When I talk to my clients about improving their mental and physical health, we often discuss the role that food plays in their life. Many of my clients feel overwhelmed by the amount of nutrition and diet information available at every turn. Should they try keto? What if they lost weight on low-fat back in the 80s? Is the HGH diet safe? They don’t know what to believe.
I’ve seen the big impact that food has on mood in my life and in the lives of my clients. To help my clients understand the scientific evidence connecting food and mood, I put together this mini-literature review to show what the science has found. I hope that this helps to answer your questions about food and mood.
Nutritional psychiatry is a growing field that utilizes food and targeted supplements as part of an integrated treatment approach to prevent and treat mental health disorders. Countless research studies have shown that adequate nutrition is essential for proper brain functioning and mental health (e.g., Bodnar & Wisner, 2005; Jacka & Berk, 2007; Jacka et al., 2011; Murakami & Sasaki, 2010; Psaltopoulou et al., 2013; Rossler et al., 2016).
This is the time of year when many of us start to feel a little down and sad. This can be called the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder if the symptoms meet a certain criteria and have been present for at least 2 years. I’m not a huge fan of diagnoses, so call it what you like. The important thing is to understand how to feel better! And you can use many lifestyle medicine techniques such as sleep, nutrition, activity, light, nature, social connection, your thinking and more to make real changes in how you feel during the winter.
I’m almost ready to launch my ebook. EEEEEEEEKKKKK!!! I’m a wee bit excited about it. One year ago, I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do in my 40th year. Writing an ebook was on the list. I knew that I wanted to write about the strategies that I have used again and again with my clients regardless of their presenting issue. I wanted to be able to share this information with others who, for whatever reason, weren’t able to Sit on my virtual or physical couch.
We all know someone who, from the outside, has checked all of the boxes. She seems to have it all. She shows up with freshly baked muffins at the PTA fundraiser, cooks dinner for her family, smiles when she’s with her husband, shuttles her children to and from endless activities, has the cutest pics on Facebook, had the great education that has led to a 6-figure corporate 9 to 5 gig. From the outside.
I’ve had several potential clients ask me if they should seek the help of a therapist or a coach. I thought back to the times in my life when I’ve needed help from a therapist (dealing with grief) and a coach (figuring out how to move forward).
I recognize that not all coaches and therapists are the same. Some therapists use coach-like techniques, and some coaches use therapeutic techniques. In general, therapists rely on diagnoses to determine treatment and have training to look at how past issues influence the present and future. In general, coaches work on progressing a person from the present to the future.
Self-care. Here we go again. I know. I preach self-care in most every facet of my interactions with clients, friends, and family. The two reasons that it comes up in most every conversation are: 1) Self-care is vital to healing and mental or physical issues and for preventing mental and physical issues, and 2) I need to hear it on repeat for my own benefit, because if I am not taking care of myself, I can't take care of (or even provide high-vibe information) for others.
Long story kind of short...I flew from my home in Frederick to San Diego for a Mastermind workshop with Christine Hassler….
I’m a skeptic when it comes to products that make big promises for a healthy life.
Most all of my clients...probably most all people!!...could benefit from spending time in the healing parasympathetic state of the nervous system. This state is where healing occurs and is the opposite of the anxious “fight-or-flight” state that most of us live in. Breathing and relaxation exercises, meditation, mindfulness, a whole-foods diet, and loving life all help to get into and stay in that state. In addition, I’ve been using Vibrant Blue Oils Parasympathetic Essential Oil blend with my clients with great success! All of the info on essential oils can be overwhelming. This one-stop essential oil blend is my go-to when we travel, before work events, when my son feels anxious, and before I eat.
Overwhelm. Sometimes we feel it occasionally around the holidays, near work deadlines, etc. Other times it seems to be as omnipresent as summer humidity in the south (I've spent some time in the south this summer and....wowza).
Why do we feel overwhelmed?
The key to answering that question is in the question itself. Go back and take a look? Do you have any guesses? All right...I'll give you a clue...heck, I'll give you the answer….
I have been been reading a lot about integrative pain management and healing pain due to my own issues as well as wanting to improve the care I provide for my clients. I’ve been integrating mindfulness and nutrition in addition to standard cognitive behavioral therapy on a regular basis. This type of treatment was not widely found outside of a complementary and alternative wellness center...or so I thought.
I had the pleasure of attending a talk and book-signing by Jen Sincero. She's the author of two books:
You are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life
You are a Badass at Making Money
I highly recommend reading these books to help you become the best, most connected, happiest version of yourself. AND, if you can get your hands on the audio versions (my library had them through Hoopla), do it and listen over and over and over....in the car, on a walk, while you make dinner, etc. Not only is it convenient to listen throughout your day, but Ms. Sincero is HILARIOUS, and due to the funny voices that she used and ad-libbing here and there, I remembered key phrases in a way that I wouldn't from reading alone. Also, I learned at this book talk (is that what they are called??) and signing, she speaks just as she writes. She is the real deal.
