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Primary Foods™

Note: Learn more about the Institute for Integrative Nutrition® here or at

I like doing things my own way, which probably isn’t a secret to anyone familiar with this blog. When I lost weight, I did it through my own methods, but I’ve discovered since that other people have had the same sorts of ideas. Except in some ways, I approached them from the other direction.

For instance, at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition (IIN), one of the things I learned about was the concept of Primary Foods™, which are all the things that help to nourish and fulfill us, in addition to the physical food we eat (physical activity, career, spirituality, and relationships). The idea is that if we can bring those other areas of our life into balance, our food choices will improve.

I had something of an inverse reaction. When I lost weight, I suddenly realized how unsatisfactory those other areas of my life were, and I went about changing them. This is why it’s so hard for me when people ask what has changed since I lost weight, because almost everything has.

  • Physical Activity: This is the most obvious, since I can now be active without feeling like it will kill me, or it being so hard that I take no pleasure in it. I now enjoy my body’s physicality and abilities, not only to climb mountains but to walk out from swimming without being overwhelmed by gravity, to climb a jungle gym with special children in my life, and to miss such activity when I can’t get to it.

  • Career: When I had a review after losing over one hundred pounds, my manager commented that I spoke up more often and was better at taking on new challenges. I also briefly considered moving into a management position, and my weight loss gave me the confidence to look for new employment when I was unhappy at my job.

  • Spirituality: Around the time I was finishing weight loss, some of us weren’t satisfied by the Sunday morning services at church but loved the community too much to leave. As a result, we began holding lay-led evening worship. This satisfied a spiritual need I didn’t even know I’d had. And when we looked for a new minister, I was concerned enough about the caliber that I dedicated close to two years to a very intense ministerial search – with wonderful results.

  • Relationships: My weight loss helped me be more open with my dad, and it allowed me to form new friendships more easily. I also for the first time considered the possibility of dating (although that’s a whole other story).

Even though I approached these areas from the other direction, I attribute a large part of my success at maintaining weight loss for over nine years to the fact that I did make changes to those other parts of my life. It makes even more grateful to be able to help other people in some of these areas, wherever they are in their journey.

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