Nutrition is interwoven into our mental and physical wellbeing, but food is also privilage. Here are a few thoughts that I have about food, nutrition and mental wellbeing. My views have evolved considerably over the past year or so, and this post has been updated to reflect my new beliefs. I really enjoy following @drjoshuawoolrich on Instagram for his #nutribollocks content, and he’s very credible; I highly reccomend you take a look at his content if this is an area you’re interested in.
- Food is about so much more than just nutrition. A certain biscuit might remind you of your grandmother, for example. We all have emotional connections to food, in one way or another.
- Food is privilage because not everyone has access to it. Processed foods are typically cheaper than whole foods and so when you see someone who has a shopping cart full of processed foods it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re being lazy, they just might not have the skills to be able to cook low-budget meals or be able to afford much else. They might also not have been educated in nutritional health and so don’t know how to make consistently healthy choices.
- Organic is toted as the gold standard, but conventional vegetables are certainly better than no vegetables. So if you are on a budget, don’t let the weight of organic vs. conventional hang over you. Personally, we usually spend more on certain things such as organic milk and meat from the local butcher. When I’m in the vegetable aisle I tend to choose what looks freshest, regardless of whether it is organic or conventional. I also try to buy seasonally.
- Guilt regarding food choices, particularly about buying organic vs. conventional is something that none of us should be feeling. I’m not immune, I’ve felt it myself, but the more research I do the clearer it becomes that my guilt is unnecessary. Serving your kid a budget-friendly conventional carrot isn’t going to do them long-term damage, and it certainly doesn’t make you a ‘bad mum’. Do yourself a favour and let go of the guilt.
- I’d love to be able to buy all of our produce from local farmers someday, because it’s fantastic for the environment and local economy. This is expensive though, so we’ll just do what we can, when we can.
- Have you heard of the dirty dozen? I used to find this list really informative and helpful. It helped me plan my shoping and make the most of my budget while also buying what organic produce that I thought I needed to, but I’ve since heard it discredited. To be honest, I’m still undecided about this. I’m mentioning it now because others might be in the same place I am, still weighing up the evidence. If this (the dirty dozen list) is new information to you, please do your own research!
- Everything in moderation. Don’t let obsessing over “clean-eating” become the focal point of your entire existence. It will suck the joy out of your life.
- I don’t know about you but I don’t want to look back at a lifetime of memories of restrictive eating and feelings of guilt. Personally, I am working on my internal narrative and trying to get consistent exercise, because I find that I naturally (read: subconsiously) don’t think as much about what I’m consuming if I’m more active.
- I have mixed feelings about the term “clean-eating.” In some ways I agree with it, because eating whole, nutritious foods does often make me feel “cleaner”, however the problem is that the implication is that there are then “unclean foods.” There aren’t. There are just foods which aren’t as healthy.
- As a parent, I sometimes obsess about what my kids are eating. I think that it’s only natural to worry, but what I’m slowly figuring out (and having kids who are a wide range of ages helps) is that the best thing you can do is put a range of healthy and nutritious foods in front of them to choose from. I’m a terrible cook, don’t enjoy it and this is absolutely NOT an area of my expertise (please keep this in mind!) but I really learn a lot from various accounts such as @zaynesplate, @kidseatincolor, @snackswithjax and @naturedockids.
- Whenever my seven-year-old has a meltdown I ask her if she’s tired or if she’s hungry – and nine times out of ten she’s one of these things. Food choices can impact us in the immediate (such as, blood sugar crashes) and in the long-term (anaemia or generally becoming run-down as a result of prolonged poor nutrition, for example).
- I’m a big believer in holistic and natural treatments, and changes that we can incorporate into our daily lives which will contribute to our wellbeing. From a parental standpoint, the drastically increasing rates of antidepressants in children and adolescents is hugely worrying and finding ways in which I can help my kids learn healthy and preventative habits weighs heavily on my mind – and I think that nutrition and a well-balanced diet is very relevant.
- But point 11 doesn’t mean that I think you should shun chemotherapy (or any other evidence-based treatment) for celery juice.****
- If you’re the sort that likes to read and collect information, take a look into nutritional psychiatry. I find the subject fascinating. As a starting point, an easy (but very good and informative) read is Gut: the inside story of our body’s most under-rated organ by Guilia Enders.
I’m going to end this on a personal note. Recently I’ve noticed a huge correlation between coffee and chocolate (so, caffeine and sugar) and alcohol on my anxiety levels. Our entire family has also been very poorly over the past few months and our guts have been ravaged by what we’ve been dealing with. This means that I’ve felt the effects of whatever foods I’ve consumed very acutely. For example, processed foods and sugars make me extremely tired, very quickly. I’ve been doing a lot of reading lately about gut health, pre/probiotics and the gut-brain axis and the importance of these things to our overall health and wellbeing really can’t be overstated.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. What have your experiences been on the correlation between the things you consume and your wellbeing – have you noticed a connection between food and your mood?
*Post written by Iris Brannan.