Every time you eat is an opportunity to nourish your body
This week's post is a little different than my usual. I had a couple of different people reach out asking how eating can affect our mental health.
Personally I'm gonna shy away from the 'science' behind all of this and focus on personally experiences and things I perceive to be the truth.
I'm sure we've all heard "You are what you eat" before. Studies are starting to find truth in this old quote. So whatever I or you believe in, isn't my focus here today. I'm going to stick to the mental side of things and not science.
Do I think food plays a role in our mental health?
Yes I do but it's not that simple to me.
Let me rewind a bit. I've always been tall that hasn't changed I now stand 6 feet and 3 inches. My weight, on the other hand, has always fluctuated. In high school I was one of those kids that looked like a pencil 6 feet but weighing 150-160 pounds. No muscle all bone. The years following high school, the height stayed the same but that weight went from 155 to 235lbs. Why? Well anyone who knows me knows how picky of an eater I am. I eat the same 10 base foods. It's safe to say not always the healthiest. I gained weight because I stopped playing sports and generally was nowhere near as active as I once was.
So what does any of that have to do with mental health?
Well when I hit my top weight, it started to impact my mental health. I didn't like the way I looked, my clothes weren't fitting. Thus starting to impact my mental health. It wasn't necessarily the food I was eating that was causing me to be down on myself but rather the trickle effect of not eating well mixed with not exercising at all. I needed to start to create my own change.
Dieting is one of those things I never wanted to do growing up, I was always so against it. I love my chips and pizza and burgers just as much if not more than the next guy. It was something I never wanted to give up. Don't even get me started on my holy grail Tropicana Orange Juice. Despite what I previously stated there's a guaranteed scientific relation between OJ and my body.
There were two things I didn't want, giving up food and cutting portions. Being 6ft3 there's a lot of body to feed. I've always enjoyed a 'healthy' portion for lack of a better word. I never wanted to give up what I loved. In spite of feeling bad about my weight, I know myself well enough that if I gave up the food and drinks I loved that would in turn impact me mentally since I'm giving up some of the few things that do bring me any sort of joy.
All of that aside that's where my decision to diet came in. Something I've worked lately is to try and become less of a black and white thinker. Some would call it the grey zone. My friend told me about the "PLEASE" skill. Known as ABC PLEASE a DBT Skill which is taking care of the body and mind to decrease our vulnerability to unwanted or intense emotions. The E in PLEASE relating to Balanced Eating. Balance your eating as a way to decrease intense emotions.
Unfortunately for me, I didn't learn this until after I went all-in on dieting. I started by cutting out all juices and strictly drinking water. Surprisingly this has been the easiest part for me. I love iced water it was actually something I spoke about in my anxiety blog. Luckily, I'm not a soft drink, drinker. I really just had to learn to go without OJ. It isn't easy but fast-forwarding to today it makes it that much more rewarding and delicious to have.
Then comes the KETO diet. In simple terms, the Keto diet is very low carbs and sugar and extremely high fat. The idea being your body doesn't have sugar to burn so you trick it into burning fat. One thing I can't lie about is, this diet worked for me I lost 25lbs in one month. What those numbers didn't show was how shitty my body felt. Dizzy, lack of energy. They call it the Keto-Fever. Even though it's quite common to experience and it will pass it was evident that Keto was not for me.
This extreme diet made me realize I needed to find a balance between eating what I love and eating what's good for me. Coming back to our PLEASE skill. Balanced Eating. I've learned a lot on my dieting journey and currently sit at 204lbs the lowest I've been in years here's how...
5 Ways To Improve Your Eating Habits
If you were to only take one tip away from this whole entire article it'd be to Count Calories!!! It is so easy to just binge eat and simply get carried away on snacking. Something as simple as keeping track of what you eat whether that be writing it down on a piece of paper or using an app like My Fitness Pal. Staying on top of what we are eating is a life changer.
Measure what you eat. This one kind of goes hand in hand with the first point. To be able to count calories you need to know the quantity of what you are intaking. Whether it be cereal or meat it is extremely important to measure/weigh so you know exactly how much you are eating. I use measuring cups for cereal and a scale for meat.
Allowing yourself a Cheat Day/Cheat Meal. Depending on how serious and how much mental restraint you have, it is so important to reward yourself along the process. I'm stuck on cheat meals I need a whole day to enjoy all the foods and OJ I love. Just as if we were training a dog we reward positive behavior. Why should we be any different? Humans love positive reinforcement and it's important we show ourselves some love. We deserve it.
This is technically two separate points but I'm putting them together. Don't get down on yourself if you slip up and don't constantly weight yourself. It isn't healthy to constantly obsess over your weight number. Especially since our body retains water weight. Try and step on a scale every few days. I personally check on a Friday before I cheat the following day as I expect to see my best results. Late-night ice cream or insane Pizza craving? I've been there, we are human we aren't perfect so please please, show some self-love if you slip up. We are only trying our best.
Finally, try your best to not eat late at night before bed and stick to a schedule that works for you. It's so easy to have a craving late at night and start eating. Try your best to resist. Personally, I eat between 12:30 and 9:30. Nothing before and nothing after. That won't work for everyone. Find a schedule that fits you. There are no right or wrong answers.
Extra Point. I still eat the foods I love and still eat the portions I enjoy. Burgers, Chicken Wings even the odd serving of French Fries. Everything in moderation. OF course changing the bun for no bun or lettuce will always be the superior choice but it is entirely possible to lose weight eating the foods we love. Making your own meals and knowing what goes into the food you eat also has made this a more 'fun experience' for me. From my greek chicken marinade to my own taco seasoning. Cooking has quickly become something I love doing and takes up time I could otherwise be spending eating.
My mental health regarding food is in a great spot. Seeing my weight go down makes me smile and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I'm happy with the direction I am going and I hope if it's something you struggle with this article can help get you on track.
- Thinking Mans Thoughts
I've created a Patreon for anyone who wants to help and support this journey I'm on. This isn’t about money nor will it ever be. I plan to blog as long as I have thoughts running through my head and stories to tell, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t help me in my situation. All support is appreciated but not mandatory. It's very awkward 'asking' for money especially when I don’t want it to come across like that is my intention.
If you've read all of that and still choose to support me, I will forever appreciate it