Monday, 21 May 2012

Positive Living: Do you have a healthy relationship with food?

It's well known that a diet full of fruit and leafy greens will keep us in good physical condition, but there is also a growing awareness of how diet can affect our mental health. It is possible that improving our relationship with food can help us achieve a better mood, emotional wellbeing and overall happiness.

We all eat, but food can play a very different role in one person's life to the next. Some of us are "comfort eaters"; food can become a way to make us feel better about something in our lives. Others might be too busy to prioritise, grabbing a sandwich on the way to the office or a late night takeaway when the fridge is empty. At the darker end of the spectrum, anorexia nervosa is condition where one deprives one's body of food entirely. Food plays a huge part in our culture and a bad relationship with it can be a sign that something is wrong.

So, does food play a healthy role in your life?

It’s not all about counting calories and looking slim. Here are some other reasons why we must take the time to give our body what it needs:

The Body

Mood and Energy: fluctuations in blood sugar levels are associated with changes in mood and energy, and are affected by what we eat.

Brain: brain chemicals (neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine) influence the way we think, feel and behave. What we consume has a huge impact on the production (or lack of) such chemicals.

Mental Illness: a recent British & French study examining the connection between what we eat and our overall mental health found that people who eat more processed foods are more likely to develop depression than those eating healthier. Perhaps for some this may be common sense, but in addition the study found that those of us who are more health conscious will have, on average, higher energy levels over sustained periods.

Work by Fernando Gómez-Pinilla, a UCLA professor of neurosurgery and physiological science who has spent years studying the effects of food, exercise and sleep on the brain, found that dietary deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids in humans has been associated with increased risk of several mental disorders, including attention-deficit disorder, dyslexia, dementia, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

FYI: Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, walnuts and kiwi fruit.

Although a good diet is not the only thing that will keep you mentally healthy, it certainly plays a large part. It isn’t just about nutrients and vitamins; there might be a link between good diet and mental health because of the reasons you choose to eat what you do, and how you do it. Your attitude towards food is just as important as the food itself.

Psychological Relationship

Eating disorders are evidence that if life is right, it will show up in one's eating habits. Eating too much or too little are problems people of all ages and backgrounds face. If life is not going well, one might reach for the ice cream or lose their appetite entirely. Even on an everyday basis a lot of us don't take the time to make sure our body gets what it needs. If you are tired, prone to illness, feel low, have problems sleeping, it is likely that this is related to your attitude towards life. A positive attitude can make all the difference. After all, we all need to eat - our approach to feeding ourselves will reflect our personality.

This means that someone who exercises every day, has five portions of fruit and vegetables minimum and never gives in to eating chocolate might not be leading a balanced lifestyle. What they are eating is healthy, but the way they choose to do it is may not be! One’s approach to healthy eating must be healthy too.

Note: remember, if you are making the effort to be good to your body, then you are releasing all sorts of positive chemicals. Your body is a part of you, and it knows when it is being loved!

Being good to yourself means you feel good about yourself, and this positive attitude may mean that you attract good luck in other areas of your life. Treat yourself some days and be good others - do not go to the extreme!

So it’s not just about what we are eating, but why we choose to eat what we do. Think again about what you put in your body, and the reasons why you choose to eat what, when, and how much you do. The key here is is not following rigid rules of health: it is mainting personal equilibrium.

Your mum might make your meals, you might have a busy work schedule, be recovering from a break up, low on cash or simply hate cooking... your wellbeing and eating habits are closely tied, and everyone wants to be happy and healthy. Make the effort and cook yourself a fresh meal, or invite a friend over for dinner and turn it into an event. Cut back on the pizza and chips and snack on some carrot sticks and hummus. There are many healthy ideas on the internet, available for free. Take a good look at your diet, cut out the rubbish and reach for those greens. It might just pay off!

Sources: mind,
Author: Jessica Heath

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