You can read the books to get all of the golden nuggets of wisdom packaged in an approachable box with a laugh-out-loud funny bow on top. I'm giving you the life lesson jewels that she dropped during the talk.
If you go to the bookstore or the library or more likely, search your trusty Amazon app for books on healthy eating, you'll be overwhelmed with conflicting titles... "Low Carb Living" "Low Fat Living" "Eat Right for Your Blood Type" "Zero Sugar Diet" "Eat Fat, Get Thin" "The Keto Diet" "The Complete Mediterranean Diet"
I could keep going, but you get the picture. The messages are all over the place with research to support each camp. It's easy to see why SO MANY people throw their hands up in frustration and dive into a bowl of mac and cheese. I get it. Our brain can't deal with so many options, especially while you are working a full time job, being a parent, commuting, volunteering, etc., etc., etc.
I grew up in the middle of nowhere. We got a few tv stations, and I think we had a promotional trial of HBO at some point in my teens. Life-changing!!! So when we found a movie that we liked, we'd record it and watch it over and over and over and over again. One of those movies etched in my brain is The Secret of My Success starring Michael J. Fox. I can still hear the background music, "...bow bow...chi, chi-ca-chi-ca, der, bow bow..." Michael J. Fox was a nobody who REALLY wanted to be a somebody in the corporate world. He knew that he wanted to be an executive, and he didn't take his eyes off the prize, even when slightly pulled away by a beautiful woman....because love will do that to you in the best way possible and makes for a great plot twist. Fox works as a mail clerk while simultaneously creating and executing a plan to make him an instant executive. I won't spoil it for you by giving away the ending, but let's just say that I wouldn't be using this as an example unless...you get the picture.
We’ve all had a splinter or stubbed our toe and seen what happens as a result…the area hurts, it gets red, and swells up. Those symptoms are inflammation at its finest. Those symptoms are our body’s way of beginning the healing process. Those symptoms are signs that the immune system has turned on and is ready to fight invaders to prevent infection. That’s the good part of inflammation…the white knight coming to the rescue; it’s called acute inflammation. Acute inflammation’s evil step-sister (no offense to amazing step-sisters out there!) is chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is…well…chronic. It is always there. Whereas acute inflammation is a natural process that we don’t control, chronic inflammation is within our control; we can turn it on or off with our lifestyle and nutrition choices. Before we get into what we can do to stop chronic inflammation, let’s take a closer at what it is and what problems/issues it causes.
Before I get into the details, let me say that this post is as much for me as it is for anyone else. I've felt especially emotional lately, and I couldn't figure out what exactly was going on, until I found my eyes welling with tears at the coffee shop this morning. Then, it hit me...change. And lots of it. Involving people who have become family. And change that is out of my control.
It began with my neighbors. The neighbors with whom I have shared a wall of my home for nearly seven years. The neighbors whose same-aged son is the closest thing my son has had to a brother. Those dear neighbors announced that they are moving at the end of the summer. Boom...kick to the gut.
A strong back. Just like that picture. That's my goal picture. And I've realized that itt’s called a journey because there really is no “end,” right? Well, I’m still on the path. Two weeks ago, I was performing my “Stretches for a Healthy Back” (and that’s really what they are called!), when, mid-lunge, I felt that familiar twinge and tightness in my lower back. As I eased out of the stretch, I cursed myself for not being more careful but quickly caught myself and realized that I hadn’t done anything wrong. The blame neural network path is clearly tied to the pain neural network path. In fact, they might be married. After I caught myself, I quickly switched out of blame and into healing mode. After getting my son off to school, I reviewed and started the McKenzie extension exercises and the wall slides to correct my torso's C shape caused by the muscle spasms. I found an article and video by Dr. Axe, and that has shaped the current part of my journey.
Holidays bring family together...for better AND for worse. Holiday gatherings can be like an Instant Pot of family dynamics. These gatherings turn the heat up fast and cause steam to fly out of orifices after only a very brief period of time. These modern pressure cooker scenarios bring out the best and worst of us.
Christmas is all about the BIG: big lights, big gifts, big sales, big traffic, big parties, big food, big bonuses (okay, not me but hopefully you!), big trees, and big jolly men in red suits. BUT, what really matters this season is not the big things...it's the little things. The little in-the-moment, everyday things are the foundation of relationships and love and joy. When you focus on the little things, Christmas lives inside you all year long.
