April 2017 – Food, Mood and Body Image
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Food & Mood
There are many ways that foods can affect how we feel, just as how we feel has a large influence on what foods we choose. Some of the mood/food effects are due to nutrient content, but a lot of effects are due to existing associations of foods with pleasure and reward or diet and deprivation.
It is difficult for people to change their actual body shape & appearance. People may lose weight in the short-term, but will be vulnerable to a range of consequences when their weight is below the healthy point for them - increased preoccupation with food, binge eating & reduced metabolism are just some examples. There are also aspects of appearance that are almost impossible to change. Frame size & height are genetically determined & (outside of surgery) unable to be altered. All of this can be very frustrating for people who dislike their appearance. Fortunately, although actual appearance is hard to alter, body image can be changed. If you think back to the definition above, it is how an individual feels about their
body that is important. Perhaps you can think of two friends who have similar overall appearances, yet one is satisfied with how they look & one is not. The difference is not in their bodies - it is in how they view them & how much importance they place on their appearance & weight.
What is it?
Food and Mood
Food choices affect our mental health. This is sometimes called the "food-mood connection." We don't know all the answers yet but we do know that:
- Brain chemicals affect the way we think, feel & act
- Food and brain chemicals work together to give us energy throughout the day
- Eating healthy foods is good for our mental health
- A healthy diet may help you feel better emotionally and physically
This month we deal with a thing called body image? Body Image is usually defined as a person's beliefs, thoughts, perceptions,feelings & actions about their body & appearance. Some things that body image might include or be related to are:
- Body satisfaction or dissatisfaction
- Weight and shape concerns
- Body distortion
- Preferred body shape / size
- The importance placed on one's weight & shape
People with eating disorders often have very negative views of their bodies & physical appearance. This can have a significant impact on their quality of life. It can also serve to keep their eating disorder going.
What to do about it?
Here are some things you can do to help regulate your mood
- Eat breakfast every day and avoid skipping meals Eating regularly fuels your body and brain, and may help keep your mood stable.
- Get started with Canada's Food Guide. Choose a variety of food from all four food groups daily such as:
- Fruits and vegetables; dark green and orange vegetables, berries, citrus fruits and melons.
- Grain products; whole wheat bread, brown rice, or brown pasta.
- Milk and/or alternatives or fortified beverages that have calcium and vitamin D.
- Meat and/or alternatives; such as poultry, fish, legumes, tofu, eggs, nuts, and seeds.
Tackling negative body image takes time, but there are things you do right now to start to making a difference:
- Drink water. Dehydration affects your energy levels and mood.
- Limit processed foods, fast food, high sugar drinks, and snack foods high in fat, sugar and salt.
- Limit caffeine from coffee, tea, pop and energy drinks. These drinks can make you feel anxious, nervous or depressed and can impact your sleep.
- Limit alcohol. It can cause low mood, irritability and aggressive behaviour.
- Food can also be a great way to connect with others. Make time to eat or a cook healthy meal with family or friends.
- Consider the factors that have influenced your body image. How did your body perceptions & thoughts develop? Have they changed over time? What would help you to start creating a positive image now?
- Consider what you do like about your body. Try scrutinizing yourself for things you like rather than for flaws. You may also like to consider the things your body does (walk, swim, dance…) that you enjoy or are grateful for.
- Identify activities that help you feel good in your body. Things like spending time with friends,watching waves at the beach, playing a musical instrument, engaging in relaxationor yoga, having a bath/shower, walking the dog, watching a comedy…
- Stop body comparisons! Do you compare your body to others? Most people report feeling worse about themselves after doing this. Have a go at stopping altogether, or at least cutting down.
- Stop body checking! Do you check your body frequently or search for physical flaws? What impact does this have on how you view & feel about your body? talks more about this
- Expand your areas of interest. One consequence of being very concerned about weight & appearance is that other interests or hobbies may be neglected. Try to think of some new things to try, or some old interests to return to. Are there skills you'd like to learn? Groups you'd like to join?
- Ask for help. If possible, let people know what you're trying to do. Comments about weight or shape are unlikely to be helpful for you right now.
- Evaluate your body-related thoughts as if you were a scientist or lawyer. When you say, "I look fat & ugly", do you have factual evidence to support this? Would others describe you the same way? Have you received any positive comments about your looks? Where is your Body Mass Index relative to the healthy weight range?
- Separate 'real' emotions from 'feeling fat'. If you often say (or think) "I feel fat", consider what you mean by this. Remember that "fat" is not an emotion! Often individuals with an eating disorder will say "I feel fat" when they experience emotions like anxiety, guilt, or loneliness. Label feelings using emotion words & shift the focus away from weight.
- Keep at it. You didn't develop a negative body image overnight & it won't disappear overnight either. Try not to give up too soon.
Resources/References for Body Image