Do you sometimes feel like food has total control over YOU instead of you having control over your food? And have you noticed that when you are feeling stressed or emotional, the food that calls out to you is always the bad stuff that you have been trying to hard to avoid? If so, the likelihood is that you are stuck in the Bad Food / Bad Mood / Bad Food cycle!
What does this mean?
Simply put it means when you find yourself in a bad mood whether it's because you are frustrated, sad, anxious or depressed, you tend to make bad food choices. The problem is, when we eat bad food (food with very little nutrients but plenty of toxic ingredients, sugar or trans fats) your bad moods will start to become the norm. Even though you might get a short-term rush of euphoria from your comfort food of choice, it is always short-lived and is followed by the inevitable energy crash and often guilt and shame that you fell off the healthy eating wagon!
So then what happens? You immediately start craving the bad foods again with all the sugar and unhealthy carbs because this is how the body gets that sudden rush of serotonin (the happy hormone). You see your body is always trying to find a healthy balance and will crave what it THINKS it needs to feel better.
But don't worry, you CAN break the cycle!
Let me share with you how you can finally get a grip on emotional eating and offer you some options to help you with the next steps in your journey. CLICK HERE TO SCHEDULE YOUR FREE ONLINE STRATEGY SESSION TODAY.
So let me explain this cycle further....
Mental health and brain health are complex. So are the foods we eat, and the ways our bodies interact with those foods. There is no disputing that "we are what we eat!"
First, what we eat becomes the raw materials for our neurotransmitters. “Neurotransmitters” are biochemical messengers that allow our nerve cells to communicate. Serotonin, the "happy hormone" I mentioned before is a perfect example of one of these messengers. They are important not just for thinking and memory, but also for mental health.
Second, what we eat and HOW we eat it affects our blood sugar. And having unstable blood sugar levels can contribute to mood swings, cravings, emotional eating and fat storage.
Let’s talk a little more about mood-boosting and mood-busting foods.
Some nutrient deficiencies look like mental health problems; this includes deficiencies in B-vitamins, vitamin D, and the mineral selenium. So, getting enough vitamins, minerals, (and other things like antioxidants) are key. These nutrients not only reduce inflammation but also fuel the biochemical reactions in our bodies. Including those that create neurotransmitters. So make sure you're eating a variety of nutrient-dense whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables. In fact, studies show that people who eat the most fruits and vegetables are the happiest.
Also pay special attention to vitamin D (the sunshine vitamin), as it’s not naturally occurring in too many foods. Selenium is an essential mineral found in Brazil nuts, walnuts, cod, and poultry. Try to add some of those to your weekly diet.
Second, make sure you get enough protein. Protein is your body's main supply of amino acids. Amino acids are very important for mood issues because they are the building blocks of neurotransmitters. Protein also helps to regulate blood sugar. I recommend eating protein with every meal; this includes dark green leafy vegetables, eggs, poultry, and meat.
Third, complex (healthy) carbohydrates like sweet potato and quinoa are great too. They allow better absorption of key amino acids like tryptophan. Tryptophan is used by your body to make serotonin (your “happy hormone”) and melatonin (your “sleepy” hormone). So, if you want to relax, try these in the evening.
Fourth, fish and other sources of omega-3 fatty acids (nuts, seeds, and algae) are also mood-boosting. Omega-3s are definitely “brain food” and may help to ease some symptoms.
FUN FACT: One study showed that giving one multi-vitamin and one omega-3 fish oil tablet per day to prison inmates reduced the incidence of violent behavior by 50%!
Last but not least, make sure you’re hydrated. Mild dehydration can cause mood issues as well.
Now let's take a look at the foods on the other end of the spectrum. I am sure' you won’t be surprised to hear me say processed foods are mood-busters, right? One study suggests that eating a lot of processed foods devoid of nutrients can increase your chances of becoming depressed by as much as 60 percent! This is on top of the research that shows nutrient deficiencies can look like mental health problems.
Yes, as I mentioned before, some of these mood busting foods can make you feel better temporarily but the key word is TEMPORARILY! Remember, what goes up, must come down and that sugar or starchy carb high tends to come down with a bang!
Some big food companies study how to maximize the "pleasure" centers in your brain with the perfect amount of sugar, salt, and fat. Not to mention the color, texture, and taste; they can light up our taste buds and make us feel good… in the short-term. But often, once your sugar levels crash, you end up feeling worse than you did before! Except now you also have the dreaded guilt and shame to deal with as well :(
Below are a list of other stimulants you should significantly reduce or perhaps even try to eliminate altogether if you are looking for more balanced emotional health:
● Alcohol (nervous system depressant)
● Caffeine (may worsen anxious feelings and ability to sleep)
● Sugar (messes with your blood sugar and can worsen inflammation).
Now I know what you're thinking.....
"I KNOW I need to limit these mood-busting foods but some days no matter what I do, I can't seem to stay away from them! I don't have strong enough willpower!"
Well, I'm here to tell you that willpower alone won't win over emotional eating. Because you need to address both the psychological AND the physiological imbalances if you are going to be successful.
So your approach needs to be:
1. Eat the right foods in the right way to balance blood-sugar levels so you can address the physiological imbalance; and,
2. Learn how to identify your own emotional triggers so you can re-balance the psychological element that is driving you to over-eat the wrong foods.
Bad moods can lead to bad eating habits; and, bad eating habits can lead to bad moods. If you need a mood boost, and want to gain back control over emotional eating, stick to minimally processed nutrient-dense whole foods as much as possible. Things like fresh fruit and vegetables (including leafy greens), nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, poultry, and meat. Avoid common mood-busting foods like alcohol, caffeine, and sugar and learn how to identify your own emotional triggers. Once you can identify your own triggers you can stop allowing your emotions to make bad food choices for you!
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