Self-Care Through the Lens of Food

My name is Elizabeth Yerger.

I have my Marriage and Family Therapy Associate license and currently practice at West Lake Houston Counseling.

The purpose of this blog is to offer some insight, education/tips, and connect with the Houston community!

I will be posting monthly which will include a wide variety of topics. Since it is the New Year, I thought the concept of Self Care would be a great topic to start us off. 

What is Self-Care?

“Self-care” is when you take an active role in improving or preserving one’s health. This includes protecting your peace and happiness, particularly during high periods of stress. We often picture a face mask alongside a lit candle but it can be so much more. I recommend having a few different types of self-care activities to choose from. Everyone is unique and it’s okay to have various methods for approaching self-care. Speaking from experience, I’ll adjust what kind of intentional “self-care” activity I engage in depending on what my needs are at that time.

The Self-Care Lifestyle

I wanted to shed some light on a less glamorous version of self-care. It’s the boundaries you set with others, the early morning or late night workout, it’s your routine hygiene, and the cleanliness of your space. It is great to buy yourself a little treat in the name of self-care but we need to make sure we aren’t neglecting ourselves in more serious ways.

There is no right or wrong way to do self-care, what matters is finding out what works best for you and your lifestyle. 

Self-Care Through the Lens of Food

One of my favorite forms of self-care is cooking and eating a balanced dish. Food is a powerful healer and it has impacted my journey on this earth to such an extraordinary degree. Food is often associated with physical health, but recently I have become fascinated with the notion that we can impact our mental health through our diet.  Due to viewing one too many food documentaries commenting on the American diet on Netflix, my New Year resolution was to increase plant-based recipes in my day-to-day cooking. 

Gut bacteria, such as phylum Bacteroidetes, aid in our overall health. However, there is an increasing amount of scientific evidence discovering the relationship the microbiome has specifically with mental health. The gut microbiota has been linked with mood disorders and neuropsychiatric disorders. One way to increase the beneficial bacteria found in our gut is by eating more plant-based foods. You don’t have to turn completely vegan, simply swapping a few meals a week to plant-based would offer health benefits. 

Honoring your body, mind, and spirit is sometimes easier said than done. To anyone looking to make some lifestyle changes around food and diet, I want to encourage and support you on this journey! Small habit changes and steps forward matter. Even if you only had time to make one balanced meal between life, family, and work, sometimes that is enough. 

You don’t have to be a Michelin-star chef to make balanced dishes that are great for gut health! I wanted to include a super easy, low-time commitment recipe great for a weeknight dinner. It’s simple ingredients but the dish is packed with flavor. This recipe is versatile, so feel free to add and subtract ingredients that sound good to you! Whether it is through food or some form of relaxation, I hope you make time for yourself. You deserve it. From West Lake Houston Counseling, we wish you a happy New Year.

Try this delicious recipe!

Brothy Butter Beans: 

Ingredient List: 

  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil 
  • 1 large shallot, diced small
  • 6-8 cloves garlic, minced
  • Juice from 1 lemon 
  • ¼-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (adjust according to preferred spice level)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved 
  • 1 (15 oz) can butter beans, drained
  • ¾ cup vegetable stock or more depending on preference
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • ½ cup fresh herbs, chopped (I used a mix of parsley, thyme and basil)
  • Crusty bread, for serving (optional)

Cooking Instructions: 

1. Heat olive oil in a large skillet or medium pot over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, add minced garlic continuing to stir occasionally until garlic is fragrant and shallot is translucent. Add a pinch of salt.

2. Add the lemon juice and stir. Let simmer for about a minute. Add tomatoes and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. Cook another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are starting to soften.

3. Add butter beans, vegetable stock, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for at least 10 minutes or up to an hour. 

4. Just before serving, add chopped fresh herbs. Give it a good stir and serve with toasted French or sourdough bread. (I recommend toasting the slices of bread in a pan with some butter).

Additional Resources: 

Documentaries to check out:

You Are What You Eat: A Twin Experiment, On Netflix 

Poisoned: The Dirty Truth About Your Food, On Netflix 

Recommended Cookbooks:

How Not To Die by Dr. Michael Greger 

Vegan Soul Food by Nadira Jenkins 

The Plant-Based Diet for Beginners by Shoast Bentrin

Link to study, Association Between Gut Microbiota and Psychiatric Disorders:

Recipe adapted from

Elizabeth Yerger, MFT-A on Green Background

About the Author:

Elizabeth is pursuing MFT licensure and working with the family of origin & attachment issues, difficulties in adjusting to change, behavioral changes, trauma, anxiety & depression, as well as spiritual counseling.

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