The holiday season is in full swing, and many of even the strictest dieters have thrown caution to the wind. We’ll pull ourselves together and begin eating responsibly again after January 1, but until then there’s no harm in eating whatever we want… right?
Unfortunately, this may not be the case. Studies have shown that the food we consume has a direct affect on our mood and overall disposition. This poses an especially big problem for people who consistently consume high amounts of sugar and fat, but it can also affect people who give themselves a few weeks to “cheat” during the holidays.
Since sugar is quickly converted to energy in the body, it is ideal for a quick, sometimes explosive burst of energy. If that energy is not released by physical activity or channeled into creative behavior, it can become bottled up. On a physical level, this can lead to weight gain. On a mental level, it can lead to increased stress levels. This increased stress level can become a self-perpetuating cycle, since stressed people feel the need for a burst of energy to combat the stress, and therefore may be more inclined to reach for sugary snacks.
Researchers have recently confirmed that the quality of the food you eat can directly impact your happiness level. A study by PLOS One examined 3,663 people and found that people who eat high sugar, high fat diets are more likely to exhibit depressed behaviors and symptoms, whereas people who ate balanced, healthy diets were less likely to display these behaviors.
Believe it or not, sugar and fats trigger the same pleasure centers in the brain as addictive drugs. Eating diets that are high in sugar and fat can cause you to crave these substances on a regular basis. These cravings are hard to resist. Unfortunately, giving into these cravings and splurging on more snacks that are high in sugar and fat only serves to perpetuate the cycle and – as we have already discussed – can lead to depression. Food addictions can also lead to eating disorders like binge eating.
Eating Well To Boost Your Mood
Most people are well aware that a healthy diet is an important part of maintaining physical health, but many people are less familiar with the fact diet has a direct correlation on mental health. Nevertheless, eating well can have a powerful effect on improving your mental and emotional state. “Eating well” mainly means eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, grains, and meats, and avoiding foods that have been overly processed or are high in sugar, artificial coloring and flavors, and unhealthy fats.
As you celebrate Christmas and New Year’s with your family, take a moment to consider the food you eat. While enjoying one or two cookies may not be bad thing, allowing yourself to binge on large amounts of unhealthy food may make it harder to keep your spirits up. If you notice yourself feeling stressed or depressed, improving your diet may be an easy way to help turn things around. If you would like to talk to someone about your experiences, don’t be afraid to reach out. As an online mental health therapist, I am always available to help in any way I can!