Food for thought: Fixing emotional issues with food

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Reina Shukl

Reina Shukl’s new book Woke Emotions with Wise Food, launched this October, is, as the title suggests, about exploring nutrition from ancient Eastern and Western studies and finding the root cause to many problems. She says, ‘’It’s a common misconception that food only impacts our physical state, which is why people often underestimate the impact of food on our mental and emotional state.’’

The book is a product of Shukl’s background. A qualified practitioner of functional integrative nutrition and alternative medicine, she combines her knowledge of integrative nutrition, clinical dietetics, alternative therapies to heal her patients.

Shukl holds an M.D in Alternative Medicine Therapies, a Master’s in Microbiology, and a Master’s in Public Health from Griffith, Australia. She also studied P.G. in Clinical Dietetics. She also holds a teacher’s trainer diploma in Raj Yoga, which she says, involves all three dimensions of human existence: physical, mental, and spiritual.

At her clinic, Living Smart Consultants, Shukl provides consultations and conducts wellness workshops. In 2016, she was conferred with the Best Online Dietician award by Dr J K Singh, Padmashree, President of Indian Society of Oncologists and Cancer Care India and past-Vice President of the Indian Medical Association of India. Shukl moved to Australia in 2005 but shuttles her time between India and Australia. She talks to The Indian Sun about her book, and more.

What made you write the book?

Since childhood, I have been interested in human behaviour. After finishing my education, when I took up my first job in 2002 as a dietician in a hospital, my interest grew further. I observed there was a link between habits, food, and diseases. Unfortunately, I took a break from my job as I got detected with thyroid issues in 2004, and that is when I realised the connection between emotions and diseases. My thyroid was due to my suppressed emotions. I took the challenge to get rid of my thyroid problems by changing my emotions and making other lifestyle changes. I cured myself within few months.

While I was on a “healing break,” I took up further studies on Alternative medicine and Ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, and other complementary therapies. After that, I kept my research going. I studied all my clients and noted their mental state, their food habits, and their diseases. In my two decades of practice, I have advised numerous clients for their wellness, so my book is based on all those observations and my personal experience.

I have gone through many negative emotions myself and I talk about my humiliation, financial and personal losses as well as my thyroid and how I overcame them with the help of the right foods and creating positive emotions. My book is for everyone who got cheated, hurt, abused, neglected, humiliated or was violated in any way, it is to give them their health and happiness back. It’s a tough fight, but it is worth fighting for.

What does the title of your book specifically mean?

I know ‘woke’ is not a familiar word to many. I have explained it in my book. Woke is usually used when one talks about discrimination to describe racial injustice in society. Woke refers to those who are aware of this inequality in society and are raising their concerns. In my book, I’m using the word ‘woke’ because we might have become awakened to the discrimination in society, but we are not yet woke to our emotions. For example, when a person holds a grudge or hates someone, they don’t know that these negative emotions are damaging their health, and they are doing injustice to themselves by holding on to them. Woke, in my book, is used to awaken oneself towards one’s emotions. I have used it to inform the reader to become aware of the injustice they inflict on their body and mind. We address physical pain by popping a pill but we do not address the emotional pain that we carry within us, and it is discrimination within. Woke is used for readers to become aware of their suppressed emotions and manage them.

Is the book based on empirical evidence?

Yes, I have observed and applied everything to myself and my clients.

What causes negative emotions and what specific traditional foods do you prescribe?

Unmet expectations cause negative emotions. When you don’t accept any situation, event, or person, you become angry, upset, have resentment, grudge and a bunch of negative emotions. When you do not accept that situation, you fight. At such times you put your body in a fight mode by not accepting it, which is highly damaging and leads into physical form as a disease.

Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine links foods to emotions. Therefore, foods per your body type will give you positive emotions; foods against your body type will provide you with negative emotions. I have mentioned the body types and the foods accordingly in the book.

I have also talked about the gut and brain axis and their bidirectional connection in the book. Emotions don’t only arise in mind, they arise in the gut too as the same cells found in the mind are also found in the gut. So what you eat and what you feel affects both mind and body (mind and gut). Food and emotions are, therefore, both responsible for creating negative emotions.

