Anxiety

The Link Between Food and Depression {What to Eat to Naturally Feel Happier}

ivana-cajina-dnL6ZIpht2s-unsplash.jpg

Oftentimes we view the mind and body as separate entities. We treat the mind with cognitive therapy and see a psychiatrist and we treat the body through the various systems and health care specialists for each system’s issue, such as a cardiologist for the heart, or neurologist for the brain. Unfortunately this view of the body and mind is antiquated and simply not true. Everything in our body is connected and the foods we eat and digest can and do directly affect our brain, our mood, and mental illness.

Medicine has now discovered the link between insulin resistance or even prediabetes and a greater risk of losing brain function prematurely, having cognitive decline, poor memory. and alzheimers.

But how does sugar and processed foods affect our daily mood?

I personally feel spikes in anxiety a day or two after eating any amount of excess sugar. Before I dove into research on all things wellness, I never thought to ask myself after a period of heightened anxiety,

WHAT DID I EAT?

Now I do, and I generally can tie that moment of anxiety back to food that didn’t serve me. Through my research, I began to find studies that validated what I was experiencing. Even more so, there are other studies indicating that diabetes medications are being tested to treat anxiety and depression because the connection between heightened blood sugar and depression is so evident. The goal for most of us though is to prevent that initial rush of sugar and then insulin in our bloodstream in the first place. There are so many success stories of people eradicating or controlling otherwise debilitating anxiety or depression with the use of food.

Here are 3 Ways To Reap the Benefits of Limiting Sugar

  • Recognize the Addiction: In the previous study mentioned, sugar withdrawal was substantiated as a real thing. You can become addicted and it can be very difficult to stop. Being aware of it gives you power. When you begin to remove sugar, know that you’re craving it and be patient. With time those cravings will be reduced.

  • Fill Up On Real, Healthy Foods as Replacements: Great substitutes for sugar are berries, fruit, or dark chocolate that contains 70% or more of cocoa. All are excellent alternatives to processed sugar to stave off cravings and get over the initial obstacle of cravings.

  • Increase the Intensity of Your Workouts: Add higher intensity to your workouts and not only will you increase the feel good hormones in your body, you may reduce your cravings altogether. This study showed that exercise participants who exercised at a greater intensity had lower levels of the hormone that stimulates appetite.

69630330_124799785531299_748290836059389952_n.jpg

For those of you inspired by the stories of people healing themselves naturally, but may be dealing with more complicated health issues, there are some amazing medical doctors who also believe and practice functional or integrative medicine to use your own body’s healing mechanisms to create big changes.

One of those incredible game-changing doctors is Dr. Jessica Floyd, a Mayo-Clinic trained, Board-Certified Neurologist, who just launched into the world of coaching clients with a more integrative approach through her new business Synapse & Soul.

Check her out on social media and stay tuned for her website to launch soon! Also, come back to the blog for a Q&A on Dr. Jessica’s new business.

Instagram @synapse_and_soul

Facebook Synapse & Soul

How I Lost Weight

I fought with myself for years over what I ate, how much I exercised and what I looked like. I am no different than probably 95% of women who bought into the ideal of what a woman should look like based on society's image.  I was the girl who always said "i'll be happy when..." I would yo-yo diet, and lose the same 5-10 pounds again and again only to regain it. I had so many rules for myself. No carbs, then no sugar, then no cheat days or meals, then a lot of times, I would make myself run off the calories that I had eaten outside of what my goal was. Moral of the story...I STRUGGLED. I had a very unhealthy relationship with food and with exercise.

Here's what I know now, it doesn't have to be that way. It is possible to love your body, feel good in a bathing suit chasing your kids on the beach and put more energy into the things that matter rather than the way you look. 

The thing was, I was wrong about how I would get to this place. Now, I'm nowhere near perfect, I still struggle with negative self-talk or comparing myself, but I'm at a place where the thoughts may come into my mind and I'm able to let them pass on through. 

What I think happened is I finally gave myself a break, and let go of the rules. I listened to my body, and got to the root of the issues I had with food, which were way deeper than failing to have the willpower to follow a strict diet. 

