Nourishing Your Body and Mind
Healthy Eating Week is an annual event that promotes the importance of consuming nutritious foods for overall well-being. This year, Healthy Eating Week 2023 aims to help people to find ways to eat healthy, even if on a restricted income due to the current economic situation. This is very important, as those already struggling financially are understandably at higher risk of negative mental health responses to their personal situations. For helpful information and details on Healthy Eating Week with resources and ideas https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-eating-week-2023/
At Teenage Mental Health, we are very aware of how out physical wellbeing relates to our mental wellbeing and wish to encourage and empower individuals to make mindful food choices, that not only benefit their physical health, but also positively impact their mood and mental well-being.
By focusing on nourishing our bodies and minds, we can cultivate a healthier and happier lifestyle. In this mini blog, we will explore the significance of healthy eating for mental health, along with five facts about how it can positively affect our mood. Additionally, we will provide five tips to support healthy eating without resorting to restrictive dieting.
5 Facts on How Healthy Eating Helps Mood/Mental Health: There’s a science to it!
· Balancing Neurotransmitters: Certain nutrients found in a well-rounded diet can help regulate the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. These are the chemicals that play crucial roles in mood regulation, and a balanced intake of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and magnesium can support their optimal function.
· Reducing Inflammation: A diet rich in whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, can help reduce chronic inflammation in the body. Emerging research suggests that chronic inflammation may contribute to the development of mood disorders such as depression and anxiety. By adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, individuals may experience improvements in their mental well-being.
· Gut-Brain Connection: The gut and brain are intricately connected, and a healthy gut microbiome can positively influence mental health. Consuming a diet high in fibre, prebiotics, and probiotics can support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria, which in turn may improve mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.
· Stable Blood Sugar Levels: Maintaining stable blood sugar levels is crucial for maintaining optimal energy levels and mood stability. Eating regular meals that include complex carbohydrates, fibre, and protein can help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, promoting a more balanced mood throughout the day.
· Antioxidant Protection: Healthy eating provides an abundance of antioxidants through fruits, vegetables, and other plant-based foods. Antioxidants help protect the brain from oxidative stress and inflammation, which are linked to cognitive decline and mental health disorders. By consuming a variety of colourful fruits and vegetables, individuals can support their mental well-being.
And do have some Chocolate!
Boost brainpower by treating yourself to a couple of pieces of dark chocolate every few days. The flavonoids, caffeine and theobromine in chocolate are thought to work together to improve alertness and mental skills.
5 Tips to Support Healthy Eating Without Dieting:
· Practice Mindful Eating: Instead of following strict diets, focus on mindful eating. Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues, eat slowly, and savour each bite. This approach encourages a healthier relationship with food and allows you to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious options.
· Emphasize Whole Foods: Prioritize whole, unprocessed foods in your diet, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. These foods are nutrient-dense and provide the essential vitamins, minerals, and fibre your body needs for optimal function.
· Cook at Home: Cooking your meals at home gives you control over the ingredients and portion sizes. Experiment with different recipes, flavours, and cooking techniques to make healthy eating enjoyable and exciting. Get creative in the kitchen and involve friends or family members to make it a fun and collaborative experience.
· Practice Moderation, Not Deprivation: Rather than completely eliminating certain foods, practice moderation and portion control. Allow yourself to indulge in your favourite treats occasionally, savouring them mindfully. By incorporating all foods in moderation, you can maintain a balanced approach to healthy eating.
Stay Hydrated: Drinking an adequate amount of water is essential for overall health and can help curb unnecessary snacking. Carry a reusable water bottle with you throughout the day as a reminder to stay hydrated.
Maybe we don’t need to focus managing what or how much food we eat? Maybe we need to first manage stress?
Yes, there is scientific research that suggests a link between stress and weight gain. Stressors, particularly chronic stressors can affect us physically through various physiological and behavioural mechanisms. This includes energy levels, cognitive function generally and even things like weight gain.
Research suggests, Chronic stress coupled with a high-calorie diet leads to overeating and increased cravings for sweet, palatable food, contributing to weight gain. This is due to stress overriding the brain’s (lateral habenula), This region is what typically dampens reward signals associated with eating.
Chronic stress triggers the release of cortisol, a hormone associated with increased appetite and fat storage, particularly in the abdominal area. Higher cortisol levels have been linked to greater food intake, cravings for high-calorie foods, and increased abdominal fat deposition. Many of us may recognise this as Emotional Eating.
Emotional eating, is when people use food as a way to cope with negative emotions. This often involves consuming calorie-dense, high-sugar, and high-fat foods, which can contribute to negative physical effects to the body affecting those Balancing Neurotransmitters, Inflammation, Gut-Brain Connection, Blood Sugar Levels and Antioxidant consumption. This can also cause differences in weight which for some may not be a worry, but for others can cause further stress, and becomes a vicious circle.
Stress can also disrupt sleep patterns, leading to inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality. Lack of sleep affects hormones that regulate appetite (such as leptin and ghrelin), leading to increased hunger, food cravings, and a higher likelihood of wanting more of the foods we may otherwise consume more moderately.
High levels of stress can also reduce motivation and energy levels, leading to a decrease in physical activity. A sedentary lifestyle combined with stress-induced eating more than usual can contribute to physical health changes we can than add to feelings of low-mood, lethargy and other conditions that may further impact mental health. No matter how small, if falling into less active routines or other ill health has restricted your physical ability, do what you can to get active, start small and keep going.
It's important to note that individual responses to stress and weight gain can vary. Some people may experience significant weight gain during periods of stress, while others may not be as affected. Furthermore, other factors such as genetics, metabolism, and overall lifestyle choices also play a role in physical health management.
We appreciate it’s easier said than done sometimes, to mitigate the effects of stress on your physical health, it is important to adopt healthy coping mechanisms for stress management, such as regular exercise, practicing relaxation techniques (e.g., meditation, deep breathing), getting adequate sleep, seeking social support, and engaging in activities that bring joy and reduce stress levels. Maintaining balanced and nutritious eating habits, even during stressful periods, can help support overall well-being and resilience to other stressors.
For helpful information and details on Healthy Eating Week with resources and ideas feel free to visit https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthy-eating-week-2023/
We're here to help!
It's no secret that mental health support services are often stretched thin due to high demand, including for this with eating disorders/disordered eating. Making it a struggle for many individuals to access the help they need. This can be frustrating and disheartening and even exhausting but it's crucial not to give up seeking support.
Mental health is just as important as physical health, and it's important to prioritize taking care of yourself. There are resources available that can help, after Covid online support groups, helplines, and mental health websites are easily found and more accessible. But in person services are also out there and are not going to be adequately replaced by online or remote options for many.
Even though many in person services are working with waiting lists or lengthy assessment processes, not all options do or take forever for some needs for meaningful work to begin.
If you or your child are struggling with mental health issues, don't hesitate to reach out to www.teenagementalhealth.co.uk.
We understand the challenges you may be facing and will always assist as best possible or signpost you to other resources if necessary that hopefully are appropriate for you.
Our service is dedicated to providing mental health support and advice specifically for all, and we believe that every young person and adult deserves to have access to the help they need.
Seeking help is a sign of strength, and there is no shame in asking for support when you need it. You are not alone, we will help in some way, shape or form!
From everyone at TMH, working hard towards improving mental health support for everyone.
Thank you for reading
You can find more blogs and information with advice on previous Blogs and Newsletters on our website: https://www.teenagementalhealth.co.uk/blog/