Your diet has a profound effect on your mental health. That’s why the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Psychiatrists regularly recommends improving your diet while following a Mediterranean diet composed of vegetables, fruit, fish, grains, and minimal animal fats for better mental well-being.
Conversely, an unhealthy, unbalanced diet can jeopardize your mental health and leave you feeling rotten. Likewise, restricting your calories and undereating can leave you feeling drained of energy and sensitive to mood swings.
Dial in your diet to give yourself the best chance of living a healthy, happy life. Even subtle changes to your intake may have a profound impact on your symptoms and mental well-being.
When you hear the word “calories”, you may be tempted to think about restrictive diets and feelings of guilt. This is entirely understandable, as two in three Australians are considered “overweight”. However, many people who want to take control of their weight and mental health end up slashing their calories to their own detriment.
Low-calorie diets can actually sabotage your health, as you won’t have enough nutrients to fuel your body or mind. This can leave you feeling sluggish and fatigued — the last thing you need when facing a mental health condition.
Proceed with caution if you want to reduce your weight while living with a mental health condition. Entering a small caloric deficit (250 - 500 calories less than normal per day) can sustain long-term losses without jeopardizing your mental health. Try to switch processed, sugar-rich foods for slow-burning carbohydrates like rice and potatoes but don’t beat yourself up over a single serving of ice cream or a biscuit with your tea.
These fats keep your brain running at its maximum potential and help you recover from a hard day at work. This can be particularly powerful if you feel stressed or lack your mental edge. Consider adding a few fish-rich meals per week or switching your peanut butter toast for an avocado-based spread.
Wines, spirits, and beers are extremely popular in Australia and New Zealand. Between 74.9 - 79.4% of residents drink alcohol regularly, despite the common knowledge that alcohol has a net negative impact on your health.
If you do choose to drink, consider limiting your consumption and opt for beverages that don’t lead you to overconsumption. For example, if you know that spirits make you want to party, consider opting for wine instead. Wine is also an antioxidant and some reds actually have an anti-inflammatory effect due to the presence of proanthocyanidins in the fruits and flowers.
Making a Change
For many, the idea of making a dietary change makes sense. However, if you’ve ever tried to improve your food intake before, you’ll know that it’s easier said than done.
Start by making holistic changes to the way you buy and store your food. Put simply, you can’t eat an entire tub of ice cream if you don’t have any in your house. When you do bring treats into the home, opt for small sizes and single servings. Do not trust yourself to only eat a handful of crisps, as you may find that your willpower is easily overcome when sweet treats are kept in a nearby cupboard.
If you experience food anxiety, consider storing your food in an outdoor shed. Knowing that all your food is stored in a safe place can alleviate some mental strain and help you whip up a nutritious meal in no time. Keep your cans and grains in an easy-to-reach area and dedicate a small space to treats like soda. This will support your desire to live a healthier lifestyle and minimize the risk of panic-buying sweets and treats.
Your dietary choices have a massive impact on your mental health and well-being. However, that doesn’t mean you should restrict your calories or cut out all fat. Instead, opt for a balanced, Mediterranean-inspired diet with plenty of variety. When you do eat for relaxation, try to remain well hydrated and chew all your food mindfully.