What I Know About ‘Soul Food’ and Chronic Illness

What I Know About ‘Soul Food’ and Chronic Illness

Living Life with CP

When I Googled the term “soul food,” I was surprised that a list of actual food items and places to eat came up; when I searched “define soul food,” I was even more surprised to find that soul food is actually defined as “traditional southern African-American food.” I wouldn’t have guessed. Soul food I always thought was food that made you feel good, comfort food — something that I think varies by person.

But in recent years, “soul food” has become a term used to describe something you must do to feel better, soul food is something that you do for yourself. In my experience, doctors have tried to tell me that soul food is a good session at physical therapy or a nice office visit. As I’ve grown and the complications that have related to my cerebral palsy diagnosis have begun to turn “chronic,” I feel that I have learned a thing or two about soul food.

Here’s what I think I’ve learned … first, yes — “soul food” can be a good session at physical therapy or a nice office visit, depending on the conversations you have with your therapist, your doctor, or the patients themselves. But soul food can also be saying “no” to going out on Friday night, soul food can be watching four hours of your favorite show on the couch after a long day; it can be chicken fingers, or a warm bath, a nice bed, or a heating pad.

Soul food is supposed to make you feel good, after all. It’s important to take the time to sit down and enjoy that soul food, whatever it is to you. So often, doctors and patients are trying to find or give answers. We forget that sometimes, we already have them. Going back to my quality of life piece that I wrote a few months ago, I think that it’s important to put happiness in front of whatever may be happening. When I have a flair — yes, it’s uncomfortable, it’s painful, sometimes it is terrible. But as I’ve said in my quality of life post, and as I will say here — I know and live with the consequences of the choices I have made. I don’t think every time I have a painful day I should run to a physical therapy session or schedule an appointment with my doctor.

Sometimes, when you’re a “chronic patient” dealing with a chronic illness, I think it’s easy to forget that you have your own tool kit as well, and that you are able to care for yourself. At the same time, I think it’s extremely important (and perhaps part of soul food) to know when you need help and to have no shame in asking for it. You need what you need sometimes, and only you can ask for it, but don’t be afraid to spend a night in on the couch either, or to eat that piece of cake you deserve. Don’t be afraid to take care of taking care of yourself.

Note: Cerebral Palsy News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Cerebral Palsy News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to cerebral palsy.


  1. Denise says:

    Soul food can also also literally be foods that are good for you. For example, I drink almond milk instead of cows milk, I eat oat meal or cinimon toast for an up set stomach. I also avoid foods that are inflametory to me like black pepper, hot pepper, war peanuts, soy etc I gave up alcohol altogether because I don’t think its worth paying for twice. Soul food is going to differ from person to person. So eat what works best for you. And by the way, enjoy that piece of cake..

Leave a Comment