……. and you may see that having a rainbow of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables each day improves energy, mood and wellbeing.
The festive season is a great time for feasting on foods we wouldn’t always choose to eat. Without hesitation we may reach for more sugary foods, higher fat foods, snacks and alcohol to celebrate and enjoy others company. In doing so we have changed our eating habits and may continue to do so for quite a few days. Only after we have over indulged, feel sluggish and lethargic and the ring of New Year do we feel inspired to again change to healthier habits. The festive season gives us the opportunity, if we choose to to pause and notice the foods that make us feel well, give us energy and those that don’t. Whilst Christmas and New Year can be stressful and overwhelming, there are many variables in our day that affect how we feel, think, focus and behave. We can’t control other people, events at work and at home that all affect how we react, how anxious we feel, our mood, energy levels and focus. What we can control is what we choose to eat and drink. They play a huge part in our mental wellbeing and physical wellbeing helping reduce anxiety, depression, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and some cancers.
What we eat has a big impact on our mood, anxiety levels, health, waist line and weight! If we choose foods high in sugar, white and refined carbohydrates then we may notice that we have moments of great energy and focus, we feel happy, but we may also notice that through the day we snap, have low mood and feel less focused. We may then choose to reach again for these foods but breaking this cycle may help you balance your blood sugar levels, stop the highs and lows of mood and energy. Eating natural foods low in sugar help release energy (glucose) slowly so that we notice stable energy levels, a stable mood, less anxiety and in the long term a smaller waistline and healthy weight.
When we eat has a big impact on our blood sugar levels, mood and our digestion. If we miss meals our blood sugar levels drop, we may then reach for the high sugar foods, we may notice we can’t focus and concentrate. The act of not eating also affects the blood supply to our digestive system. When we eat it stimulates the part of the nervous system responsible for rest and digestion. Eating every 4-6 hours helps maintain energy, mood, digestion and a healthy waistline.
How much caffeine we drink can have a big impact on noticing a racing heart, difficulty relaxing, and consequently may be interpreted by the body as anxiety. Ensuring we moderate our caffeine intake after lunch may help regulate our energy and sleep. Ensuring we drink water regularly through the daytime is vital for energy, cognitive function and wellbeing. Being dehydrated is associated with higher levels of anxiety.
Why we eat is really important! We may mistake dehydration for hunger, we may not recognise when we are truly hungry. We may be eating out of habit, not consciously engaged in what and why we are eating. We may be in a habit of eating when we are bored, stressed and feel emotional and these may significantly impact our food choices. Mindful eating is about being kind to yourself, not judging yourself but recognising patterns of eating and being aware that if you choose to you can change them.
Connecting to our senses helps us to come out of automatic pilot and connect with the foods we are eating. noticing a rainbow of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, seeing red, yellow, orange, purple and green in your day really does help increase vitamin and mineral intake. These are important for brain function, mood, anxiety and memory. They are also super important to support our immune system. Noticing the taste, texture and aroma of foods all helps you connect to what you are eating in that moment. When we are mindful as we eat we may eat less, enjoy our food more and make different choices about what we choose to eat.
It only takes a few seconds to connect your mind to the present, to be fully aware of what you are eating a drinking. Focusing on this for a few minutes may help you increase your understanding of what, when why and how much you eat, helping to manage both physical and mental wellbeing longterm. As we approach the New Year making small changes that you can maintain for the rest of your life is much healthier than looking for short term fixes that in the long term may not support mental and physical wellbeing.