Food and Mood

 

Most people reading this will recognise that our state of mind and food are inextricably linked. Just as devouring a whole packet of biscuits or demolishing a chocolate bar is something many people crave when feeling tired or fed up, so too, using food to express their mental anguish is a common phenomenon.

These days, thanks to global media coverage, the awareness of conditions like obesity and eating disorders such as anorexia and binge eating are much better understood. Having said that, neither condition is more accepted in our society; however, with the diet and food industry seemingly bombarding us with subliminal messages telling us to eat this, or cut out that, it is no wonder many opt simply for denial.

The food and diet industry have a lot to answer for. Many will remember the advice to avoid butter, eggs and animal protein in meat and dairy, with spreads and low fat alternatives on every supermarket shelf. Yet today, “going to work on an egg” is once again acceptable and many shun spreads and the harmful trans fats they contain in favour of butter once again. Saturated fats are no longer seen as enemy number one. The years of confusing messages have literally turned us all off. Perhaps, Granny was right all along…”a little of what you fancy does you good.”

Diets too have come to be seen as fads that do not work. Remember these: the grapefruit diet, the cabbage diet, the Beverley Hills diet, the Atkins diet, the F-plan? I could go on.  There are the substitutes, too, where liquid meal replacements, biscuits, bars and all manner of alternatives take the place of food.

No wonder we are all confused. Look at the way the supplements industry pedal vitamins, minerals, capsules and powders of every description. All being heralded for their great health benefits. Elixir of life or youth capsules, take your pick, hand over your money and the choice is yours. Who said that snake oil remedies do not exist!

Whichever way we look at it, one thing is certain and that is, eating problems are psychological. With the very rare exception of a metabolic disorder, perhaps;  obesity, anorexia and many other food related conditions have nothing to do with hunger and everything to do with meeting an emotional need. Food is used as a “medicine” to dull down emotional pain, to soothe or to mask an emotional discomfort. Food is a comfort and we all seek to push away discomfort. Food is used to fill up, cover up, and build up a protective barrier.

Quite literally, food (and alcohol) is to the adult, the surrogate breast or bottle. Smoking too, while technically more of an obvious drug than food per se,often serves the same purpose. Yes, food can become addictive as can the hormones released when starving, or the soothing pain felt by an anorexic when they seek to feel “in control.”

To get to the bottom of our emotional discomfort and the role food plays in this really is the domain of the psychological health professional. We need someone to hold up the mirror and tell us what is really going on. We need to understand why it is that our search for the “magic potion” and a “quick fix” will bring us nothing but more suffering. Furthermore, changing eating habits is not easy, after all, making changes means altering our comfort level and most people naturally balk at that.

If you have a food issue seek out a health professional with expertise on eating disorders who has no emotional ties to you. Someone who will hold the mirror up and help you see the real picture and help you to make changes to the way you eat and your relationship to food.

Until next time, best wishes Steve.

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Primary Ref: Sullivan, R (2009) “Reclaim your youth, growing younger after 40.” Montgomery Ewing Publishers.

Image: “Supreme pizza” by Scott Bauer – http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/graphics/photos/mar01/k7633-3.htm. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Supreme_pizza.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Supreme_pizza.jpg

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Five tips for a more content life.

The restless demands of life, career, family and home often turn day to day living into a treadmill. By just making a few small changes to our outlook, this treadmill can be slowed down. You never know, you might just choose to hop off for a while and savour the moment.

Here they are:

1. Be aware of the snowball effect of your thinking.
Don’t blow things out of proportion. Dwell on an unimportant event and it quickly turns to a great big deal so fast that you don’t realise it’s happening.

2. Let go of the idea that relaxed people can’t be super achievers.
There is a myth that unless you are mean, jumping on people, criticising everything, you won’t get on. When you are relaxed, you have a calmer wisdom, access to common sense and see solutions more easily.

