You are what you eat?
In the everlasting quest for mind health, there is a growling connection to body health. Body health entails more than feverishly pumping weights at your local gym; it means consuming heart-healthy and, more importantly, mind-healthy foods.
“Mind-healthy foods? What are those?” you ask.
Mind-healthy foods are high-quality proteins and vegetables protecting your mind from oxidative stress. A traditional Mediterranean diet heavy in grains and olive oil may be a mental health elixir. In fact, depression is an estimated 25% to 35% lower among those on a traditional diet.
Perhaps the battle of the bulge should be renamed the battle of the mind. When I am stressed or depressed, my default response is to snack or, in some cases, gorge. Stuffing those panic-stricken feelings, I will carb binge at the first opportunity. My personal downfall: a melt in your mouth chocolate chip cookie. Or a strawberry banana bubble tea. And, well, you get the idea.
Conferring with medical providers, I have continuously complained about a gnawing pit in my stomach. Well-intentioned doctors have prescribed the typical medley of anti-anxiety medications. Experienced counselors have introduced CBT and hypnosis. But during stressful times, the gnawing sensation festers into a full-blown revolt.
Perplexed and discouraged, I would munch on barbecue chips to soothe the stomach pangs. The result: a smarting pain in my stomach and mind. And a sense of helplessness at the mind-numbing lethargy.
While I droned on to my medical providers, the stomach pain and lethargy confounded them. We discussed sleep habits, exercise regimens, and work-life balance. Amidst the countless conversations — and growing consternation, there was one perpetual omission: my diet.
A proud athlete, I shrugged off my unhealthy eating habits. “I work out; I can eat what I want,” I rationalized. In college, the late night grocery run with a staple. After a high-pressure presentation or exam, I would splurge on chocolate. Entering the working world, food became my trusted confidante. While I worked out religiously, my eating binges drained me of my trademark motivation and worsened my fragile mind health.
As wisps of grey hair appeared, I started scrutinizing my diet. While there was an element of vanity, I was tired of being tired. As career pressures mounted, I feared that my mental health anxieties would topple me. Instead of seeking solace in chocolate, though, I sought solace in a healthier lifestyle.
Over the past year, my diet has improved. Begrudgingly, I have resisted the temptation to eat my feelings. And, not surprisingly, there has been an uptick in my mental health. I am more energized; my mood doesn’t droop as soon as the negative thoughts appear. As for that gnawing pit in my stomach? It is now more annoying than agonizing.
As my thoughts (finally) reach a detente, maybe the battle of the bulge is more aptly the battle of the mind. And your real mental block: skipping the snack aisle.
Loeb, M. (2018). Brainfood. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 23, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/brainfood/