Change Your World

Being The Best Me I Can Be

The Most Over Looked Aspect Of Good Mental Health

44 Comments

I’ve been working on myself emotionally and mentally for the past several months trying to get  back to a healthier and happier me.  My doctors, therapists and I have been trying to to balance medications and I’ve been  learning new ways of thinking.  I have done (or at least tried) everything that has been suggested to me.  During this time, I have noticed one thing that has not been emphasized during my treatment and it’s the one thing that I think makes just as big a difference (if not more of a difference) than all the medications and therapy: nutrition and exercise.  It has been casually mentioned once or twice but there have been no serious discussions about how they play into good mental (and obviously physical) health.  I wonder why that is, don’t you? I personally believe that what we eat today,  our lack of exercise and our lack of real nutritional education is a huge contributing factor to all kinds of health problems, including mental health.  Many people don’t eat anything that doesn’t come out of a box, bag or can and that is just not healthy.  This type of “food” is loaded with excess sugars, fats, preservatives and, in some cases, other chemicals which are completely unusable to our bodies and are possibly harmful. Fresh foods are where all of the nutrition is and a lot of people simply aren’t getting those.   I understand that it is generally more expensive to eat this way but I think it is a good trade for better health.

buy fresh

I’ve really got to wonder why diet and exercise are not stressed more, for mental illness. Remember when we were kids, and ate too much sugar? Am I the only one who was told, as a child that I couldn’t eat that certain thing, or at that time of day, because it would make me grumpy? Why is it that we become less aware of this as we get older? I suppose that, as we get older, our emotional control increases, and it becomes less obvious that what we ate might be aggravating us, or depressing us! So, that’s what I am saying. I take medications twice a day, very small pills, with strong concentrations of chemicals, for my mental balance. But how effective can they really be, if the food that I’m taking in (which is a lot more massive) is throwing off my moods, or the energy level that I need to stay “awake” and aware of my thoughts and feelings, so that I can control them?

I just recently got back into eating better and getting more exercise and I am starting to feel the effects of this change.  I feel more energetic,  a little bit stronger and I have  more stamina.  I really missed this feeling!  I was in great shape when I first came back to California, three years ago.  I was exercising 6 times a week and eating pretty healthy.  I wasn’t at my goal weight but I was within 10 pounds of it and  I was pretty comfortable with that. But then my untreated bipolar disorder reared it’s ugly head and I lost interest in taking care of myself.  Slowly, I started incorporating more and more “junk” food into my diet.  Instead of cooking fresh meals, I was eating a lot of packaged foods and foods that had very little, if any, nutritional value.  It definitely affected my moods too.  I felt upset with myself for eating like this but wouldn’t actually do anything about that.  I felt guilty because of my poor food and exercise choices.  This fed my depression and anxiety. Not to mention all the extra fat, sugar and nasty chemicals. They were biochemically changing my body because of nutrient depletion and chemical substitutions (Sorry! My inner molecular biologist is leaking out).  I would intermittently try to go back to working out or eating right but I never did both together and I never could manage either for very long.  I finally just got to a point last week where I decided I had to do something about this because I had not only gained weight because I had quit watching what I was eating but my medications were also starting to have an effect on my weight.

junk food

I’ve decided to start a 60 day challenge to see how much weight I can lose. I’ve gained a total of 20 pounds since I started going downhill from my bipolarity (8 of those in the last two months because of all my new medications) and that is a lot on my five foot two frame . I have gone back to Weight Watchers because that was where I’ve had the most success in the past.  I highly recommend Weight Watchers or SparkPeople for weight loss plans.  I love them both! They help to teach you to what to eat and how much you should be eating (which is just as important).  I think these programs are so much better than programs that sell you prepackaged foods or pills that are supposed to help you lose weight.  Those types of programs don’t teach you how to feed yourself, so, once you stop, you have very little idea of what or how much you should be eating. Diet pills are even worse because they don’t teach you anything and they are supposed to be some sort of magic cure to being overweight.  I hate to break it to you, but there is no such thing as a magic cure to weight loss.  It takes work and effort to lose weight.

60 day challenge

Once you decide to change your relationship with food and exercise (because ultimately that is what it is),  I highly recommend taking it slowly.  Try to change only one thing at a time.  If you start with nutrition,  stick with nutrition and try not to change everything you eat all at once.  Slowly replace unhealthy foods with healthier options and try to eat only one serving size.   If you decide to start with exercise, start off with something relatively easy so that your body can get used to being more active.  As that becomes easier try other things or add to what you are already doing. I think trying to do nutrition and exercise at one time is too much to do all at once, if it is something that is new to you,  and it will more likely lead to failure.  For me, at least, trying to do both at once was very hard. Because I was exercising I was more hungry and that made it very hard to eat less.  Because I was eating less I didn’t have as much energy to spare for working out so it made it harder for me to get through my exercise routine.   Once you get comfortable with whatever you have decided to change first, you can add the other piece of the puzzle and then you are on your way to not just better health in general but better mental health.  Who doesn’t want that?

exercise

I’d like to restate just how important it is to make your changes in manageable increments! Because if you make more than one big change, all at once, then you’ll falter, stutter, and stop. Then your change of diet or exercise will only be an exception. And your “rule”, your main ingredient, will remain unhealthy. One trick to make sustainable changes is to ADD things to your diet or routine. People keep thinking that diets are all about limiting and subtracting things. If you add more water and more veggies to your diet, you’ll naturally let other things drop away that are less healthy for you, because you have less room in your stomach.