3.Choose being kind over being right.
People are obsessed with being right and proving it. Therefore, everyone else has to be wrong. If you want to be peaceful and happier, you have to allow other people to be right some of the time.

4.Every day, tell at least one person something you like or appreciate about them.
You have to make it a habit. Turn your attention to what’s right in life not what’s wrong. Don’t expect a compliment back.

5.Live this day as if it were your last.
….. and treat others as if it’s their last day too. By relating to people with openness and savouring the moment, we bring a freshness to the relationship. People really feel seen and recognised and met in a way they might otherwise not experience. Stopping to smell the scent of flowers, looking at the clouds and generally taking time to take in the world around you, leads to a greater contentment and sense of peace and well-being.

Begin today and start to really make the few small changes you need.

Good luck.

Until next time, very best wishes, Steve.

 

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                   Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                       Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                 Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

Image ref: “Ja roweromaniak 093-12”. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ja_roweromaniak_093-12.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Ja_roweromaniak_093-12.jpg

Eight ways to overcome fatigue and re-energise yourself.

File:Chronic fatigue syndrome.JPG

Are you tired and exhausted trying to do more and more in less and less time? Are you in an energy crisis, too busy to do anything about it or too tired to even realise it? If you are, then chances are, you are one of the many over-worked, over-stressed, over-extended and potentially overwhelmed folk out there trying your best to meet unrealistic demands.

Do I hear you say, “there are not enough hours in the day” or “can’t they see how much I am doing?” Well, chances are they don’t care! Sounds harsh, but the reality is, they are too busy to care. You know the mantra, “If you want something done ask a busy person.”

Accept that the only person who can change things is you.

When you feel tired, accept the fact that you are tired. You really have two choices, keep going and ignore your needs and like a battery you will pretty soon run out of juice. Before that happens you will experience fatigue, exhaustion and open yourself up for headaches, colds and all manner of stress related ills. Worse still your prolonged exhaustion may lead to depression, insomnia, chronic fatigue, burnout and pave the way for more serious health problems.

What can you do about it?

Here are eight changes you can make today that together will add up to a big difference to your energy levels and outlook.

1. Look at your diet, chances are that if you are overworked, exhausted and stressed you are either comfort eating and snacking, or worse still, neglecting to eat. Remember, food is your body’s fuel, the energy source to sustain your output. Eat small meals regularly, if you eat too much in one go your body will complain and your energy levels will simply crash. Eat good, “clean food”,  for example, snack on complex carbohydrates such as a wholemeal bread sandwich with peanut butter, a good source of protein to fuel you over an extended period of time. Add fruit when you need a sweet pick me up. Find time for yoghurt or cottage cheese a good source of calcium and vitamin D.

2. Ditch the fizzy drinks and the cups of caffeine and take on board more water. Dehydration is a real problem when you are stressed. You need to keep your cells and your brain hydrated. One of the first signs of dehydration is fatigue. When you are dehydrated your blood volume is decreased, your heart has to work harder to pump your blood round your body, the cells in your brain constrict leading to headache and heaviness in your limbs. Furthermore, your ability to think clearly, move , stand, exercise, sleep, work, cook and even make love will diminish. So take time drink water, try keeping a glass of water on your desk and a bottle of water when you are out an about. Have a jug of water with your meals, you can add a slice to two of lemon or orange. In the summer mint and lemon balm make a refreshing herbal alternative.

3. Get fit! If you want to increase your energy levels engage in regular activity at least three times a week. Studies suggest that 30 minutes of activity at a pace where you have a light sweat will add 25 per cent more energy to every waking moment. Regular exercise has so many benefits and helps maintain muscle strength, mobility, increased metabolism, agility and boosts energy. No need to hit the gym or pound the pavements, just leave the car at home and walk to the shops and engage in regular outdoor activity such as cycling and gardening. Not only does exercise boost the system banishing fatigue but it also improves the mood, increasing serotonin and endorphin production. Furthermore, raised body temperature has a wonderful tranquillising effect, reducing depression and anxiety.

