As for me, I am on Day Two of a 30 day dietary challenge designed to clear my body of chemical-laced processed foods, inflammation-causing dairy products, and sugar laden foods, among other things. So you can see that ice cream is wrong on many levels. For me. For now. Let’s talk again in 29 days.
What we choose to eat is critical to our mental health as well as to our physical functioning. The same nutrients that fuel my fingers to type this blog post are also fueling my brain and its capacity to form these thoughts. And yet sometimes we seem to pay more attention to what goes in our gas tanks to run our autos than we do to what goes in our stomachs to run us. Think about it. Would you put a Twinkie in your gas tank? I don’t think so.
At the outpatient “brain school” programs I have attended, we are given a handout of “The Basics,” a list of ten items that are considered to be the “foundation of [our] recovery” from depression. The first item on the list is Good Food, and the recommendation is for 3-6 small, healthy meals spaced throughout the day to provide steady support for “clear thinking, concentration, memory and problem solving.” The handout doesn’t define what a healthy meal is, but it does nix alcohol and suggests that we keep caffeine and refined sugars to a minimum.
At some level, we kind of know what’s good for us. Veggies, yes. Fritos, not so much. But eating well takes some effort. We have to plan our meals, shop for the right foods, maybe even cook. And all of that can be a challenge when we have low energy. We can begin, however, to take small steps to improve our diets. Here are some suggestions to consider:
Make changes gradually. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing undertaking. We can start with something small, like adding an extra serving of green vegetables to our daily diet. Once that’s in place, make another healthy change.
Don’t remove, replace. If we need to cut something unhealthy out of our diets (like soft drinks), it helps to replace that item with a better alternative (like naturally flavored water – try adding a twist of lemon, mint leaves, cucumber slices…). That way we aren’t feeling deprived.
Eat breakfast. Theoretically, we haven’t eaten since at least the previous night, so we need some sustenance in our systems in the morning to jump start our metabolism. It doesn’t have to be huge, but anything (relatively healthy) is better than nothing.
Keep it simple. If we make things too complicated, chances are more likely that we won’t stick with it. We’re not trying to impress Chef Emeril, we’re trying to improve our health, to give our bodies and our minds a chance to function at their best.
Am I following my own advice? Kind of. My 30-day regimen is not a gradual change from the way I have been eating lately. It’s pretty radical. But I have placed a timeline on it. If I don’t feel better in a month, I’m not obligated to carry on. And if I don’t make it the whole 30 days without slipping from the prescribed foods, that’s okay, too. Yesterday I ate better than the day before. Today I have the chance to do the same. My body will thank me. My mind might question me, but it’s getting the benefit, too.
I’ll keep you posted.