Once I learned that food had an impact on mood + happiness, I made changes that were immediately noticeable. It turns out, you can eat your way to happiness!
On a trip back to Toronto a few years ago, I took my best friend to a raw food workshop/brunch as a little early Christmas present. The “chef”/cooking instructor is a nutritionist and creative entrepreneur, Meghan Telpner of the Academy of Culinary Nutrition. I found her on Twitter and instantly fell in love with her fun approach to food and her top-notch production skills. The fact that she's a fellow Torontonian was an added sweet bonus, so when I came into town for a short visit, I just had to meet her in person!
A Focus on "good mood food"
I tend to believe that things
happen snowball in sequence as you put your attention on them, and over the last 5 years, food has been foremost on my mind. As I started to learn more about the connection between nutrition and well being, I gradually started shifting my eating habits as well.
I’ve become more conscious about processed foods, opened my mind to some pretty obscure “health” food (but only the stuff that tastes good) and as a result, I not only look better (bye bye extra 10lbs!), but I’m also thinking clearer and feeling happier, too.
Sugar, processed food, and animal products can actually affect the way you think
I would never have assumed that what I was eating was causing mood swings and anxious feelings, but slowly as I’ve cleaned my diet up, these emotional twangs of feeling "blah" have started to slowly dissipate. Now, I am certainly not suggesting that diet can heal clinical depression (or maybe it can, I don’t know), but it did help to balance my mind as well as my body.
My best guess is that a whole food diet keeps the mind stay more focused and concentrated on the here and now, and studies are now showing that focus is the secret to living a happier life. Sugar, on the other hand, seems to be the master of distraction, which would have the opposite effect on the happiness barometer. If you suspect that sugar is at the root of some of your emotional issues, check out Sarah Wilson's Anti-Anxiety Diet. It has some great resources for ditching sugar.
The Diet + Mood Connection
Now I’m by no means a dietician or medical professional, but anecdotally, I can see how making small changes to my diet is having really positive effects on my life in ways I never expected it to (and of course, ways I hoped it would). By reducing my processed carbohydrate intake (which is basically all sugar), I've increased my ability to focus at work, keep my mood calmer and steadier and of course maintain better energy to workout. Another byproduct of these changes is better sleep, which in turn, helps me keep sugar cravings to a minimum. I had no idea sleep was such a powerful barometer and predictor of health and longevity, but it is!
If you’re curious to learn more about the connection between diet and mood, or you’re ready to start making small, incremental changes, I recommend seeking out a dietary professional that resonates with you. I loved Meghan’s approach to nutrition and teaching. Her website is chock full of great, fun stuff and her approach to cooking is doable. Eating Well is also a fabulous resource for easy, healthy recipes and the site is absolute eye candy for the foodie at heart.
From my own experience, the number one thing you can do to dramatically improve the quality of your mental and physical health is to learn to cook for yourself. Knowing exactly what's in your food and how it will impact your emotional health is an empowering way to take control of your life.
Interested in cleaning up your diet to improve your happiness and state of mind? Here are a few of my favorite, simple whole foods recipes to get you started!
- Lemon Ginger Cayenne Pepper Turmeric Water
- Superfood Nut butter Recipe
- Paleo Protein Egg Muffin Bites
- Macadamia Nut Butter Recipe
- Low Carb, Gluten Free English Muffin
- Chocolate protein pancakes (so good!)
- Kale Pad Thai
- Egg Salad Recipe, LA Style
- Paleo Cream of Asparagus Soup Recipe
- Low Carb Cauliflower Artichoke Soup Recipe
- Thanksgiving Paleo Veggie Nut Roast Recipe
- Low Carb Stuffed Mushrooms
- Braised Brussel Sprouts
- Lemon Pesto Spaghetti Squash
- Raw Vegan Pad Thai
- Protein Pumpkin Pie Recipe
- Superfood Pumpkin Butter Recipe
- Sugar-Freee Raspberry Compote Recipe
Caren is a certified yoga teacher, fitness instructor and ADHD Coach. As the founder of The Fit Habit, she shares ADHD-friendly self-care, food & fitness inspiration, along with practical ways to foster mind + body wellness.