4. Get a good nights sleep. Don’t sacrifice sleep by staying up and watching television because you are too tired to move, or because you’re  finishing that report, ironing into the night or catching up with the washing. Sleep is vital if you want to beat fatigue. Look upon sleep as nature’s way of recharging your batteries with restorative energy. Sleep allows your body to repair damage, recover from stress, rejuvenate and restore balance. A good nights sleep sets you up for a good, productive day.

5. Step out into the great outdoors. Take time to surround yourself with natural energy. Sunshine and vitamin D, fresh air rather than fumes from car exhausts coupled with the sights and smells of nature can really pick you up. A nice walk enjoying the beauty of nature can be so invigorating. Switch off the computer and switch the paperwork for tree’s and fields, you will be surprised how the simple act of turning your back on work can lift the spirits and restore your energy levels. The fragrant scent of flowers, the earthy smell of the forest floor  or the salty breeze of the sea can revive and refresh as the olfactory nerve is stimulated. If you can’t get outdoors bring in some plants to detox the environment, pin up some pictures of country scenes and surround your workspace with a few natural objects such as a piece of driftwood, some stones or a crystal. Pick these objects up periodically to have a mindful moment. Nature is restorative, bring nature to you and harness it’s healing powers.

6. Be mindful. Take time to stop what you are doing and focus on your breath. As you do, check out how you are feeling in your body, scrunch your eyes up and let them go. Raise and lower your shoulders. Stand up if are sitting down, sit down if you are standing up. Have a stretch and smile. By purposefully stopping and focusing on the breath you are coming into the here and now. Running your hands under cold water and splashing your face can be so refreshing. Just letting go of stress momentarily will prevent you spinning round in circles. Stress is not good for us, it shrinks the brain, leads to weight gain due to the high levels of the hormone cortisol that the body produces when under stress, thins your hair and can fetch the reproductive system. Having a stretch and paying attention to your posture will help to eliminate bodily stress and prevent aches and pains. Take time to stop for lunch and find time for regular “pit stops,” this will ensure you keep your reserves of energy for when you need it.

7. Surround yourself with positive people. Isolation can be depressing and stressful, it may also contribute to exhaustion. A loving partner will stimulate your heart, a good role model will inspire you, a good friend will always be there for a hug and a loyal pet gives much and demands little. Avoid “vampires,” those people who literally drain your energy, instead, seek out “radiators,” those people who brim with energy, enthusiasm and life. Seek out sparkly eyed people and not those with dull listless complexions. Good energy is contagious, make sure you get your share.

8. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Better to be relaxed and good humoured rather than stiff and grumpy. Happiness doesn’t just happen, we have to make it happen. The more tired we are, the less likely we are to smile or have a laugh. By ensuring we have some things to look forward to, by engaging in activities, seeking out people, places and situations that bring a smile to our faces we can literally energise our soul. Too much work, feeling tired and worn down is a recipe for misery.

The key is to listen to your body. Don’t ignore tiredness. Our body is a sophisticated machine, where brain chemicals, hormones and blood supply  are all intimately involved in ensuring that we “feel” our fatigue, acknowledge it and then do something about it. Isn’t it time you worked with your body rather than against it?

 Until next time, best wishes Steve.

You may wish to know that Steve is now offering therapy sessions via Skype                       Please contact us through our website @  www.stevecliffordcbt.com

Visit our facebook site @ www.facebook.com/yourmentalhealthmatters

Steve Clifford                                                                                                                             Senior Accredited Integrative  Psychotherapist.                                                                   Accredited Cognitive Behavioural Psychotherapist.

 

Adapted from an article “Solve your energy crisis” which appeared in You magazine (March 2001) from a book by dietitian Debra Waterhouse, titled ” Tired to Inspired,” published by Thorsons.

Image ref: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AChronic_fatigue_syndrome.JPG