How you take care of yourself can determine how you live and feel.
Jerry came to my office because of the “pressure” from his wife. “If I don’t change my involvement with the family, my wife threatened to kick me out,” Jerry said with a tired look on his face. As I completed the mental health evaluation, Jerry mentioned he felt blah throughout the day and consequently didn’t have much energy to do things with the family. He described his home life as demanding, as he tried to “please” his wife and kids. He did not sleep well and struggled to get up in the morning. He complained about being tired through the day (unless he had his quota of coffee or soda pop), as if all his energy was sapped out of him. By the time he got home from work, he felt like going to bed, which only added to his wife’s list of complaints that he didn’t do anything with the family. When I asked about his eating habits, he said breakfast was usually coffee, lunch was often fast foods, and he snacked on soda pop or junk food throughout the day. He did have a “meat and potato” dinner with a snack before bed (ice cream or cookies and milk). After hearing about Jerry’s life, it was obvious his mind and body were exhausted, and he was suffering from depression. If you or someone you know is like Jerry and must get to the point of feeling terrible before seeking help here is some information that will help.
Your brain works like an electrical circuit box firing millions of impulses to activate your mind and body. As a high-functioning, living organism, your brain needs proper nutrients to fuel the circuits for proper firepower. Just reading the paper while munching on a donut and chugging a cup of coffee requires a great deal of brainpower. The food you put in your body has everything to do with how your body reacts. God created the brain to function at its best when fed by food that is alive with nutritional value, like vegetables, fruits, grains, or nuts. Many of the foods you eat may be processed, preserved, salted, sugared, and flavored, resulting in foods that are nutritionally dead.
With poor nourishment, your mind will think poorly, your senses will feel poorly, and your body will move poorly. It cannot be emphasized strongly enough how important the connection is between your physical body functioning and your emotional state of mind. Typically, people like Jerry who are emotionally stressed are more likely to have improper nutrition and unhealthy lifestyles that result in poor brain functioning. When you do not function well physically, you do not function well emotionally.
How you eat is vitally important to the way you feel and relate to others. The author and speaker Dr. Gary Smalley, devoted the book, Love and Food, to this subject. In his research, Dr. Smalley found there was a direct link between eating poorly and loving poorly, and a strong connection between healthy eating and healthy loving. People found their poor food choices led to indifference and withdrawal in their relationships. People who turned to processed foods for comfort often turn away from people they loved. These people are temporarily feeling better in emotion and energy from the unhealthy foods they consume, instead of feeling good from the people or circumstances they are with. The following can be considered some of the worst and best foods for emotional health.
Worst for emotional health from high consumption of:
White or refined sugar (soda pop, candy, sugar coated cereal, ice cream, etc.)
White or refined flour (pasta, white rice, white bread, cake, etc.)
Hydrogenated oils and animal fat (fried foods, chicken skins, vegetable oil, etc.)
Chemically laden foods (preservatives, packaged meats, etc.)
Best for emotional health and brain functioning from consumption of:
B vitamins, daily multiple vitamin, liquid minerals
Raw honey and sweeteners from raw fruit (fructose)
Whole-grain flour and whole grains (wholegrain breads, crackers, brown rice)
Cold pressed oils and healthy fats (olive oil, flax seed oil, fish oils)
Natural foods (raw fruits, vegetables, nuts)
Clearly, one of the biggest culprits that affects your mood is sugar. In the classic best seller, Sugar Blues, the author William Dufty points out that refined sugar is lethal when ingested by humans because it provides only what nutritionists describe as empty or naked calories. In addition, sugar is "worse than nothing” because it drains and leeches the body of precious vitamins and minerals through the demand its digestion, detoxification, and elimination make upon one's entire system.
