"Our bodies are our gardens - our wills are our gardeners" - William Shakespeare
I have never been a very natural or gifted gardener – I keep trying though. At this stage I have many pot plants inside my house & outside my house and my long term goal is to grow a beautiful large garden full of flowers, herbs, veges & fruits one day. A common dream for most nutritionists I would think. However, right now I really have to work at it. I don’t know how many pot plants I have left to die or slowly wither away in the past, with short bouts of thorough watering & care amidst the extended times of neglect. It was a common story for me - I would get too busy & stressed with life and completely forget to look after them. Or even worse - I’d see them and think to myself, “later, I’ll definitely water them later”. I’d see a wilting plant and wonder about the state of its soil, is it getting enough sun, too much sun, is it receiving too much wireless radiation, should I move it to another room and so on. And then I’d get sidetracked. Or even worse, I’d purposefully not look at it because I couldn’t stand to see its wilting state.
Years ago when we were moving house, I was forced to face the truth of my utter neglect to some of these beautiful plants (thoroughly dead forgotten plants under the house, around the back, knocked over by possums, tripped over by people and so on). I made a promise to myself (and to the new plants I purchased) that I would devote the time, love and care that these plants deserve. Funnily enough, during that time I was also at a low point with my own health and I always had this niggling thought in the back of my mind –that the state of my plants was reflective of the state of my own health. The care I gave to my plants reflected the care I gave to myself. Given my on and off again struggles with gut health and eating habits (even after I became a nutritionist) - I was frustrated that it felt like the same issues kept re-appearing time and time again. I sometimes found myself on a loop that I couldn’t seem to break. Here’s the loop:
Things are going well, my health, diet & lifestyle -> I focus on plans/goals to achieve -> Life gets busy -> I get more stressed -> I eat more convenient foods -> I start skipping breakfast -> I drink less water/have more caffeine -> I snack more often -> I get less sun/exercise -> my sleep quality rapidly reduces -> my symptoms start up again and they increase more rapidly until I am forced to break the cycle.
Given my years of dealing with very poor gut health in the past, I recognise the signs & symptoms and I now know what I have to do in order to get myself back on track (such as nourishing my body, mind & soul with routines involving healthy wholesome foods, taking time out to do the things I enjoy, spending more time with loved ones, getting daily exercise and bringing everything back to a state of balance). But then……life starts getting busy again, those old thought patterns & habits creep back in and the cycle repeats.
I remember saying to my husband one day how the state of my plants seemed to be reflecting the state of my own health. This really isn’t surprising when you think about it, especially given that gardening didn’t exactly come naturally to me (unlike those born with a green thumb). If I don’t have time for my own health & wellness – what chance do my plants have? And to think that some days I couldn’t even bare to look at those plants. It made me think back to my own health during my teens and early twenties and let me tell you - if my body was a garden then it was on a fast route to being a very sad looking garden as I rarely took the time out to look after myself properly. Eating a healthy diet was a chore I often chose to neglect; I barely knew how to cook for myself and I really didn’t have the desire to learn. Like many, I didn’t stop these unhealthy lifestyle habits until chronic illness forced me to. And to this day, I can honestly say I am very grateful for this as it forced me on a new path of discovery, learning and a career I am now extremely passionate about.
Today I can look around at my plants and see the improvement that came once I devoted more time & energy to them. My will to look after myself and my plants has definitely improved. They still aren’t perfect, there are still weeks where the neglect can start to be noticed – however what has changed is that I notice these patterns much quicker than I used to. I can break the cycle much faster now (ie. well before the plants are dead) and I can ensure enough time to make sure that they are now getting the right amount of water, soil, nutrients, sunlight, love & care that they require – at least most of the time. And my own health reflects this as well. It’s not 100%, there’s plenty of room for improvement, but compared to what it was many years ago…. I can only smile. I smile because I know that in a few years’ time – it’ll be even better.
And who knows, maybe one day I’ll have that beautiful lush garden I’ve come to dream of.
- Leanne Aster
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