Stress Management : Food and Mood

We're halfway through our Stress Management course already! This week's topic is food, the choices we make when it comes to what we're eating and the importance of regular meals.

Our first task is to look at our current diet; so grab a piece of paper and write down a typical week for the following:

~ Breakfast ~

2 mugs hot water with lemon
bowl bran flakes with chopped up banana and/or sultanas, made with water
oatso simple, made with water 
wholemeal toast with weight watchers jam

~ Lunch ~

toast, fruit, yoghurt, small bar of chocolate
low-fat ready meal
leftovers from dinner

~ Dinner  ~

skipped more often than not when the boyfriend isn't here

~ Snacks ~

raw vegetables
dry cereal
hot chocolate
testing blog recipes!

~ Drinks ~

coffee, 1 a day
sparkling water
sugar free/no added sugar coke, lemonade, ginger beer etc
hot water with sugar free squash

So. I have mastered breakfast since my soulmatefood juice cleanse a few months back. I seriously cannot go without now. In group I shared that I started having breakfast by working my way up gradually, going from complan to bran flakes. The bran flakes have to be soft but it's solid food and that's a real breakthrough for me, having never eaten breakfast before.

Whenever I'm alone in the evenings I struggle to eat proper meals. I don't know why this is really. I tend to just graze on fruit and the like. Obviously this needs working on.

On the whole, I don't think my intake is that bad. It's been a damn sight worse, that's for sure. I can see that I do need more protein in there, which doesn't mean eating meat daily. I love couscous, quinoa and such.

Everything I buy is always reduced sugar or low/no fat if it's available as an option so I don't need to worry about saturated fats and excess sugar adding to my mood issues.

The most important thing you can do when starting to manage anxiety and depression is to keep your blood sugar stable. The vicious up and down will only add to you feeling crappy and wired with nervous energy. Equally as important, is to cram as much fresh fruit and vegetables into your diet as possible. They are loaded with the vitamins and minerals your brain and body need.

For a really good guide, look at this information provided by the Mental Health Foundation. We were given the second link as a handout but the quality is pretty bad and it just wouldn't work as a picture!

Some other sources of information surrounding the relationship between food and mood include The British Dietetic Association and Mind. The 'Change4Life' campaign the government and NHS are running has some pretty good pointers on healthy eating and making better choices.

If you eat a lot of refined sugar and/or caffeine, it is best to cut down gradually. An excessive amount of either of these will add to anxiety levels. If you have a sweet tooth like me, splenda can a lifesaver! I'm also a great believer in the 'everything in moderation' approach. Feeling deprived just makes me want something more, which leads to binges, which leads to feeling crappy, which leads to comfort eating, and so on and so forth.

The absolute best thing to do is plan. I love lists and absolutely have to plan everything. It's just how I operate. Routine is good for us, so plan out set times for your meals and snacks. Eating every 2-3 hours is something I learned from soulmatefood and it's been a revelation for keeping the urge to binge or just eat sugary foods. This is my plan:

Breakfast : 8-10am
Snack : 11-12pm
Lunch : 1-3pm
Dinner : 6-8pm
Snack : 9-10pm

It looks, and feels sometimes, like I'm constantly eating but it works! Not only is my blood sugar level and nutritionally I'm at the best point I've ever been in my life, but my metabolism is waking up! Woohoo!!

None of this is rocket science. If you eat badly, you'll feel bad. Simple as that really!

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