We have often heard the phrase “you are what you eat,” but does the food we eat actually have that much of an impact on us? The short answer is “yes.” Eating healthy meals and choosing nutritional foods can have an impact on both our physical and mental health.
The mind and the body are connected and many wellness recovery programs emphasize the importance of the mind-body connection. The “mind-body connection” refers to the idea that our physical health can affect our mental health and that our mental health can affect our physical health.
The mind and the body relay messages to one another about how we feel. When we feel sick or ill, we tend to also feel “down” or “blue.” During physical exercise, our minds release a rush of “feel-good” chemicals called endorphins that improve our mood. The foods we eat impact our physical well-being, and, by the mind-body connection, impact our mental wellness.
Replacing Unhealthy Diets with Healthier Options
A large part of recovery is replacing our unhealthy habits with newer, healthier habits. While we may think of recovery as a means of just controlling or changing our addictions, recovery is more accurately described as the process of making healthy life changes.
For most of us in recovery, we may not have learned the best ways to care for ourselves. We may have neglected our physical health and mental well-being while engaging in self-destructive, addictive behaviors. Most 12-step programs and recovery treatment may only focus on addressing our addictions.
Programs like these can be incredibly beneficial components of our recovery treatment. However, recovery involves much more than addressing our addictions. Recovery is about changing our way of life to develop healthy habits that we can utilize for a lifetime.
Holistic approaches that incorporate ideas from the “mind-body connection” can greatly enhance your current treatment. Your diet is one of these areas that you might be overlooking.
What We Eat Can Affect How We Feel
Anything that we put into our bodies will have some effect on our minds and our moods. Some foods will make us feel hyper and lead to a crash, like foods that are high in sugar. A “sugar crash” can make us feel moody and depressed for a short time.
Foods with high amounts of calories can leave us feeling tired as our bodies digest the food. We might feel like we have less energy as our body needs to divert its attention to the process of digestion. Other foods can affect our gastrointestinal systems, giving us heartburn or leaving us feeling bloated.
Those of us who experience heartburn may have a difficult time sleeping due to the painful sensations in our bodies. When our sleep is affected, our moods can become negatively impacted. We may feel tired and irritable throughout the next day.
Some foods, while leaving us feeling full and satiated, may not provide the nutritional content that we need to feel our best. Many people have deficiencies in certain minerals or vitamins that can alter the way that they feel. If we are experiencing any co-occurring mental health disorders while in recovery, we might benefit from checking with our doctors about any underlying medical issues that may be increasing our symptoms.
Some doctors might recommend blood work to verify whether or not a vitamin deficiency can be affecting our moods and mental health. Our doctors may even refer us to a nutrition specialist or dietician for ideas on how we can improve our eating habits. Doctors might also recommend dietary supplements to improve your mental health.
Making Small Improvements to Change Our Eating Habits
Healthy eating habits may be overwhelming for some of us to start. We may not know how to cook or what kinds of foods to eat. We can start by making some small improvements. For example, if someone is experiencing difficulty sleeping and they drink sugary sodas before going to bed, they might benefit from drinking water or some other sugarless, decaffeinated beverage later at night.
If someone eats a lot of fast foods because they feel rushed, they can ask for water instead of soda and resist the urge to “super-size” their meal. Sometimes, we do not eat enough during our busy days and then overeat later at night with unhealthy snacks.
We can plan for our day by packing healthy snacks, like dried fruits or nuts, to keep us from getting too hungry throughout the day. Overall, making some small changes with our eating habits can have a big impact on our daily lives. Take time today to consider your eating habits and how they might be affecting your mental health and well-being.
New research is coming out to highlight the effects of nutrition on our mental health. During our busy lives, we may feel too pressed for time to plan for healthy meals. We may be overlooking our eating habits and not prioritizing meal planning. When we are not planning or considering the importance of our diets on our overall health, we may eat fast foods with low nutritional content. We might also neglect to eat well throughout the day, which can lead to overeating at the end of the day. When we feel hungry, yet rushed to eat, we might be consuming whatever is immediately available with little regard for the impact the food will have on us. Camelback Recovery understands the importance of replacing unhealthy eating habits with healthy ones to improve our overall health. We provide healthy foods for our participants and even help with cooking meals. We believe that healthy eating habits are just one of the many ways to achieve the healthy lifestyle you may be seeking in recovery from addictive behaviors. Call us today at (602) 466-9880 to speak with our staff about our treatment program.