Ideally, to stay healthy and positive, one should not eat anything in excess; overindulgence of anything is also a type of negativity. One should eat as per seasons, availability in the region, and as per body clock. These are some basic wise rules of traditional medicine.

What specific traditional foods address negative emotions?

There cannot be a generic plan for everyone as we all have different emotions, genes, childhood experiences, financial statuses, exposures and life experiences. Each one creates a different emotion within even when exposed to the same event, so the foods for each one have to be different. Some people can easily forgive, some people can quickly love, so the foods vary depending on the type of person. Positive emotions can still be generic, but negative ones cannot be generic; each has its hurts and violations; only the person knows what they are suppressing.

Do you have simple food rules to control negative emotions?

I address that in details in the book. However, a simple rule to avoid negative emotions is to accept life as it comes, have empathy towards everyone. In my book, I have mentioned karma and Lord Krishna’s teachings that help one have a sattvic temperament or calmness.

Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) recommend foods according to need. Just like we have diets for our bodies’ needs, there is a diet for mental needs—an efficient and logical way now backed by research. Ayurveda and TCM both understand that training the mind takes time; it needs practice (meditation, affirmations, exercise, etc.) to show results. So, to support and quicken the process and control negative thoughts foods are used. Both stresses upon the importance of emotions and firmly believes that negative emotions are the root cause of almost all illnesses.

Going by the synopsis, “the easiest, gentlest, and safest way to treat the body: Avoid expensive surgeries.” What ailments are you referring to, and how can these surgeries be prevented?

Let us talk about the most prevalent lifestyle disease, the most feared disease, Cancer. Cancer is characterised by the disordered growth of cells with a high invasion capacity to invade tissues and organs. The most prevalent type of tumour that have national incidence and increased mortality is breast cancer. Studies show that in addition to hereditary factors, lifestyle, and environmental factors, there are factors related to emotional distress (mourning), which interfere with the development of breast cancer.

As we all know these days, many celebrities who can afford the luxuries needed for a healthy lifestyle are detected with cancers. This just proves that there is something above a healthy lifestyle that might be causing it. There is research supporting this observation. As per traditional medicines, unexpressed emotions and resentments can lead to blockages in the body and curb the movement of energy (prana) which can cause inflammatory diseases. Inflammatory diseases are rising, and cancer is one of them. Thus, it is evident that emotions play a crucial role in many inflammatory diseases.

Research also shows men have more cardiac arrests compared to women. As per eastern medicine, heart is where the energy is blocked. It makes sense when we think that men are less expressive than women, which could be the reason for their blockage. Together, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes account for almost 70 per cent of all deaths globally; these diseases share inflammation as a common link. WesterMedicinene and research show that dietary strategies influence inflammation and link food as the easiest and safest way to control diseases. My book also lists specific emotions that can cause particular conditions and suggest foods to correct them. If you follow this guide and remove your deep-rooted emotions, many diseases (inflammatory) and can prevent surgeries.

Engaging in the food sector is tough. What makes your conviction in your study strong?

My book is a guide, a tool to explore yourself; it scans your deep-rooted hurt and helps you weed them out; it shows you ways to sow seeds of positivity in straightforward, time-tested, proven practices.

It helps you develop your PEEP, “positive emotional eating plan.” This plan will be an unbiased and honest approach as you are going to make it the most authentic custom-made plan where you will open up to yourself, and this book will then guide you in doing so and help you choose the foods accordingly heal you.

This book also suggests foods to generate positive emotions. The five positive emotions that it talks about are vital in creating everlasting health and happiness: GJLCF—Gratitude, joy, love, calm, and forgiveness.

Generic advice that keeps changing with the results of sponsored researches can only work for a while. Newness and excitement could be the reason, but nothing works like tried and tested wisdom. When you eat as per your body’s and mind’s needs, that is the best fit for you; sustainable and result-oriented.

So I strongly believe in an individualistic approach with time-tested traditional medicine, validated by scientific research. My book is based on facts and outcomes.


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