You are what you eat

Your body is your super car for life

You are what you eat, this is a very powerful message.Your body is the vehicle that drives you through your life. Like a car your body needs the correct fuel to run efficiently. It needs fuel for energy, it needs fuel to function, for your organs to work well, for your cells to regenerate, for your hair and nails to grow and most importantly, to keep you healthy and able to fight disease. If you don’t put the right fuels into your vehicle, it will run badly or stop working altogether. Put simply: If you eat poorly, you will feel poorly.  Here are some facts that might help change your approach to eating:

  • 90 percent of your body’s serotonin (happy hormone and mood stabiliser) is made in the digestive tract.
  • There are 0 nutrients in sugar, it contains nothing but empty calories.
  • It is quite often processed foods that we reach for when our mood is low to make us feel better but these actually have the the opposite effect, making us feel worse.
  • To get all the nutrients that your brain and nervous system needs, you should eat a variety of foods instead of the same things each day.
  • Processed foods contain unhealthy levels of sugar, salt and fat which can increase symptoms of low mood and impair your ability to concentrate.
  • Being distracted while eating, (watching tv or a screen), can encourage you to eat more than you need.
  • Shopping when hungry will prompt you to make unhealthy choices.

Replacing bad habits with good ones

When you’re trying to work out your triggers, keeping a detailed food diary – of exactly what you eat and drink, when and with whom – will help make you consciously aware of what you are consuming, and also accountable.

You owe it to yourself, to be in control of how and what you eat, and writing your food diary (see below) is a big step towards that.

Keeping a food diary

Keeping a food diary has many benefits. Documenting what you are eating makes you consciously aware of what you are consuming, and also accountable. Many of us eat unconsciously and without consideration, and can pop a biscuit, a bit of chocolate or a snack in our mouth at work or in the kitchen at home without even noticing. Such habitual behaviour is a pattern we are swept up in, and it is only when we take conscious action that we can interrupt that habit and start to make changes.

Recording what you eat on a daily basis is not only a great motivator in helping you to avoid unhealthy food and make wiser choices it can also help in detecting foods that trigger anxiety, low mood and even illness. Understanding when you eat, how you eat and where you are, who you are with, what you are thinking, what you are feeling and what kind of day you have had when you eat will all help you to find where issues may exist, and therefore what may need to be addressed to better your diet.

Improving your diet

  • Eat at regular intervals throughout the day. This will keep your blood sugar levels even, very important as when these start to drop your body will step in and try and compensate. It will release the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline which will make your heart pump faster, your body sweat and your muscles tense resulting in a recipe for anxiety. Leaving long periods without food can also lead to binge-eating or cravings for unhealthy carbohydrates for a quick rush of energy. The importance of breakfast needs to be highlighted here as, after a night’s sleep, our body needs refuelling before it can efficiently face the day ahead.
  • Follow a realistic healthy-eating plan – do not diet. Diets do not work long term. They might be a great tool for short-term goals, such as an upcoming wedding or holiday, but they are rarely sustainable over a long period of time. The reason for this is that most diets do not incorporate the foods you most enjoy, nor do they address how much you eat, what you eat, when you eat, why you eat and why are you have the desire to eat when you are not hungry. Diet also means in one way or another restriction. When you tell yourself that you cannot have something you want, the consequence is quite often an obsession with that food.
  • Learn to eat without distraction and focus entirely on your food. If you eat while watching television or scrolling through social media you are eating unconsciously. This results in not actually acknowledging everything you have eaten and therefore not being aware when you are full.
  • Remember the 3 P’s – Preparation, Presentation & Palatability. Using all your senses around mealtimes will make the experience of eating more pleasurable and positive.  Listen to the food cooking, smell the ingredients, taste the different flavours, see the colours and contrasts on your plate and feel the fuels replenish your system.
  • Drink more water. Water makes up on average 60% of the human body and the numerous benefits of consuming it are often overlooked. It transports hormones and nutrients to their destinations, flushes bacteria from your system, aids digestion and prevents constipation, regulates body temperature, protects organs and cushions joints.
  • Make sure you have your 5 a day. Fruit and vegetables are low in fat and calories but a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals.  The five portions should be a variety of fruit and vegetables. This is because different fruits and vegetables contain different combinations of fibre, vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. They can be fresh, frozen, tinned, dried or even in juice form.
  • Eat as much food in its natural state as possible. Reduce foods that are highly sugared, salted, processed, refined carbohydrates or factory-made as these can lead to many different health issues.
  • Reduce dairy products. Dairy products can contain high amounts of saturated fats, sugar and salt, but also the residue of antibiotics and hormones consumed by cows. Replacing dairy with alternative kinds of milk such as soya, rice, coconut, almond, cashew or hazelnut can have a huge benefit on health.
  •  Reduce alcohol. While alcohol might relax you and make you feel good in the moment, it can actually cause more harm than good. Alcohol is a depressant and a diuretic. It also alters levels of serotonin in the brain, which can trigger anxiety. Drinking in moderation (no more than 1 glass for women/ 2 glasses for men per day) is acceptable but why not try some alternatives such as the many nonalcoholic options on the market these days?
  • Reduce caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine which can be found in products, such as tea, chocolate, certain headache medications and energy drinks can cause sleep problems and mood swings but it can also trigger The Fight or Flight response resulting in symptoms such as heart palpitations, nausea, headaches, diarrhoea…
  • Choose high fibre, starchy carbohydrates. Whole-Grain varieties, such as whole-wheat pasta, brown rice or potatoes with their skins on are the best choices but be aware of the fats you add when cooking or serving.

Download our Daily Mood/food Diary

By keeping a record of what you consume on a daily basis you can see if you are filling your body with the right fuels. You will also be able to easily work out which food or drink affects your mood, energy and general health. 

Trauma Research UK's Recovery Programme

Trauma Research UK’s recovery programme is designed to help you break the anxiety-inducing habits you might have been carrying around for years, and to help you create new ways of thinking that we are confident will transform your life for the better. We will share with you the techniques and tools needed to change things around so you can start to live the life you deserve. This programme has been designed to be simple, effective and most importantly life-changing. Find out more…