Friday, January 14, 2011
Food & Mood
Been making some very important discoveries lately regarding the above subject header...
When people talk about food and mood, they're usually referring to emotional eating. But digging further into the physiological responses that create emotional eating...it's eye-opening. It's more than "oh, I'm hormonal, that's why I'm craving salt..." or "oh, I'm having a bad day, that's why I need that candy bar." It illuminates how intricate a machine the human body is, and how giving it the "right" fuel goes a long way toward optimal health.
I put "right" in quotes, because of course, there is no one right way...there are diets upon diets out there, all claiming to be the ONE to make you thinner, healthier, happier, etc. Atkins will make you drop weight fast, but you're depriving yourself and it's high in fat; macrobiotic is great, if you're Japanese and already used to eating seaweed, but it's also depriving and high in sodium; Bob Greene is oh-so-well-rounded, so long as you have piles of willpower.....the list goes on. But reading things like Integrative Nutrition and Hannah's blog are giving me "aha" moments in my own eating, that are reshaping how I look at food and, thank goodness, changing my mindset so that I'll never "diet" again.
(See, this is why blogs are so cool...in our society, if a female weighing 2½ bills makes that claim in public, she's ridiculed right into a retraction. When peer pressure is allowed to dictate what and how you eat, it's time to reprioritize your thinking. Why in the world would you eat for anyone other than yourself? Digressing...)
I've been a bit more cognizant than some of how different outside factors affect mood, ever since I found out about my lithium deficiency. Helps me see my personality quirks and how to hold the yuckier ones at bay in public (ex: I fidget something fierce when meetings run too long and I'm off lithium). But how food actually, physiologically affects mood...my brain wasn't making enough of a connection.
Earlier in the week, I was eating better...oatmeal for breakfast, beans with rice or a big honkin' salad with neat stuff added, like beans and apples with a light dressing, for lunch. Also, drinking so much more water, I'm a peeing machine. I was burning the damn salads so fast, I was still physically hungry after eating them, but I was also feeling over-the-moon healthy...great mood, more energy, and that feeling of doing right by yourself. Also an interesting indicator that my metabolism isn't nearly as slow as I give it the excuse of being.
So yesterday, my mood was off in part because the cold here in Florida caused a power outage as I was getting ready for work. Which meant no coffee, scrambling in the half-dark to throw together lunch, opening and closing fridge door faster in case outage turned into an all-day thing, and no electricity to improve on my lunch choices (was going to splash some beef broth on beans and rice to give it flavor). So I inhaled a bowl of cereal, not enjoying it, just eating it to ward off hunger (never mind that it's plain old Kellogg's, which I'm close to swearing off of for a while, b/c I can't stand contributing to GMO use, but I digress...). So, goof #1: hitting Starbucks on the way into work for a latte ("no coffee? crazy talk! besides, I deserve it! the power went out!"). Then after a grumbly, stress-filled morning, I knew the plain beans and rice weren't going to get eaten, so I gave myself permission to hit Chow Down, a local deli with the best tasting burgers I've ever eaten. I've said before, I never want to know what goes into them; they're just too damn tasty. Eating at my desk (goof #2: should be getting the hell away from desk when I eat), I noticed almost immediately how much better I felt, sinking my teeth into that burger and indulging in their seriously-salted-but-yummy-and-hey!-actual-potato-fries...it was delicious, it was feeding something inside of me, and my mood improved. Much better...day's looking up.
Fast-forward 45 minutes: I'm nearly dozing off in the middle of a conference call as the food starts to digest. The caffeinated root beer that accompanied the burger and fries is doing nothing to increase my energy or keep me awake. I spend the afternoon slogged down in a food-induced stupor that's so intense, I beg off going to the Y under the excuse that I didn't sleep well the night before, and that's why I'm tired. That part may have been true, but the real culprits were the decisions I'd made, how I'd fueled my body that day.
This post is already too long, but an offshoot of this topic is how the flora and fauna in your intestines could actually be sending messages to your brain to get you to eat foods that are bad for you...I've suffered from intestinal candida overgrowth episodes for years and never put two and two together on that. A post for another time...
The hardest part is saying no to certain foods after a lifetime of saying yes. Was offered Krispy Kreme this morning, and didn't think twice. Not beating myself up for it, but did notice the marked sugar high mid-morning. Lunch was semi-healthy (leftover pork stir-fry - zucchini, broccoli, low-sodium soy...though again, the GMO stats on soybeans have me cringing and hunting for alternatives...and brown rice), but Les cooks the veggies to within an inch of their nutritional value, so it's easier on his lack of teeth. Still tasty, but an hour later, I was hungry again. It was another "aha" moment, that if I want to eat healthier, it is going to require more planning, more separate meals for a while. My version of stir-fry would've been brown rice with beans for protein, zucchini and broccoli lightly sauteed (rather than drowned), but I let him cook because it's easier. Easier is a relative term...is it easier for me later today, scrounging around my desk for granola bars because lunch didn't do its job and I want the energy to hit the Y today, because I'm actually feeling better?
I have so much to learn. I thank the gods I'm in a place where what I'm learning is actually sinking in. I know now I can make the necessary changes to get healthier. It's a fluid process, but it's not unreachable. And the good feelings that result extend so far beyond the numbers on a scale.
Image from here.