What I've learned and am still learning is that our bodies, being inextricably connected to our minds and our thoughts, respond to very ingrained behaviors and habits that we have acquired over years of doing the same thing. Here's a breakdown of a little brain science 101. (I'm sure my neurologist sister will laugh at this but let's give it a shot) From what I understand, and what I found to be true about me is that this big, bold, cold turkey/deadline/high pressure diet and weight loss goal strategy I made were often destined to fail. They were up against a brain wired to turn to food if I was stressed, negative self-talk that sabotaged any hope of commitment or confidence I could follow through, and just plain inconsistency of moving my body. I underestimated how powerful the wiring of our brain was from previous longtime habits. 

I couldn't say it better than this mindbodygreen article*(link below) I came across that basically explains it this way: 

"First, the act of thinking sets into motion a chemical reaction in the brain that can be likened to plugging in a string of lights. As you think about something—be it positive or stressful—you turn on a string of lights related to that topic.

Second, the more you think, feel and act the same way, the faster the lights turn on and the brighter they glow. Thus, the string of lights related to driving a car at 45 years old is much brighter and faster than the string you had at 16 years old.

Finally, we have trillions of brain cells, resulting in thousands (if not millions) of strings of lights correlating with our habits in all areas of our life. Donald Hebb’s landmark discovery in 1949, “neurons that fire together wire together,” best explains the process of wiring and strengthening brain pathways. The key is to activate as many of these pathways as possible given they work synergistically. One pathway alone is not enough to successfully rewire your brain. However, when you repeatedly align your beliefs, feelings, vision, and actions you will experience lasting changes in your brain."

Why does this matter? Because healing yourself of bad habits, making actual progress towards weight loss, stress relief, general positive thinking even, doesn't happen, for most normal people, just by garnering up a massive amount of willpower. Each negative thought you can counter with a thought about something you're grateful for, literally rewires your brain. And if you do it day in and day out, you will have changed your brain and become better wired to actually accomplish the goals you set for yourself. Each time you move, even if just for 20 minutes, is again affecting the entirety of your body and working synergistically with your positive mindset, and with each day/each choice building on the next, the sustainability of your change is only growing stronger, and your brain changes. 

THIS is why we call Flow Space a mind-body studio. You cannot have one without the other. 

So this is how it actually happened for me,

1. Gratitude/Changing your Thoughts- This changes the hardwiring of your brain. Gratitude and movement were the only tools that I could find to slightly lift the pain and heartbreak of grief to be able to move through it. I still turn to it every day. This will make the other changes involving exercise and nutrition so much easier. It can begin with simply countering your negative thoughts/angry thoughts/victim mentality thoughts with 1 thing you're grateful for. On my particularly rough days, I could always counter with "I am healthy and my children are healthy." That was enough to change the course of my thoughts to a positive place. 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3b66.jpg
UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3574.jpg

2. Movement- Your body will reward you with feel-good chemicals when you move. It is proven and backed by scientific data. Begin with walking, and I can almost guarantee you'll feel so good that you'll search out more ways to move. Or come to a flow class!

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_3a0e.jpg

3. Eating foods that make me feel good- Period. I don't believe there is one diet or nutrition plan everyone should be on. My mostly plant-based diet doesn't feel great to my husband who prefers to add in beef or chicken. But I have found through a lot of trial and error what foods feel good to me. They are clean, healthy, plant-based and usually pretty simple. Also, an important part of this is if & when you fail to eat the most healthy foods, which you will do if you're human, let it go and move on to the next healthy meal. 

4.Self-Discovery-Start doing the work of finding your purpose. Journal, recognize what you're pulled to and do more of that. Follow the feelings where you feel expansive rather than constrained. Recognize that you are an individual that may be heavily influenced by what you "should do" and allow yourself to be free of those expectations for as much as you can to figure out yourself. Sometimes our issues with food and having a sedentary lifestyle is because we are numbing ourselves to avoid the feelings of anxiety and depression that come from not feeling fulfillment or purpose. 

UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_36ac.jpg

I share these thoughts not as an expert, because I certainly am not one, but because it was what I wish I would've heard in moments when I needed it.  I have so loved people reaching out to me directly in response and us being able to have real dialogue about these issues that I feel are life-changing for me. If you're looking for more help on getting through a weight loss journey or just want to get on the road back to better health, I would love to have you in one of our classes, or you can always reach out to me at erica@flowspacefitness.com to see how we can help put some tools in motion to begin your health journey. 

In health,

Erica

*https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11762/5-ways-to-rewire-your-brain-for-meaningful-life-changes.html