What would you call your eating habits? Chances are, if you’re eating a diet loaded in junk food that your mood is being negatively affected. The food we choose to put into our bodies plays a huge role in how the symptoms of anxiety, depression, stress or anger play out. One example would be someone who suffers from anxiety drinking several cups of coffee a day. This amount of caffeine would certainly not help racing thoughts, feelings of losing control, or near panic.
Part of eating well is watching your insulin levels. Even if you’re not diabetic, your insulin levels play a role in influencing mood. Go without lunch a few times and you’ll notice you get a little crabby later in the day. Or, maybe you have an energy drink and a few hours later your mood becomes depressed. This would be due to coming down from the sugar/caffeine rush and having your insulin levels crash.
As with all the articles I’ve written, I advocate a gradual change in your eating habits and not a radical change. Such sudden changes with anything in your life will produce a certain amount of stress and sets you up for failure. Slow and gradual changes will have a better chance of turning into your new “normal” routine.
So, what is healthy eating and how far do I take it? Well, as with all things in life, moderation is the key. Thus, in this article I’m only going to talk about the first step. In later articles, I will get more in depth on how to change your diet. For now, here are some guidelines to implement right away.
1. Eliminate caffeine. Caffeine’s fine for those that don’t suffer from the symptoms of depression, anxiety, anger or stress. For those that do, the negative side effects it has on them can be profound.
2. Drink more water. How much? Try six glasses a day. Carbonated beverages don’t count, nor do juices or milk.
3. Cut out processed stuff and junk food. This means snack cakes, pastries, chips, pre-packaged microwavable foods, candy, etc. Common sense is the best rule here. Should you eat pizza regularly for lunch? No. Once a week and in moderation? Sure.
4. Learn to make your own meals. Get some beans, ground turkey and some spices of your choice. Cut up an onion and toss everything into a pot, “poof” easy chili. Better yet, jump on the net and check out some recipes. Tossing a frozen chicken breast in a pot, covering it, and putting it on medium heat for ten minutes is easy once you get the hang of it. By making your own meals, you’ll find that you have complete control over what you eat and what goes into your food. Cooking is also therapeutic in that it gets you active, allows goal setting, time management, and can help lower stress levels.
5. Take a multivitamin. You may have some low vitamin levels that research has shown to increase symptoms in depression, anxiety, stress and anger.
6. Eat at regular intervals throughout the day. This means eat breakfast in the morning, lunch and dinner. If you’re dying of hunger in between, first drink a large glass of water (this will reduce cravings) and then have something little like: yogurt, banana, nuts, raisins, granola bar, etc.
7. Keep portion sizes small. Easiest rule of thumb is to keep each portion to the size of your fist. Try to cut back on having seconds as well.
8. Take 2-4 fish oil tablets per day. The fatty acids in fish oil has been proven to help decrease the symptoms of depression, anxiety, stress and anger as well as help with heart health, brain functioning, and a host of other benefits.
9. Eat more protein. Americans in particular have the most trouble adhering to this rule. We’ve become addicted to carbs and our bodies actually crave carbs when we’re feeling depressed, anxious, stressed out or angry. Protein helps to fill this gap and is also something your body needs plenty of. Good protein sources include: yogurt, cottage cheese, chicken, pork, beef and milk. You should have a protein source with every meal.
10. Resist the urge to eat as a form of self-medication. If you’re feeling down and your symptoms are getting the best of you, it’s easy to just want to grab your favorite junk food and veg out on the couch. It’s been shown that those who eat while watching TV tend to eat significantly more than those who don’t. Plus too, you’ll be adding to the negative self-talk you’re doing after you’ve binged on that pint of ice cream, or package of cookies which will just make things worse. Instead, get up and do something…..anything: read, exercise, take a nice hot shower, talk to a friend on the phone, go out for a drive, do one of your hobbies. Just pick an activity and do it until the urge to binge subsides.
This is just a start. Over the course of several weeks, you’ll notice yourself improve and your body will feel a little better. Add on the tips in previous articles and you’ll really start to see some improvement.