While the sugar is being absorbed into the blood, you feel a quick pickup. This surge of energy is succeeded by a sudden drop in blood sugar a few hours later. At that point, you are tired and feel emotionally blah, requiring more effort to move or even think until the blood sugar level is brought up again. Your brain functions poorly and you can be irritable, jumpy, and feeling lethargic. Anyone battling the “blahs” needs to realize the importance nutrition plays for proper emotion and brain functioning. Your body can actually crave sugar to fill the void left by the last sugar low. When you are at that low point chemically, you are also at a low point physically and emotionally.
According to Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., author of Complementary Natural Prescriptions, the average American eats about twenty teaspoons of refined sugar every day, which is twice the amount recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (ten teaspoons) and four times the maximum recommend by Dr. Dean (five teaspoons a day). No wonder the amount of sugar is so high when one soda pop provides from ten to twenty teaspoons of sugar. Since nutritional balance is crucial for your health, the ideal scenario would be to find a nutritionally oriented physician, dietician, or health professional that could help you suggest a balanced diet with vitamin and mineral supplements.
The rest of Jerry’s story
After I gave the aforementioned nutritional information to Jerry, I challenged him to change his eating and lifestyle habits. Since I figured it would be hard for Jerry to change something that he had done for so long, I challenged him to try it for one week. Like most people, if you really want something bad enough you will work hard enough to get it. Jerry admitted his incentive at first was to get his wife off his back, but little did he know what would happen. To help Jerry succeed, he took the one-week challenge with an evaluation after that week to see how he felt. I challenged Jerry to do the following:
No soda pop or other beverage with high sugar content.
(Soda pop dehydrates the body, can cause mood swings, sleep disturbance, and poor brain functioning.)
Drink water each day. (Water hydrates the body, improves brain functioning, attention, and concentration.)
Three meals a day with no “fast foods.”
(Balanced amounts of proteins and carbohydrates provide adequate fuel for the mind and body, keeps the blood sugar balanced, and can help stabilize moods.)
Eat no pasta or bread that contains white or refined flour.
(Bleached flour has little nutritional value, raises blood sugar, and can cause mood changes.)
Eat whole wheat or multigrain flour and bread. (Unbleached flour has more nutritional value and helps keep blood sugars balanced.)
Take a daily vitamin supplement with natural ingredients.
Exercise two to three times per week (walking, jogging, biking riding, swimming, et cetera. Exercise produces chemicals that elevate moods, improves daily energy level, and improves brain functioning.)
When Jerry came into my office one week later, he looked different and he said he felt totally different. There was more of a bounce in his step with an increased ability to be attentive in conversations with his wife. He slept better at night, concentrated better, and was less tired during the day. Jerry realized he had been playing Russian roulette with his life. He was his own worst enemy, slowly dying inside from lack of nutrition. Jerry was not out of the woods yet. It was still hard for him to give up the things that tasted so good or were so convenient, but the small changes did prove to him that he could feel better and relate better. The best part of it all was that he could start feeling more in control of his life, especially how he felt physically and emotionally. He admitted it felt good to think better, feel better, have more energy, and interact better with his family.
Adequate nutrition is essential for proper functioning of your mental, emotional, and physical health. More specifically, sufficient nutrition is a prerequisite to sustain an emotional connection in any relationship. If you physically feel weak and lethargic, you will not care how you or your partner feels. The amount of energy you put into a relationship will only be as good as the emotional and physical energy you have to give. Changing your eating habits and lifestyle may be among the hardest changes you need to make. However, whether you want to feel better and want a better relationship is entirely up to you. No one can force you to change. However, your life will not be right until you do make a change. These changes are obtainable, and best of all, you have control over the effort you put into it and the results you get out of it. For further questions or guidance about changing your diet I recommend you contact a nutritionist, dietitian, or family doctor.
Seek professional counseling with a counselor that has experience dealing with the connection of health and emotions. Get a copy of my book, When Your Mate Has Emotionally Checked Out for more details of what to do. You can go to my web site for more resources and my email to contact me or receive counseling if you are able to come to our clinic at Masterpeace Counseling in Tecumseh, Michigan.
Excerpt from the book:
When Your Mate Has Emotionally Checked Out, Craig A. Miller 2006©