Depression is a condition that takes time to overcome and will often fluctuate in severity.
The idea that mental health is the only thing that influences depression is a common misconception. It is true that both physical and mental factors can lessen or worsen your depression.
If you’ve had a complex relationship with food, you’re not alone. Once you take a step back and consider your dietary habits, you may find that your diet has been influencing your depression.
Fortunately, even if food negatively impacts your mental health, there are quick and easy ways to improve your habits.
Consider How Your Day Begins
Take a moment and think about your morning routine. It likely involves grooming, getting dressed, having coffee, and eating breakfast.
The first meal of the day is such an important way to get your body charged for the day ahead. Meals rich in protein and healthy fats (eggs and avocado, for example) will make you feel fuller and more focused than meals that are loaded with empty calories and sugar (i.e. donuts, muffins, pancakes).
More likely than anything, however, you may be foregoing this important meal altogether. Don’t do this to yourself!
Without giving yourself a good base to start the day, you are prone to feeling sluggish for the rest of it. Also, once you do get hungry, you are more likely to crave sugar and choose a snack that won’t make you feel any better. All of it can worsen symptoms of depression.
Be Mindful of Snacks
Speaking of snacks, they are wonderful little pick-me-ups throughout the day that can help keep us sharp and focused. However, it can be easy to fall into habits of eating unhealthy snacks.
When selecting snacks, we usually look for something quick, easy, and tasty. This often leads us to choose snacks such as potato chips, granola bars, or even candy bars. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying these snacks now and then; however, you may find that fresh foods will leave you feeling more focused.
Typically, snacks with lots of sugar and processed fats can leave us feeling sluggish after we eat them. Taking the time to prepare carrot sticks, a small salad, or even just grabbing a banana are quick and simple options that will give you that boost. It’ll get you through the afternoon slump and keep your mood level up as well.
Choose a Dinner to Get You Through the End of the Day
By the end of the day, it may seem easy to get fast food or heat up a microwaveable meal. Again, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this convenience sometimes, but you may feel yourself feeling unsatisfied.
Worse yet, completely skipping meals throughout the day will leave you feeling famished by the end of it. And when that’s the case, you are more likely to consume something quick and easy—which often isn’t necessarily healthy.
“Healthy” food is subjective. However, fresh foods and produce are almost always a good way to go. Easy meats such as chicken and salmon will provide you with the nutrition to feel full but without feeling sluggish or bloated. With a well-rounded dinner, you will find yourself feeling energized and happy through the end of the day.
The Ultimate Relationship Between Food and Depression
Changing your diet isn’t going to resolve your depression. Instead, diet is just one of the many factors that can affect your mental health.
The easy fixes highlighted in this article are a great place to start if you want to improve your diet. You may find yourself more energized, focused, and happy throughout the day. Plus, you’ll feel less hungry—and thus, less irritable—if you feed your body consistently with well-rounded meals.
How you choose to plan your meals is completely up to you, as is what you choose to eat. An improved diet won’t cure depression, but it will help you to feel as good as you possibly can.
Take the first step…
Battling depression can be challenging to manage on your own. Would you like more tips on how to improve your mood and naturally tackle your depression? If so, I’d like to help. Please contact me via voicemail or email so that we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT