The Benefits of Eating Healthy when Pursuing a Life Change
One of the amazing discoveries you’ll make as you begin to make positive changes in your life is seeing the impact those changes have on your life. It happens in increments, in steps. And just as nothing exists in a bubble, one change leads to others; one change touches parts of your life in ways you wouldn’t expect. Better health is a secondary benefit for most unless it’s a direct goal you are pursuing. What is important to realize is that what you eat (or choose not to eat) can fuel and accelerate your progress.
Food and emotional wellbeing are linked for most of us.
A 2009 study done by the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston found that while obesity is not a direct symptom of depression, it is associated with a feeling of hopelessness. Numerous other studies have analyzed the perceived link between depression and obesity, wondering if it’s a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” conundrum. Our society may assume that obesity causes depression—we all feel “down” when we are heavy, can’t do the things we want, don’t feel well, etc. But more and more, these studies are showing it may be the other way around: people who persistently feel sad and hopeless are more likely to gain weight than those who feel happy.
Some of this is because of the negative feelings we have lead to certain choices, such as comfort eating or not feeling motivated to exercise. An ongoing problem with sad and hopeless feelings leads many to try anti-depressant medications, many of which list weight gain as a side effect. Another layer that complicates things is stress.
The stress hormone, cortisol, could be the common denominator for both depression and obesity. Our bodies store calories during times of stress; cortisol stimulates and promotes the storage of fat.
So what we have here is a perfect storm. If you’re stressed and unhappy, you have an increased risk for both depression and excess weight gain. It should be obvious that a good place to start is in finding ways to become happier and less stressed.
While science studies cause and effect, here’s what we know for sure:
· Being stressed out and hopeless doesn’t feel good.
· People who don’t feel happy often make poor choices.
· You can make changes to your lifestyle that can reduce stress and improve how you feel.
· Achieving your goals will replace feelings of hopelessness with feelings of accomplishment.
· Accomplishment feels good.
· People who feel good have energy.
· Feeling good and having energy often equates to feelings of happiness.
The food you eat is fuel to get there. I’ll bet you aren’t surprised that there is a kind of food that fuels change and a kind of food that hinders it.
It’s time to cut the junk.
By virtue of definition, “clean eating” eliminates harmful toxins. Chemicals, additives, preservatives, artificial ingredients…these are all examples of food toxins that can harm our health, mindset, and overall wellbeing. Think of them as the food equivalent to the Limiting Beliefs you are cutting out of your thoughts. Junk food and junk thoughts both can have a very real destructive effect on your health.
In the science world, junk elements in food are known as Obesogens. These chemicals alter our bodies in the way we build cells, burn calories, and manage hunger. Obesogens can dramatically alter your endocrine system, which, incidentally, can also have a significant impact on your mood, energy levels, and feelings. Nearly all manufactured food contains some level of an obesogen compound.
Years ago, before we had mass manufactured food processing, we ate foods grown nearby and we ate them in ways very near their original, natural form. There were no chemicals or preservatives added; no “sci-fi” foods that were unrecognizable from their source. We’ve slapped a trendy term onto this now, “clean eating”, and there are numerous books and resources available to help those interested achieve these positive changes to their diets. But essentially, eating clean involves “cutting the junk” and there are several important benefits for those pursuing life and attitude changes:
· Removing Obesogens from your diet helps your body find its personal best. Eating food that is free from body-altering chemicals allows it to function the way it should. Exercise is more productive as your body uses the nutritious food you offer it without requiring it to first filter through a bunch of stuff it doesn’t want or need. The result is equilibrium. Things come into balance as your body establishes its personal “best weight”.
· You will no longer feel deprived of what you desire. But what if you love junk food? Won’t you feel deprived of your favorite foods? The answer is no. You won’t feel hungry all the time and you won’t feel like you aren’t allowed something you enjoy. Clean eating practices recommend that you eat smaller meals of whole foods every 2-3 hours. This maintains your blood sugar levels and feelings of satisfaction, reducing cravings. Think about this: Hunger and deprivation contribute to feelings of self-pity and negativity. A change in eating behavior can change how you physically and emotionally feel, empowering your efforts to eliminate Limiting Beliefs and love the life you’re living.
· Clean eating increases energy levels. Because processed foods are high in carbohydrates and sugars, they use the energy you have in your reserves, making you feel sluggish and tired. People tend to turn to sugar or caffeine for an “energy rush.” This pseudo energy rush is actually a quick spike in blood sugar, followed by an intense insulin response, which then causes a crash. After the crash, you will likely feel worse than when you started. The more processed a food, the fewer nutrients it will have. Without nutrients, your body is unable to feel energized throughout the day. To boost energy levels naturally and effectively, eat foods that allow a slow and steady release of sugar. Do this by combining protein and fiber such as oatmeal and fruit, yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, apple slices and peanut butter, cottage cheese with veggies, or hummus and veggies.
· You’ll improve your overall health, getting sick less often. Nothing threatens your motivation like feeling sick and experiencing a setback. You can reduce the frequency of that happening through the foods you eat, as in, “Let food be thy medicine.” Clean, whole-food helps your body absorb nutrients more easily, promotes healthy cell growth, strengthens your immune system, and maintains healthy levels of good bacteria in your gut.
· You’ll look better! Through a combined effect of maintaining your ideal body weight, having more energy, and feeling better emotionally, your external form is going to reflect the changes. Your muscle tone will be better, your skin will be clear and glowing with vitality, and you’ll fit into your clothing well. And here we have more of the domino effect of positive changes: all that visible progress inspires and encourages you to keep going!
· Clean eaters think more clearly, remember things better, and concentrate more easily. A sluggish body houses a sluggish mind. Healthy whole foods are high in nutrients and Omega 3 fatty acids, which keep the brain functioning at its highest capacity. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, adopting a ‘brain-healthy’ diet can reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes and encourages good blood flow to the brain. Foods such as dark-skinned vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, beets, eggplant, and bell pepper) have high levels of antioxidants and fruits such as prunes, raisins, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, and cherries appear to protect brain cells. Coldwater fish such as salmon and tuna contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids and nuts boast high levels of Vitamin E, another antioxidant that is great for your brain.
If it seems intimidating to change the way you eat, start small.
You may be in the midst of evaluating a lot of areas of your life that you want to change. Adjusting your diet will definitely help you achieve change faster. But if it seems intimidating, start with one thing. Give up one unhealthy habit, one daily donut run, and one sugar-laden energy drink. Or, designate a timed experiment: try it for three days and see how you feel. You may quickly find the benefits contagious! The essential element is to state your goal and then surround yourself with what it takes to succeed. This will include new messages to repeat, new ways to stay motivated, and new friends on the same journey. You can train your mind to think differently and you can offer your body better health.
Coming next... Stress and Meditation