rush, or while scrolling through the internet or writing emails. Give your body the space it needs to focus on digesting the food you’re eating in peace.
- If you’re sensitive, empathetic and struggling to find your balance or sense of lightness and ease, then you many benefit from Laura’s 1-2-1 online coaching programs. This is a truly holistic approach, definitely NOT a diet, and all about reconnecting to the heart of U.
Dr Laura Holland PhD (Integrative Medicine) is an author, nutritionist and wellbeing expert consulting with private and corporate clients for more than 10 years. She is passionate about helping people to find relief from an endemic diet culture, healing our relationship with food and promoting body acceptance.