Food is one of the basic building blocks of life. We rely on it every single day, but often turn a blind eye to its impact on our mental health. In support of Mental Health Week, I’d like to take a quick look at how changing our diet can change more than our waistlines.
1) Positive choices = positive thoughts
We all have a little voice in our head that tells us what we ought to do. For example, “I ought to not eat that snickers because I don’t want to gain weight,” or, “I ought to not call my boss an a**hole because he might fire me.” This voice helps us maneuver in a world where we are forced to make thousands of split-second decisions each day while also balancing our long-term goals of who we want to be. But what happens when we have a moment of mental weakness, go against what we know we ought to do, and eat that entire snickers bar?
Guilt, that feeling in your stomach that leads you to say, “I shouldn’t have eaten that.” Let the self-shaming, blaming, and berating begin. These negative emotions exacerbate the negative physical impact of downing 50 g of sugar, which can result in a snowball effect that impacts the rest of our day.
Luckily for us, if we listen to our “ought self” and don’t reach for that snickers, we unlock a whole new set of emotions! After we walk away from that snickers, we start to feel proud, optimistic, empowered, and satisfied (pun intended)! Similar to negative emotions, these positive emotions will snowball, leading to healthier thoughts and behaviors. One such healthy behavior is replacing our highly processed and artificially sweetened snacks with more natural food. In doing so, we begin to feel better about ourselves because our actions are lining up with who we want to be. And don’t we all want to be healthy?
2) The domino effect (not the pizza) of positive choices
By overcoming the obstacle of replacing the snickers, we start to see what other, larger changes we could make. The confidence and pride of making that first change helps us tackle even bigger challenges. Ok, while not eating the snickers may not be that glorious of a moment, the ripple effect of changing your diet can be deep and wide. If you can make one small change at a time, over time, you can change anything you want.
At Unwrapp’d, we believe that changing your diet can lead you to make other positive changes. By taking control of what you eat, you have the power to take control in all areas of your life.
Reed McIntyre is a licensed Mental Health Clinician who is also a Co-Founder and the Design Guru here at Unwrapp’d.