“But does diet even affect my anxiety?” I have to do everything in my power not to jump out of my skin as my client asks me this. I want to scream at the top of my lungs “OF COURSE IT DOES!” and do cartwheels around my office. But instead I sit in my little office chair trying to seem professional as my client stares back at me on the couch. I nod my head, “Yes, actually it does” (like it’s such a surprise).
But it IS a surprise to so many of us! I was surprised about a year ago when I really became fascinated with nutritional psychology. I dove into how diet affects mental health after working in the mental health field for a couple of years and not liking how many of my client were unable to shake their depression & anxiety with therapy and medication.
I took a slew of hard, back breaking courses in graduate school talking about everything from how family history affects mental health to how psychotropic medication biologically changes your neurotransmitters. Not once was I taught how the food you ate for breakfast this morning impacts your neurotransmitter production or how the carb overload you indulge in daily is throwing your serotonin levels out of whack. Because that would be absurd!!…..or would it?
Depression rates are on the rise, to say the least. I heard a comedian recently make a joke about how panic attacks are the new trend and he felt left out because he hadn’t had one. People pop xanax like it’s bubble gum and ADHD in children is more prevalent now then ever. Of course all of this is going to impact our sleep. 60 million Americans are affected by a sleep disorder each year. We are doing something wrong. Very, very wrong.
I could go on and on with stats to convince you that mental health is a world-wide problem. But I don’t need to. You know why? Because I know you believe me. I know that either you or someone you know has suffered from some form of poor mental health. You don’t need much convincing because you’ve lived it.
And we could debate back and forth as to why this epidemic is growing. It’s our culture! It’s social media! It the youth! It’s the freaking Kardashians!! …And yes to all the above (sorry, Kim). But it’s more than that. There is something biologically wrong with the brain when you suffer from mental illness. Neurotransmitters are off, which is why you are prescribed medication. But why are they out of line in the first place? It’s because of the food you are eating today, right now. You have to provide a healthy diet to produce a healthy brain. So where do you start?
The best three tips to start you off on a healthy diet for mental health:
- Avoid processed foods. If it’s in a box or in a bag it is likely processed. I love the book “100 Day of Real Food”. It really taught me how to look for non-processed foods without breaking my bank. Now, avoiding processed foods is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of time to adapt. Start small. Have one meal a day where nothing is processed, then expand to 2 meals a day and so forth. Don’t try to do it all, baby steps is key,
- Load up on vegetables. Eat as many as you can! Aim for 6 a day. (Don’t pass out on me just yet, I’ll give tips in future posts on how to do that). To start drink green smoothies and eat a salad for lunch. Keep it simple and tasty. If you hate the taste it won’t work,
- Eat high quality protein with EVERY meal. This is the most important. Using Macronutritent Mood Therapy you will see that protein is the most important part of every meal (meaning it needs to be in every meal). This will stabilize your mood more than anything. It will also provide essential amino acids to produce the neurotransmitters you need to feel better (serotonin for example). Complete proteins include: unprocessed meats, chicken, turkey, beef, fish, seafood, and eggs.
The biggest thing you can do today is to change your perspective. Feeling blue today? Or feeling unreasonably anxious? Grab a green smoothie. View the food you eat and the drinks you drink as your medicine for mental health. Because it truly is.
Do those three things for 2 weeks and you will notice a difference in your mood. You’ll sleep better, you’ll feel better, and this will improve your relationships, your job performance and your self-esteem. If you don’t believe me when I say that diet impacts mood then try it for yourself! Don’t’ believe everything your told, experiment and either prove me wrong or prove me right. And of course, let me know how it all goes!