When I was first diagnosed with depression, I was prescribed medication and instructed to exercise. I threw myself into the whole concept of exercise and eventually qualified as a personal trainer. However, it’s been 6 years since I worked in the fitness industry and in that time my weight has crept up and the desire for exercise has completely disappeared. In retrospect, it was probably never there in the first place but in my quest for wellness, I threw myself heart and soul into it at that point in my life. Whilst I was training and exercising, I ate reasonably well but I wouldn’t have said I was diligent in eating the right foods. During a twelve week challenge I participated in, I even added in protein powders and multi-vitamins. (I’m not able to take mulit-vitamins now as one of the side-effects of peri-menopause is that these tablets make me ill).
In the past twelve months or so, I have been reading a lot of great health and wellness magazines with some awesome recipes in it. I always thought “One day I’ll give this a go” but as happens when you promise ‘one day’, it never comes. In my reading, I stumbled across an article outlining the effects of food on your moods. This was something I had never really thought about to be honest. Sure, eating healthy improves your overall physical health but I hadn’t even considered that it might also affect your emotional health. It opened my eyes in a whole new way.
Apparently including Omega-3 Fats (trout, salmon, mackerel, sardines, chia seeds, flaxseeds and walnuts), B Vitamins (found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, leafy green vegetables, eggs, chicken, red meat and milk) and Tryptophan (lean chicken, turkey, beef, brown rice, fish, milk, eggs, cheese, nuts, bananas, pumpkin, peas, potato, corn and spinach) into your diet assists in raising seratonin levels. Seratonin helps us feel better.
Keeping blood sugar levels stable is also a big factor in easing the symptoms of depression and anxiety. By consuming smaller meals on a regular basis (every 2-3 hours) and reducing the intake of added sugars and processed foods, blood sugars levels should remain relatively stable.
For the sake of my health and well-being, I decided to investigate this further and looked into clean eating. Clean eating boils down to cutting these things from your diet:
- white sugar
- white flour
- white pasta
- white rice
- processed foods
Some clean eating plans also advocate cutting out dairy and meats and not cooking anything at all. Cutting meat and dairy completely from my diet didn’t ‘sit right’ with me (must have been my nutrition training as part of my fitness qualifications that threw up the red flag on this). The diet I eventually found came complete with meal plans that included cooked meats and lots of good foods. Whilst there is not a huge amount of dairy products in the plan, there are still a few.
Since I find it difficult to stick to any meal plan because I prefer to eat the same meal for breakfast each day or I might change my mind about what I want for dinner, I decided to stick only to the above points and to cut all white/refined/processed foods and sugars from my diet. The fact that I also cook for two fussy people as well also factored into my decision. I still get a ‘sweet fix’ from adding some honey or fruit to my diet so I don’t totally miss it, but I do crave sugar on occasion. At these times (and they happen every 2-3 weeks), I will purchase a packet of Oat & Raisin biscuits (cookies) from the Coles bakery. There are 6 in the pack and it takes me a couple of days to eat them. I also treat myself to two squares of Lindt 65% cocoa dark chocolate every night.
The picture above is of one of my breakfast smoothies. It is banana, oats, chia seeds, honey, LSA, almond milk and ice. It keeps me full for at least 3 hours and tastes divine. My other breakfast smoothie that I love contains strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, banana, LSA, almond milk and ice. For lunch, I am eating salads or pumpernickel with cheese, tomato and avocado or egg. Dinner is usually meat or fish with vegetables or rice.
I have to say that since beginning this lifestyle change, I’ve strayed on occasion (last night I had the most delicious apple crumble) but I always eat well for the following meals. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of saying “well I ruined my diet so I’ll start again on Monday”. I try not to do that. Everything in moderation is the key.
And my health? My health is great. I still get the occasional grey day but they are in the minority. As an added bonus, I have lost almost 6 kg so far although I still have a long way to go to get back to what I weighed in my fit days. My clothes are sitting so much better on me and I am so thankful for that.
As an added bonus, my peri-menopausal symptoms have also reduced. Who knew how important food could be?
Have a blessed day.