Today’s story is personal since it’s mine. Please consider it as it relates to this week’s topic.
I’ve struggled with my weight since high school and have gone up, down, and practically sideways on the scale over the years. Breaking my leg in 2005 was a huge setback, and the effects of the weight gained that year have lingered. I’ve heard many people with poor diets and lack of exercise complain of feeling sluggish, both mentally and physically. Like many, there have been days when I’ve had particular trouble focusing and lacked the motivation to get off the couch.
After speaking with my doctor about it, we agreed that it was time for a bit of an overhaul of my eating and exercise. I put off what he told me to for a few months and indulged in the “COVID 15” (thank you, Nabisco!) but decided to make the change in mid-July, knowing that waiting until the new year wasn’t a great option as it was too far off. A few weeks in, I started to see the benefits, and I have to admit that, on top of looking a bit better from the weight loss, I’m feeling better, too.
I’ve noticed that my mind is clearer, and my stress and anxiety have become less bothersome. Over the past few weeks, a few people have even mentioned to me that they think I’m happier eating this new way and that I seem more at peace with myself. I’m so glad I did this.
How many times have you resolved to eat better and get more exercise for a new year? After a rocky 2020, most of us are looking forward to 2021, and what better way to start right than by eating right and focusing on your physical health?
Here’s something that can encourage you to keep up with your resolution: did you know that eating healthier and staying active can help your mental health? Our licensed psychologists and therapists in Tampa want to show you that this resolution isn’t an impossible one, and by doing a few simple things, your mental health can improve.
According to Mental Health America, liquids high in sugar and caffeine not only contribute to weight gain, but they can also trigger panic attacks in some who suffer from anxiety and stress. While caffeine can help some people focus better, highly caffeinated and sugary drinks can also make it hard to focus and may interfere with sleep, affecting your mood, outlook, and daily functions.
Instead of an indulgent Starbucks, sip on some herbal or flavored tea. Instead of a Coca-Cola, choose a bottle of water or a flavored seltzer. These small changes can have far-reaching benefits in the long run. I’ve started using this very cool bottle to track my water throughout the day and make it into a sort of contest for myself. You can check it out by clicking here.
Many of us were taught at an early age that fruits, vegetables, and lean protein are great for your body. But did you know that, by eating these superfoods to lose weight and improve your heart and overall health, you might also be making your mind stronger?
I don’t know about you, but I’ve read so much about what to eat and what to avoid that I’m a bit confused. There seems to be a consensus that refined sugar is one item to be avoided. There are folks out there who explain that gluten, sugar, and carbohydrates are like poison to our brains while others encourage us to eat whole grains. There are so many questions that can pop into your head.
Should I eat whole eggs or egg whites? Is butter good for me or not? Should I focus on high fat or low fat? What’s better, intermittent fasting or eating breakfast? HELP!
So, what do we know for sure? We know that eating too much and diets full of processed foods high in sugar and certain types of fat are unhealthy. We know that eating “cleaner” with a good balance of protein, fats, and healthy carbohydrates is good for our brain.
Science has shown that intermittent fasting can be helpful, but if you’re not fasting, then eating a healthy breakfast kickstarts your metabolism for the day. We know that food is fuel and a body lacking energy can experience fatigue and brain fog. We also know that you should eat foods with certain types of fats like avocado and salmon, and that whole foods provide longer-lasting fuel than a Snickers.
Skipping meals or indulging in fried, high-fat, and processed foods can significantly increase the risk of weight gain, heart disease, diabetes, and depression. Mental Health America suggests going for fruits, vegetables, nuts, unfried fish, and foods with unsaturated fats. Those who follow diets like these are up to 30% less likely to develop depression.
To read more about specific nutrients that can boost a healthy mind, click here.
A Better Mood
The lesson here is that we shouldn’t just eat healthier for our physical health. We need to watch what we eat for the sake of our minds, too. At Rice Psychology Group, we love pizza and ice cream just as much as you do, but we also understand that making better eating choices and refusing to give in to temptation on a daily basis is really tough. Here are a few tips that can help you make better eating choices:
- Understand what you’re eating – Read nutritional labels and do some online research on what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor for some tips on dieting as well.
- Be realistic – If you’re craving ice cream, celery isn’t going to satisfy your sweet tooth. Try some sweet berries or fat-free yogurts close in flavor but that are much better for your body and brain.
- Let it go and start again tomorrow – As important as it is to eat right, sometimes we can’t help ourselves and end up having a hamburger instead of a salad or eat a few cookies instead of some strawberries. That’s okay! Don’t beat yourself up. Acknowledge it as a treat and start over tomorrow.
- Plan ahead – It’s much easier to make better choices when you plan your meals. Make a list of what you’ll have for the week and count your calories. Grocery shopping with a list can also keep you on track to purchasing what you need. Also, never grocery shop on an empty stomach since seeing all of those goodies will drive you to make purchases you’ll later regret.
- A recent tip shared with me was that if I was craving something or was given something yummy but unhealthy as a gift, to keep ¼ of it and give the rest away. That way I can indulge and satisfy my craving but not get too far-off
Remember that new eating habits become easier over time. Your resolution to eat better and improve your overall health is kind of a long walk, not a sprint. Changing your less-healthy habits one day at a time can help you create a lifetime of choices to achieving a better state of mental and physical wellness. I have so much more to share on this topic and will sprinkle it in throughout the year to help keep you, and myself, on track.
Working Together for a Better You
At Rice Psychology Group, we don’t specialize in nutrition or weight loss programs, but we do specialize in helping you feel better. If you’re struggling, need a little extra motivation, or are just in need of someone to talk to, we’re here to help. Contact us to schedule your free, 10-minute consultation. We currently offer private, online sessions via telehealth as well as a limited number of telehealth and in-person evaluations for all ages.