So, what’s the “secret ingredient”? It’s the MAIN INGREDIENT!

What you eat, or do, or say all the time, is what will shape you. So what’s your fuel?

 

For more inspiration on getting moving, check out the post about sitting being the new smoking at Aha Now. 

Author: mschristopher13

I am the author of the Change Your World Practice at http://changeyourworldpractice.org/. I am also a wife, mother and sister (I'm one of six children). My strongest desire is to help others live their best lives and I am hoping that by writing about the practices that help me be my best self that I can help others do the same.

44 thoughts on “The Most Over Looked Aspect Of Good Mental Health

  1. Right on. I am with you in getting and staying balanced.

  2. Yes, you are so right. Take it off slow as you put it on. Find good healthy alternatives. I love sweet watermelon for my desserts> Thank you for this informative post

  3. I am lucky that my kids love fruit. it is a big part of our snacks.

  4. I have been eating healthy since January and have lost almost 50 pounds. I do feel so much better physically and mentally.

  5. I agree, when i am really stressed i hit the gym as hard as i can, and when i come out i feel so much better.. same thing with food, if i eat like garbage, i feel really bad..

  6. Eating right is so, so important in so many ways, as you’ve said. I’ve been switching out sweets for fruit lately!

  7. Peanuts Are My Secret Very Good For You!1

  8. I agree! What we eat affects us so much and eating healthy, whole food can only be good.

  9. Good luck on your weight loss challenge. You’re on the right track.

  10. I believe what we eat is a big factor in our mental health. Thanks for sharing and great info.

  11. Eating right is indded the key to and a balanced mental health.

  12. I need to get motivated to lose wight myself, my body has never been the same after having 5 kids. I love sweets that doesn’t help either.

    • I love the sweet stuff too. That is the hardest part of my weight loss. I instituted cheat days so that I don’t feel like I am being deprived of the things that I love to eat. That way if I see something I want, I can have it. I just have to wait for my next cheat day.

  13. Exercise and diet is the key to many things. If we all took that to heart and lived it most of us would notice dramatic life changes, I believe. So would the health care industry. I like how you said, “our relationship with food.” That what has to change.

  14. You’ve hit the nail right on the head! I wish nutrition and exercise were discussed more by mental health professionals. I started doing yoga 5 times a week about a month ago, and I have never felt better! I’ve also changed the way I’ve been eating and I’ve noticed a huge difference in my mood, I’ve felt way more positive- especially in the mornings. Thanks for helping to get the word out!

    • I definitely believe it is not talked about enough (if at all) when it comes to treating and managing mental health. If we promoted a healthier lifestyle and incorporated healthier habits into treatment for mental illness, maybe we wouldn’t have people who have to be maintained on a handful of pills everyday.

  15. Ive been going through something similar on a smaller scale. One thing that helped for me was changing my environment. I made small changes at home, some paint, built a few pieces of furniture, and between then pride of accomplishment and just the visual change it has helped greatly.

  16. I have thyroid from last 14 years, I wish I was a good kid and had ate good healthy food. Now, when I know the importance of healthy food….. its too late

    • It is never too late. Start small. Incorporate fruits and vegetables anywhere you can. Eliminate one unhealthy choice. Each step makes a big difference. I used to eat nothing but junk. Now, by incorporating changes one at a time, it is easier for me to make healthy choices. My weight is hard to manage because of my thyroid too but doing this has helped to keep it from ballooning to far out of my control.

  17. I think the benefit of being far from malls and supermarkets is our access of fresh fruits and vegetables, we can have them cheaper and also more organically grown and non commercials but I still crave for some fancy chocolates and treats, I love your post very true and realistc

  18. I’m not into pre-packaged food diet plans either. I can’t stick with that. I also don’t like eliminating whole food groups. Weight Watchers has one of the most realistic plans out there which is why it works so well. Good luck!

  19. We are huge on making our own smoothies at home. Its a great way to get kids into fruits and you can hide veggies in them! I am working on my own weight loss as well so I am right there with you. Thankfully, I love fruits and veggies, My problem is french fries and wings! haha

  20. People don’t realize but what you put in your mouth directly effects not only your health but also your well being; emotions, thoughts, etc. I noticed that when I eat wheat, I get immediately depressed afterword where I’m normally a very positive, happy person.

  21. I agree. I love fresh food. Weight Watchers is a fave of mine

  22. I can always tell the difference, like today for example, when I’ve let my good eating slide. I start feeling blah…thankfully it doesn’t take but a day to make those feelings go away with lots of water and fruit.

  23. For weight maintenance, I do intermittent fasting and consistent detoxing. For my mental health, I blog and do as much perspective shifting as I can handle. My faith in God is not hurting either. =) Blessings~ You can do it!

  24. Nutrition and exercise are vital for everyone, it can really make a big difference in your life.

  25. I like to think if I just got a normal amount of sleep at night.. like normal people do, I would be a happier me, but because I’m so busy during the kids with the kids & housework, the only quiet time is at night, when I get to sit down and work on blog stuff or client stuff or whatnot..

  26. I have a 5k run coming up in July but I was told I can walk it. I do not have any experience so will be sure to follow your tips!

  27. You’re right about eating right and exercise! They play a big part in your metal health

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