SPIES: A Balanced Lifestyle

By  Dr. Anita Johnston

 February 15, 2016

Years ago, I learned about the ­­­­­­­­­­­SPIES approach to a balanced lifestyle. SPIES is the science and art of shifting your lifestyle toward a state of optimal health as defined by a balance of Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social health. I reflected on my life at the time and recognized that when I would “crash and burn,” like Wile E. Coyote smashing against the canyon wall and slowly sliding down, I was living in an unbalanced state with one or more of my SPIES elements out of whack.  I learned that, instead of panicking and throwing the “baby out with the bathwater,” re-balancing my SPIES would set me back on track.

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After working with folks who have struggled with eating difficulties for over 20 years, I tend to notice developing patterns of im-balance. Often times my clientele hyper focus on the physical component (nutrition and joyful body movement), — which is only 1/5 of what makes a person whole and healthy. In those cases I encourage re-focusing on balance by feeding all five areas of SPIES. This re-focus enables them to examine their physical desires relative to the four remaining elements of SPIES and make appropriate adjustments.

According to the American Journal of Health Promotion, “lifestyle change can be facilitated through a combination of efforts to enhance awareness, change behavior, and create environments that support good health practices. Of the three options, supportive environments will probably have the greatest impact in producing lasting change.” Anita and I created a safe supportive environment in the Light of the Moon Café using the SPIES principles. Perhaps that is why so many women are successful in making peace with food using her book and our Café. Every day, women from around the world connect via the Café’ in the online forum or private Facebook page on a deep, soulful level, learning and growing together to overcome their struggles and gathering the skills needed to make peace with food. Living and encouraging each other to live a balanced lifestyle are yet another way to find optimal mental and physical health.

Please scroll down and share your thoughts about the SPIES approach to optimal wellness and how you have or can create a more balanced lifestyle in the comments below.



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Dr. Anita Johnston


Anita Johnston, Ph.D., CEDS is a clinical psychologist and certified eating disorder specialist and supervisor, working in the field of women’s issues and eating disorders for over 35 years.

She is the author of the best selling book, Eating in the Light of the Moon and co-creator of the Light of the Moon Cafe, a series of online interactive courses and women’s support circles, and Soul Hunger workshops. She is currently the Clinical Director of Ai Pono Hawaii eating disorder programs with out-patient programs on Oahu and the Big Island of Hawaii, and an ocean-front residential program on Maui.

  • This tool has taken my recovery to a whole new level. When Elisabeth first introduced this to me I knew it would have a profound effect. I am such a visual person. SPIES gave me the visual to see how to keep balance in my life. Each morning I think of how I will feed each of my SPIES through the day. Then in the evening I reflect on how I accomplished them. Recovery is not only about nutrition or our emotions, it is all of the SPIES combined. We have to have balance in our Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Emotional and Social aspects of our lives. When we do, our lives are complete.

  • As an endurance athlete, I have frequently encountered fitness programs, advice or training regimes that seem to me to be little more than endorsed dysfunctional eating. The risk for athletes, like me, with a history of eating disorders is to substitute one obsession for another. I think a more balanced approach to wellness and personal growth is the better way to go. Then, the person can be athletic in a less frantic context and truly enjoy the activity for the activity’s sake; not just as a mean to an end.

    • Absolutely! In addition to experiencing the activity for it’s sake because you are “present,” you get to experience so MANY other experiences in other areas of your life on so many different levels because you aren’t hyper-focused on one and not attached to the outcome. Thank you for sharing your experience. -e

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