Mental Health & Your Diet

Evidence indicates that what we eat plays a prevalent role in the development, management and prevention of specific mental health problems such as depression, schizophrenia, ADHD & Alzheimer’s disease.

To put this into a simpler picture just watch a small child after they have consumed sugar or processed food. Children are honest and don’t yet know how to conceal the effects of anything they are given so you will see it raw and as clear as day in them. Sugar they are hyper, even squealing and then they crash and its actually quite frightening to observe. Processed foods or ready meals usually see a hunger very soon after consumption which proves that there aren’t enough vitamins and minerals to satisfy the body so it goes back for more. Both will soon be followed by lethargy and possibly even mood swings. Again these are all far clearer to see in a small child who hasn’t the ability to conceal it.

Observing these reactions in children should be alarm bells for us adults. These types of food affect the body and mind hugely and the same is happening to us.

Now for the boring bit! Both the brain & neurotransmitters (chemical messengers in the brain) are derived from nutrients & are therefore affected by what we eat and drink. Serotonin (mood), adrenaline (motivation) or acetylcholine (memory) are all neurotransmitters made from amino acids in protein we eat. Their production in the brain depends on vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). These help build and rebuild the brain and nervous system and keep everything running smoothly.

Studies have shown significant improvement in IQ and a reduction in aggression, stress & anxiety in both children and adults following optimum intake of vitamins and minerals.

There are other factors affecting mental health such as exercise and circumstances in your life. It is hugely important to feed the brain the right food and drink to help repair neurotransmitters.

Good ways to do this is to pack in the veggies wherever possible 5 ways to sneak in nutrients. Create a routine as this can give you mental clarity & force you to follow your diet.

Again back to the kids, but they are a version of all of us unscathed by life experiences. They are what we should all be in physical health and mental health without toxic influence from media and circumstance.

Recently myself and my family went on holiday. Between early flights and delayed late flights, no set nap time, eating time or bed time my two lads were all over the place. (I know bad parenting, I really relax on my hols!). Seb was actually ill last week which appeared to be a bit of a virus but he was unwell from Tuesday to Friday so that wasn’t great craic. On top of that Theo decided sleeping at night wasn’t for him for the 3 nights as well and along with being exhausted from the Monday night/Tuesday morning flight home myself and Steve were living on coffee and next to no sleep. Let me tell you, those tans faded fairly lively and we were kicked right back into the real world. Along with this we had mountains of work on and the two boys were snappy, misbehaving and SERIOUSLY uncooperative. This led to me getting seriously strict and organised which is the polar opposite to me but I was bloody desperate. I had a long weekend to work with and no social engagements for myself or the kids which is actually quite rare so I took the bull by the horns and set out some rules.

I made a plan for food, activity and sleep and I can now say on Tuesday following the bank holiday that I think it has worked. I usually allow the boys copious amounts of berries, bananas, crackers, cheese etc. I put a time on everything for this little experiment! They woke up brushed their teeth and got dressed. Down the stairs they had yoghurt or porridge with berries or egg and toast for their breakfast with a bit of green juice. Snack was an apple and then lunch was chicken or fish with veggies and both went to sleep at 1.30 every day for 2-3 hours. Snack on banana when they wake up and more juice or water if they want it, dinner at 5.30/6 every day and bed at 8.00pm. Myself and Steve also indulged in a load of veggies and green juice and liver shots daily and I got back on track with my morning smoothies.

Myself and Steve are feeling great and there is a huge change in the mood, attention span, behaviour and energy of the boys. Our home feels calmer, we’re felling more energetic and happier & things that felt daunting & impossible to tackle last week suddenly seem less important. It took a change in diet, routine, sleep & loads of water to get us back on track but it only took a week because we wanted it to work.

Jen X

Mind Over Matter 4 Tips

Whether its meditation to still the busy mind, training the brain to eat the right food or motivating yourself to exercise, all take some work and persistence.

Routine is key with any new task; whether its running daily, meditating daily, following an eating plan or going to the gym. Try to follow the same pattern daily or at least on the week days. A little sunrise yoga for 4-5 mins when you wake up is a great habit to get into. A morning run as soon as you wake up is another great way to start the day. Its important to remember that everyone struggles at the beginning but you need to overcome that and you will after 3-5 days; and then getting up to do your yoga or to go for a quick run will become part of your day, so much so that you won’t feel right without doing them. I even leave a refreshing glass of lemon water waiting for me in the kitchen for when I get in and I love having my smoothie when I get in as well, its something to look forward to and you feel bloody great!

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Preparation is the next key action. Laying out your running gear to head out first thing in the morning or leaving your running gear out to go as soon as you come in from work. Taking your gym gear to work or leaving it out as above. Setting a time in the day for meditating or meal prep are all important. Make a menu for the week, make a shopping list, get exactly what you need and no more or less because if you need to go back to the shop later in the week you run the risk of grabbing something naughty. Prepping sides and salads for the fridge is so handy for grab and go situations. As I mentioned above I even go so far as making my drink for when I get back so I can look forward to it. I also leave lunches and uniforms prepared for Seb so that everything is easier with him in the morning too. I found that poor Theo was getting almost ignored because I was running around trying to get sebs bits and bobs together and had no time to greet Theo or spend any time with him. Now we can all go down and the boys have a little play time while they eat their breakfast.

Education is the next step. If you educate yourself on the benefits of healthy eating and exercise and you equip yourself with the knowledge as you head for the shops or the gym it is far easier to truck on. I’m not saying go and get a degree in nutrition, just simply read up on the benefits of certain foods. Every second article in magazines these days has a list of benefits of the latest superfood. Reading about how amazing your broccoli is and how its benefitting your body makes It far more enjoyable to eat at dinner time. I am a big fan of health magazines anyway but these articles are in every type of magazine. Its my job to be obsessed with food and its health benefits and its my job to know the latest superfood and to create recipes incorporating these foods. This makes it easier for people not in the industry to make better choices because they can read blogs, articles and go to health food shops and restaurants and get the advice they need. Its easier to eat these foods when you know how they’re working. Just like a car, your body won’t function without the right fuel in it.

Reward. Whether you set a goal for one week or five weeks time, always have a reward at the end of it, something to work towards. You may be working towards a holiday where you want to feel good in a swimsuit, an occasion where you want to feel good in an outfit or simply treat yourself with a chocolate bar that you love or a glass of wine at the end of the week. One thing that works for some is to buy the outfit in the size you wish to be and work towards it. HOWEVER I once did this with jeans and even after toning up in the gym they still never fit because guess what? The hips really don’t lie!!! No gym or weight loss can move the bones structure! Another reward could be a trip to the spa for the day or a nice restaurant or hotel stay. These are nice treats after some hard work in the gym and clean eating but also a reason to save money and avoid them nights out drinking and eating, followed by the hangover where its near impossible not to eat badly!!

These are steps that I follow but there is no harm in taking a break, skipping the exercise one day or having a chocolate or whatever it is you need. The worst thing you can do is feel guilty and beat yourself up about it. A lot of people let a small break spiral, the whole mindset derails and the person loses focus. I’ve done the whole feck it sure I may as well write off the rest of the day seen as I’ve made this mistake. The best thing to do is climb back on track and let the mistake go. Its not going to do any harm. Spending the rest of the day eating junk will do harm and you will feel crap by the time you go to bed.

Jen X

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