Food affects our moods. This concept is well known in the real food community and I've written about it several times myself. It's also an idea that hits close to home for me, because the reason I became interested in real food nutrition was because my own emotional health (or lack thereof) was really putting my life and my family through the wringer. When you're plagued with mood swings that prompt fits of irrational anger and bouts of crippling depression... well, suffice it to say that's a real wake-up call that things need to change!
And let me tell you: real food played a key role in improving my mental and emotional health. After all, nutrition affects our blood sugar levels, our stress hormone levels, our neurotransmitter levels and so much more. It's easy to see why eating well provides a strong foundation for emotional healing.
But it's important to realize that while it is a foundation, real food is not the only factor involved with achieving emotional resilience.
In fact, promoting the idea that real food alone is the solution to all of our mental woes sets up unrealistic expectations and can ultimately cause you to feel pretty discouraged. And if you're anything like me, you'll end up chasing your tail trying to find the magical real food pill that will transform your dark side into sunshine and rainbows.
Well, I learned from experience: that ain't gonna happen! In fact, this myth just caused me a lot of unnecessary stress and ended up perpetuating the bad mood cycle by keeping me focused on the negative and the unrealistic.
Don't Let Diet be a Crutch
I would be lying if I said real food alone solved all of my emotional problems. It took a lot more than just food to really make an impact, including making key lifestyle changes and working on eradicating mental thinking habits that detracted from my life.
And all of this also took time. I started my healing journey more than three years ago, and while I saw many positive changes in my moods within just a few months, I've also noticed significant improvements in the last year as well.
And I can assure you that this did not happen because my diet became more perfect during this time... if anything I've relaxed my standards quite a bit since I started my journey.
For me, believing that a perfect diet is a requirement for emotional health often trapped me into blaming any negative thought or bad mood on my diet. Over time, I learned this isn't a very productive way of thinking: it never motivated me to eat better, and it certainly never helped me get to a better place mentally or emotionally. In fact, it basically did just the opposite.
Once I admitted that I wanted to improve my moods whether or not my diet was ideal, it opened the door for me to discover how other factors were contributing to my moods--and how to get past them. I realized my own attitudes and thinking patterns had an enormous impact on my moods. Making changes in this area has been an invaluable part of my journey.
I also recognized that I was human and bound to make mistakes or experience negative moods regardless of my diet. Real food doesn't make me superhuman!
Real Food: One (Important) Piece of the Puzzle
My point is not that real food doesn't matter. I do believe good nutrition is important and even crucial if you want improve your moods. It is an excellent place to start and it can pave the way for greater emotional healing down the road. And some people do experience downright miraculous transformations in their moods from diet changes alone.
But for others, real food is only one piece of the puzzle. And if that's the case for you, continuing to focus on nutrition alone is denying yourself the complete healing experience you deserve.
What do you think? Is it all about diet or is there more to the picture than just nutrition? I want to hear your side of the story! Tell me what you think in the comments below.