Fuelling When You Cannot Be F#*ked
Depression and anxiety can lead to poor dietary habits and poor dietary habits can lead to exacerbations in depressive and anxious symptoms. It can be difficult to consider the impact of your food intake on your mental health when you are tired, nauseous, lack motivation and have little, if any drive.
Lets look at 5 small steps you can take today, that require minimal effort, to get your food: mood connection working for rather than against you.
1. Think of food as 'fuel'. Our minds and bodies are like the cars we drive - if we fill them with crappy fuel from the bottom of the storage tanks, filled with gritty bits that clog our injectors, they don't run so well. If we fuel our bodies (brains included) with over processed, high sugar, high saturated fat food - it has little chance to function at its best. In deciding what to eat ask yourself - "Is this meal going to provide me with premium fuel?".
2. Begin your approach to healthy eating by adding the good stuff, rather than setting hard rules around what NOT to eat. Lets face it, we all have that inner rebel - the one that says "Don't tell me I can't have that! Now I'll have TEN just to spite you!" - better to ensure you eat enough of the nutritional stuff first and over time you may find less cravings for, and a natural step away from refined, unhealthy foods (without alerting the rebel within).
3. Choose food as close to its natural form as possible. Most take away and pre packaged foods are filled with refined carbohydrates, excessive salt, sugar, trans and saturated fats (the stuff closely associated with depression and/or anxiety). Simple is often the best and most nutritional. Ask yourself - "Is this food close to its natural state?" And be honest with yourself - there is no 'donut tree' or 'ice-cream plant'. Sad, but true.
4. Aim to meet your 'macro' requirements at each meal. Macro-nutrients include carbohydrates, protein and fats - all of which are necessary for physical and mental health. Healthy carbs (fruit, vegetables, wholegrains) help stabilise blood sugar levels and mood. Healthy proteins (lean meats, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts and seeds) are necessary for the production of key neurotransmitters required for feelings of wellbeing, clearer thinking and motivation. Healthy fats (leafy vegetables, seeds, nuts, shellfish, fish, plant oils) help with immunity, energy and general body and brain function. 'Macro' bowls have become quite trendy - heres your chance to be part of the 'in crowd' - ugh. Okay, forget that - be a dag, I don't care - just eat your macros.
5. Eat convenience foods. No, not HJ's, not Maccas, not KFC. I mean convenient as in - in the fridge, on the bench - ready to go! Easy, quick nutrient 'top-ups' include healthy snacks like pre cut fruit and veg, yoghurt, nuts and seeds. Low mood often means 'couldn't be bothered' - but remember a simple avo and cheese on wholegrain toast is ticking boxes nutrition wise. Good food doesn't have to be time-consuming or expensive.
6. Ok. I know I said 'five' - but I'm adding one because its essential - DRINK WATER. We are mostly water. We need about 2-2.5 litres per day. Carry a bottle with you - drink regularly throughout the day. Hydrate your body and brain for optimal functioning - actually, hydrate your body and brain for ANY kind of functioning. Like I said - it's essential.
At a time when you feel most things are outside your control, remember that what you put into your body is generally a controllable factor. Do what you can. See a qualified nutritionist or dietician for more support and ideas around dietary habits for physical and mental wellness.