Have you ever heard the old adage: “You are what you eat”? Well here is another one for you, “What you eat is what you feel”! What we choose to eat and drink can affect how we feel, both physically and emotionally. A very real connection exists between nutrition and our emotional health. This should be encouraging news, because it lets us know that eating food that is good for us can also make us feel good!
Indulging, at times, in sweet and fatty foods can certainly be a part of living a wholesome life, but if we don’t make sure to balance the sweet stuff with other foods, then those foods choices can really start to have a negative effect on our bodies-both physically and emotionally.
A great example is the way that Morgan Spurlock responded to his 30-day McDonald’s challenge in the film Super Size Me. Not only did his physical health suffer, but he became fatigued and depressed. While not all Americans eat fast food for every meal every day, this serves as a learning moment for us all. A month of extreme eating took a happy and healthy person to the point where he was just a shadow of himself emotionally.
Balance is the key here, and I want to share with you some of the areas that are most often found out of balance in our diets.
Carbohydrates provide us with energy and are found in a wide variety of food. Fruits, grains, and starchy vegetables are some of the best sources of since they are also naturally high in fiber. Fiber has a lot of functions and one of them is to slow the absorption of simple carbohydrates (e.g. starch and sugar).
The slower absorption rate prevents blood sugar highs and lows. These highs and lows aren’t just referring to your blood sugar levels. This spiking of our blood sugar mirrors the way that we can feel after eating and digesting a bunch of refined sugar and starch- we feel high and then we feel low (Sommerfield, et al., 2004).
While caffeine can be enjoyed in a balanced way, it is good to think about it for what it is- it is a type of drug that is classified as a stimulant, and stimulants have the power to alter our moods. The adverse effects of too much caffeine can include things like jitteriness, anxiousness, an irritated stomach, and sleeplessness or poor quality of sleep (Persad, 2011). Withdrawal from caffeine can lead to feelings of irritability and depression accompanied with headaches and even constipation (Juliano, et al., 2004).
Balancing caffeinated with non-caffeinated beverages is the key. On average, a person can have up to 400 mg of caffeine and consider themselves to be in balance, a little less than that if the person is sensitive to caffeine. To give an idea of what that translates into:
- a 12 oz. caffeinated soda will typically have anywhere from 30-50 mg
- a 6 oz. coffee typically contains 100 mg,
- a 16 oz. a Starbucks coffee drip coffee contains about 400 mg of caffeine
Slowly weaning off caffeine will make the dietary transition easier and will help to avoid the worst of the withdrawal symptoms.
- If you have 4-5 cups of coffee a day, try cutting back to 3 cups and having one cup of decaf.
- Stay with that for a few days.
- Then step back down another step and try only having 2 cups of regular.
Once you have made your changes into a habit, you will feel better emotionally and physically and you will be happy to find yourself actually feeling more in balance than you were before.
Balance can be best described as boundary management. It is about making choices and enjoying them. It is not always something that we find, but instead is something that we can create. By keeping in mind the areas of life that are easy to let get out of balance, we can better maintain our ability to correct those areas, bringing us a sense of accomplishment, happiness and overall well-being!
- Sommerfield AJ, Deary IJ, Frier BM. (2004). Acute hyperglycemia alters mood state and impairs cognitive performance in people with type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care, 10, 2335-2340. doi: 10.2337/diacare.27.10.2335
- Persad LA. (2011) Energy drinks and the neurophysiological impact of caffeine. Neurosci. 5, 116. doi: 10.3389/fnins.2011.00116
- Juliano LM, Griffiths RR. (2004). A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. Psychopharmacology, 176, 1-29. doi: 10.1007/s00213-004-2000-x