Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Recovering from a food bender

I did a post earlier in the season about handling holiday stress.  But how many of us still have emotional ups & downs through the holidays? Even if you manage stress well, or have applied some of the tips I shared, you can still have mood swings and not understand why.  Could it be your diet?

I can honestly say that my moods change with the season - I am more touchy during the month of December, more irritable and sometimes almost disengaged.  Sleep can take a backseat on my priority list as I juggle travel, work, holiday chores and parties, proper exercise and my annual sinus infection.  But even more than sleep, it is my diet that suffers most. 

On my recent weekend trip home I went on a 3-day roller coaster of oatmeal and fresh fruit breakfasts combined with pizza and hoagie dinners...and let's not forget that Smiley Face Cookie I enjoyed at Eat 'n Park.  Hey - when in Rome, right? 

I left that Monday feeling lethargic and a wee bit cranky. By Tuesday I was downright moody and over everyone and everything. Going on a bender like this one takes its toll on my body for days fact, the day it hits me is often the day I am back to "normal".

So, why I am sharing all this with you?
Nutrition and mental health has been a hot bed of research since the mid 2000s and I think they are onto something.  We've long known that a healthy diet high in whole foods (fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, whole grains) and low in processed foods reduces risk for chronic diseases, and now there is also evidence that these diets are just as important to mental health.

In fact, a diet high in whole food and low in processed foods has also been directly linked to a reduced risk of depression.

An apple a day keeps the demons away?
Try 5.  Well, more specifically 5 servings of fruit and veggies.  A recent article in BioMed Central Psychiatry revealed that there is a statistically significant correlation between the recommendation to eat 5 fruits and veggies a day and psychosis.  Those who stick to the 5-a-day recommendation are less likely to report moderate distress levels.  *Note: fruit juice does not count as a fruit.

Getting back on track
There's nothing I can do to take back the damage done...and to be honest, I don't know that I want to. I mean, I had FUN this weekend with all my chronies and enjoyed all the Pennsylvania foods I miss.  But I also know that it's temporary and that getting back on track is the best way to prevent the snowball effect. 

1) I don't beat myself up.  Life goes on. It happens. In love and in health the key to happiness is letting each situation be what it is instead of what you think it should have been. 

2) I schedule my exercise. Get the feel-good hormones stimulated and let them run rampant in your system.  Monday I played 9 holes of golf, Wednesday & Friday is spin class, Thursday is a power pump class.  I get back on track as soon as I can and make it a priority. 

Whether this means taking a 30-minute walk, doing some yoga or going to a body conditioning class do what you do as soon as you can.

And I don't know about you, but when I am exercising consistently I want to eat better.  It's completely mental, but who wants to undo all that hard work with a piece of fried chicken?

3) I eat extra-healthy for 5 days.  While I am not a fan of deprivation, I am a fan of resetting your body for a few days to eliminate the unhealthy things you crave.

For me, this means no added sugars and limited processed foods/drinks for a few days. I stick with little variety, just because it is easier for me.

Breakfast: Oatmeal & Fresh Fruit, coffee
Lunch: Large spinach salad topped with veggies, protein (chicken or salmon) and croutons
Dinner:  turkey chili, grilled salmon with veggies and rice, baked chicken with sweet potatoes & green veggies, grilled chicken stir-fry (in no particular order)
Snacks: plain Greek yogurt with berries, banana with nut butter, carrots with hummus, dark chocolate square and almonds
Hydration: 64oz water, 4oz red wine

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