What You Put In–Food & Mood
I am about seven months into my lifestyle change. I say “lifestyle change” instead of “dieting” because it really is a complete lifestyle change. You have to change many things–the way you look at food, working out and the way you look at yourself. You have to surrender yourself to the process.
I was never a big fried food eater, nor did I eat snack cakes and chips, fast food, pasta or potatoes. After a lifetime of avoiding certain foods, when I gained all of that weight, my depression took a deeper hold and even the medication I was on seemed to stop working. I was developing numbness in my extremities , and was pre-diabetic. I went through a period where I barely had an appetite at all, and was eating about 1.5 meals per day. My metabolism was grinding to a halt. I just wanted to sleep. My body begged for it.
At my highest weight.
I was having digestive issues and eliminated gluten. I felt better in that I wasn’t bloated and sluggish, but a lot of gluten-free diets are high in carbs. For instance, gluten-free foods that contain potato flour are often higher in carbs than regular whole grain or wheat flours. A lot of gluten-free foods are sweetened using honey or sugar. I was buying a lot of pre-packaged gluten-free foods and breads, and my weight was still climbing. It can be a catch-22 situation.
But how was I feeling? Like shit. I felt like shit warmed over. I was exhausted by about 3 in the afternoon. The fatigue was crippling. I went even further and cut out any bread (even gluten-free), pasta, or rice. Little did I know that this would not only not make much difference in my weight, but make my mood even crappier. I was so rushed in the mornings between getting kids out the door and dogs taken care of, that I often skipped breakfast. Lunch was often skipped as well, and dinner was sparse.
Low Carb Diets & Depression
First let me say that I’m with Oprah Winfrey on this one:
I. Love. Bread. I LOVE it. If I was stranded on a desert island and I could only have one thing to eat, I’d want bread. It smells like heaven, it’s soft, it’s comforting and delicious. Love it, people.
There are rumblings in the health and wellness community that point to low-carb diets affecting serotonin levels in the brain. I had come off my medication (a major side effect of which was weight gain) and was at a vulnerable point mentally. I now believe that trying to stop all carbs did me no favors.
From Web MD:
“Carb craving is part of daily life,” says Judith Wurtman, PhD, a former scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and co-author of The Serotonin Power Diet. She and her husband, MIT professor Richard J. Wurtman, have long researched carbohydrates and their link to mood and depression.
The Wurtmans published a landmark article about carbs and depression in Scientific American in 1989. They are convinced that the carbohydrate craving is related to decreases in the feel-good hormone serotonin, which is marked by a decline in mood and concentration.
The first thing my trainer ever asked me other than what my fitness goals were, was what my diet was like. This opened up a whole new way for me to look at food.
My trainer explained to me the importance of balance in my diet. A good guideline to follow, he said, was the 80/20 rule. Eat clean 80% of the time and allow yourself some indulgences. In my case, I allowed myself those indulgences mostly on the weekends. I really needed the guidance with regard to food. Could I eat this? Could I eat that? Fruit was a no-no during the initial 28-day period when I began my workout regimen. I thought fruit was a good thing to have in your diet. Well duh, it turns into sugar in the body. We began incorporating fruit (in the form of a protein smoothie with no additional sugar added) further into my workout journey and only on days that I worked out.
I eventually made it to 3 almond milk lattes with no sugar per week. I saw this as a triumph. My husband was very thankful, as Starbucks made an ass ton of money off of me. I was feeling better than I had in a long time. I complained through every workout (I still do), but I did it. Even when I wanted to stay in bed, I got up and went. I stuck to the clean eating plan and eventually I was eating something every 3-4 hours. I began to see improvement.
I read somewhere that most Americans are in a constant state of dehydration. I believe it. The rule of thumb has always been 8 8 oz. glasses of water per day, but this isn’t necessarily enough. I found this handy water intake calculator online, based upon your weight and amount of daily activity.
I have ever been a huge water drinker and this was especially hard for me. I began buying Spark Energy vitamin and energy drink and found that it gave me more energy pre-workout, and I felt more alert overall. It contains caffeine, which I believe made it easier for me to drop those extra lattes. I do not sell this product and I was not paid to say this. I believe it was instrumental in helping me to drink more water and feel more energized for my busy day. It is quite expensive, but when I look at what I was paying for lattes per month, it was a no-brainer.
I also discovered those flavored water drops. The ones with no aspartame and no calories. This became what I carried with me in my purse and my vehicle. Boom–I was drinking more water.
Feel Good Foods
Food rich in omega 3 fatty acids can naturally boost your mood. Fish, chia seeds, flaxseeds, walnuts, spinach and tofu are just a few foods that can help improve the way you feel. Finding ways to incorporate these foods into your daily life is not as hard as you think. It just takes sitting down and taking the time to plan out your meals. Take the time–you’ll be glad you did and you will feel better!
Have you noticed that a particular food affects you emotionally? We would love to hear your thoughts!