The Power of Food

I was mildly depressed for a while this morning. This isn’t like me; I am usually pretty happy, so I was a bit confused about why I was in such a low mood. Here are some things I was thinking/feeling:

  • I wanted to have coffee. I have been “off coffee” for quite a while, because I don’t like how jittery it makes me feel. Now, of all mornings, I was wanting someā€¦
  • I wanted to watch a “comfort show” on TV. I have a show — okay, I’ll admit, it’s Star Trek: The Next Generation — that I like to watch, just to kill time and “to keep me company.” What was odd today is that I never want to watch anything so early in the day. Usually, the Star Trek bug hits in mid-afternoon.
  • I kept thinking about events of yesterday. Yesterday was a good day overall, but there were a few things that I would have liked to go differently. I was rehashing those things and starting to feel really cruddy.
  • In general, I was dissatisfied and discontent. I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like knitting or reading anything, which are often things I do in the morning when I’m not too busy. On the whole, I felt like “self-medicating” in some way — I wanted to distract myself with TV, get zipped up with coffee and forget yesterday. I might have even been tempted by booze if there was some around!

Suddenly, I realized what was going on: I was hungry. I hadn’t eaten much for breakfast (unusual for me) and my blood sugar was low. All I’d had was a half a grapefruit and a cup of green tea, which is an okay start to breakfast, but not breakfast, at least not for me. That’s all it was — I wasn’t suffering from depression, there wasn’t anything “wrong with my life,” and I didn’t need anything to “cope.” All I needed was some healthy food and my mood improved greatly.

I share this story in case you ever feel the same! Please, take care of yourself and eat good, healthy food — whatever that means for you, I’m not going to give specifics and say you should never eat this and always eat that. I find I feel the best when I stick to less-processed food, but you eat whatever makes you feel good.

Why Food is so Important

Why does food make such a big difference in our moods? It’s because of how our bodies work. We need energy, in the form of sugar, to think and for our muscles to work. When we don’t have enough sugar in our blood stream, our body releases chemicals, such as the hormone adrenaline, that help to free up stored sugar, but those chemicals don’t make us feel very good. In a way, they are a warning sign for us to go and eat. Adrenaline is meant to give us a boost of superhuman strength for stressful situations, and when we aren’t active, such as when we’re just sitting at a desk, all that energy doesn’t have an outlet. Being active by getting more exercise or playing sports helps (in so many ways), but the root cause is what we are feeding our bodies.

I have a naturopath friend who uses the 100-year rule. She simply asks herself “did they eat this 100 years ago?” If not, then she doesn’t eat it. Fruit roll-ups? Nope. Granola bars? Nope. Oatmeal? Yes. Eggs? Yes. This helps her eliminate a lot of processed foods (granola bars are some of the worst). Another tip is to glance at the ingredients. If most of them are chemicals too long to pronounce, don’t buy it — if you don’t buy it, you won’t eat it!

Our bodies are incredible — we can eat almost nothing and go all day. In an emergency, we can survive for days on just water. Be kind to yourself and eat healthy foods, starting with a good breakfast — and as your day unfolds, don’t let yourself to get too hungry/grumpy. If you don’t feel like being kind to yourself, then take a little time to look inside yourself and see if you know why. Are you punishing yourself for something you did? Are you judging yourself harshly? Are you mad about something? Harboring unforgiveness? You may want to re-read chapters 13 – 20 (in Love Your Skeletons) and refocus on gratitude, self-acceptance, and positive things.

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