I’m as guilty as anyone of using the words nourishment and nutrition interchangeably. But they aren’t necessarily interchangeable. Nutritious food isn’t always nourishing and nourishing food isn’t always nutritious.

If you think I’m starting to sound like a Dr. Seuss book, I can’t disagree with you.

If you know anything about me, you know that I advocate for nourishing the soul with comfort food and I advocate for fueling the body with healthy fats and leafy greens. But most importantly, I’m an advocate against the stuck in a cycle of guilt and shame we get into when we make food choices that feel good in the moment but aren’t the healthiest.

I’m against beating yourself up over the cookie or the ice-cream.

I’m in favor of the deep dish pizza recipe your grandmother used to make.

And I love an indulgent dinner followed by a fancy dessert.

I’m not telling you you can eat whatever you want all the time and as long as it feels good it’s healthy.

I’m telling you there’s a difference between nourishment and nutrition, and when you know the difference it empowers you to choose what you most need in the moment.

A couple of weeks ago, I came down with a kidney infection. It was super painful, so I took some time off for rest and relaxation. My husband—being the incredible partner he is—took over my dog-walking, grocery-shopping, food-prepping duties so I could cuddle up with a book until further notice. He would have cooked any of the super-nutritious recipes I so often prepare for us, but all I wanted was takeout.

On day one of my recovery, I paused long enough to realize I had eaten nothing but gluten free quesadillas and brisket fries.

The old me would have used being sick as excuse to eat whatever I wanted—after all, it was nourishing my soul. Right?

Um, wrong.

It’s important to note here the old me would have also gorged myself on said gluten free quesadillas, and followed my binge eating up with a few days of guilt-laden calorie restriction. It was a wild ride back then.

But this time was different.

This time I paused long enough to take inventory of how I was feeling both physically and emotionally. Did eating the brisket fries feel good? Yes. Would eating four more days worth of brisket fries and comfort food feel good? No. What did my body need?

I can’t say I didn’t still want the comfort food, but when I made the choice to fill up on bone broth and green smoothies, I wanted a lot less of the comfort food—I got the best of both nutrition and nourishment, but I had to stop long enough to contemplate it.

When it comes to our well-being—both physical and mental health—we have some decisions to make. Sometimes those decisions truly are about our bodies’ nutritional needs, and sometimes they are more about emotional needs.

I can’t tell you what you need, but I can encourage you to pause before you make your choices.

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