Oh FOMO. What is FOMO you ask? Well I had to consult "the Google" after hearing FOMO on a reality tv show (yes, I’ve been known to watch a Real Housewives now and then) and having no idea what the heck they were talking about. Urban Dictionary told me that FOMO is the Fear of Missing Out. Suddenly it all made sense. And I started to notice when FOMO reared its ugly head in my life. Most recently it popped up while helping facilitate an out-of-town weekend workshop. All weekend I couldn’t find my social groove and found myself standing in the middle of the conference room, alone. I was alone because I feared missing out on any and every conversation!
Holistic psychology treats the total person focusing on the relationships among the mind, body, and spirit. The holistic approach is not new. In fact, over 2,500 years ago Hippocrates used the term to describe health and health care. Hippocrates emphasized the importance of looking at all aspects of a person, understanding that various factors all contribute to a person’s health. Holistic therapy educates the individual and draws from cognitive-behavioral therapy, psychoanalysis, breath work, personal growth, relaxation, imagery, and nutrition. Holistic therapy works to enhance a person’s well-being.
Recently, I received a question from a reader asking how he and his partner could better communicate without judging one another. Being non-judgmental is great, but putting that into practice takes effort and, well, practice. Just like any other skill (e.g., cooking, soccer, knitting, etc.), effective communication takes practice. Whether you are currently struggling with communication or want to enhance your current communication, here are some strategies for healthy, non-judgmental communication in relationships, with colleagues, with family and neighbors, etc.:
The metaphor for self-care. We've all experienced it or at least heard it...as part of the standard pre-flight announcements, the flight attendant instructs that, "if there should be a change in cabin pressure...put your oxygen mask on first before helping others." I get the importance of this if your plane is in free-fall, but it is not a good metaphor for self-care in everyday life. Why? Because that example is an extreme emergency. If we waited for extreme emergencies to start implementing self-care we'd be burnt out, have autoimmune issues, develop cancer, be overweight, be depressed, anxious, and in pain, etc. Oh wait, THAT is actually happening!!
Meaning. We've all likely mused about it or thought about engaging in more pursuits that feel meaningful; however, soccer practice, needing to provide a steady income for the little things like a roof over your head, food on the table, healthcare, etc. sometimes fly in the face of a Mother Teresa-like image of making meaning. The bad news...one of the biggest regrets of the dying is not cultivating meaning and lack of meaning makes folks want to kill themselves. The good news...cultivating meaning can be done in little ways, every day.
What do a sprained ankle, asthma, acne, depression, and Alzheimer’s all have in common?
Inflammation is a natural, innate response to injury, stress, illness, pain, etc. It’s our body’s way of bringing attention to an area that needs some attention/healing so that other parts of the vascular system and the immune system can be notified and work to reduce the inflammation. Acute inflammation is good. Think of times in which inflammation helped you. Any ideas? Have you had an infection? Have you sprained your ankle? Have you had a paper cut? In those instances, inflammation can be helpful, but when inflammation doesn’t stop at acute injury, it can take over the body. Widespread inflammation leads to a host of illnesses, but you can make changes to reduce inflammation
Countless articles have been written about how to balance having a career and being a parent. I know because I've read them, and I've fallen short of the expectation that balancing was possible. What happens when you release the expectation that you should be able to balance it all and ease into the murky abyss of blending your career passions with the humans you love the most?
In this disease-focused society, diagnoses are given out like chocolate on Halloween night. But what if we looked at the paradigm a bit differently? What if we saw anxiety as a messenger…as a friend? What if anxious feelings were really just our body and mind talking to us, trying to get us to listen, urging us to make a little or a big change? Anxious feelings like shallow, rapid breathing, dry mouth, and/or a racing heartbeat may be signs urging us to do something. Here are a few things that anxiety might be trying to tell you…
One of my dearest friends just broke up with her long-term boyfriend mere months before their planned, year-long travel adventure. One of my colleagues lost both of her parents in the past 8 months. And yet another friend lost a job she thought she’d be in for the long-haul. What do these women have in common…besides wanting to listen to some sappy music and eat some good chocolate? They now have the OPPORTUNITY to truly figure out what they want to do with their lives on their own terms.
The mind-body connection is vital, but often, when there is a problem like stress, anxiety, depression, or trauma (e.g., PTSD), the issue is thought to be housed solely in the brain/mind; therefore, the solution is thought to be drugs and talk therapy that focus on the neurochemistry and belief systems of the brain/mind. That is an incomplete answer. Due to the mechanisms by which trauma, stress reactions, etc. become lodged in the brain (a vast topic of recent research), therapies that access the body are often helpful at tapping into the areas of the brain where the trauma and stress get stuck, thus assisting with resolving the issue.