Dr. Drew Ramsey is a psychiatrist, psychotherapist, and author of four books. The following essay, penned by Dr. Ramsey, originally appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of Tracy Anderson Magazine, available now for digital download and print orders.
How do we commit to real change in our lives?
Transformation is the crux of my work as a psychiatrist, and I believe it’s one of the virtues that connects us to Tracy Anderson.
Change happens, but how does change happen to us? For all our studying of habits and willpower, committing to changes in our self-care involves aspects of change we like to ignore. Like Alice falling down the rabbit hole and meeting a variety of strange characters, change is terrifying and disorienting. While we imagine control and accomplishment, especially when we set goals for ourselves, change can be the opposite of how it’s initially visualized.
And these two aspects of our lives are especially shaky right now after two years of a global pandemic.
The limits of our control is one of the major psychological hurdles we all face. I witness my patients planning and canceling their weddings and baby plans, college careers turn upside down, and marriages reeling from the loss of the little control we can muster. I asked Josh Gordon, MD, the director of the National Institute of Health, about the start of our mental health last week and he emphasized the need for us to plan and execute because of the power of self-efficacy. When we plan, execute, and accomplish things in our lives, we feel oriented and alive—and the pandemic has robbed us of that. And even when we feel some sense of control and start to plan a trip or make plans to see a loved one, those plans are shaky at best.
Like you, sometimes I have wondered when we will emerge from the rabbit hole. Pandemic life has us all questioning our reality—the digital and virtual—and sifting through what we have lost, what we need, and the ever-changing landscape of what seems possible.
“Change isn’t just about willpower and discipline. Change is filled with uncertainty, fear, and loss.”
Let’s start by declaring that anything is possible.
The new year presents an opportunity for new goals around our growth. On tough days, that may seem absurd, but even I’ve seen myself making a lot of safe choices trying to control what I can for my family.
For me, making safe choices has meant focusing on things I can control and submitting entirely to the notion that the changes that I need to happen are coming. Change isn’t just about willpower and discipline. Change is filled with uncertainty, fear, and loss.
So how can we commit to real food change this year?
We need the full power of our brains—but that might present us with a bit of a problem right now. All aspects of our brains are being overworked and our emotional and spiritual health is being challenged like never before.
I suspect after Alice was shrinking and growing, she felt much the same way. How did Alice get out after being stuck in a Wonderland filled with strange creatures asking challenging questions?
What wisdom can we bring to this year?
For what we can control, we create changes in our lives via our mind. If your brain is not mentally committed to a new habit or the embrace of changes, they can’t happen. What strikes me about Alice is how she teaches us about process. She really doesn’t have any idea how to get back or how to shift her reality; she just does what she has to. She cries a pool of tears. She shrinks. She grows. She finds her voice.
As a nutritional psychiatrist, I see Alice’s process and yours, as an energetic vortex of oxygen combined with the nutrients in the food you eat. These are the two most basic ingredients of your conscious process and the root of all change. This is why focusing your food goals and ambitions for the new year should be grounded in the new science of feeding your mental health.
The key food categories for your mental health, like leafy greens, seafood, and fermented foods, contain the highest concentrations of the nutrients that your brain thrives on—and brains that are growing and thriving are always changing. Seeking these nutrients, the “brain foods” that contain them, and the stance of joyfulness that is missing for so many, is at the center of any meaningful change.
Like Alice, our way out will involve many tears, feelings of disorientation, and fear—and it will happen one bite at a time. As we shrink and grow, focusing on the mindful embrace of our process is the only way to commit the changes that are already happening to you.