Since coming home from hospital, I have noticed the amount of ‘anorexic porn’ that surrounds us in this society. The magazines that say someone is too thin one week and too fat the next and the different fad diet featured in every single issue. On top of this are the fat shaming TV programmes, the programmes that will tell the nation that bread is bad, cereal has too much sugar and chocolate should NEVER be eaten. It is not sustainable to completely ban a food, by telling people they can never have chocolate, all that does is create unnecessary and cruel guilt every time that person ‘fails’ as the media put it. These programmes are incorrect, they say the opposite of what my dietician says but the scary thing is a huge number of people believe all the ‘anorexic porn’ that floats around, even people without eating disorders.
In a way, I’m lucky that I am able to access the right information about food from a highly trained and experienced dietician. I’m not lucky that I’m ill, but I think what I am learning through treatment is something many people would benefit from.
Mood and Food
Firstly, I am going to look at food and mood. The first thing I need to say about food and mood is that if you want a chocolate bar, go and eat a chocolate bar because it is healthy to allow yourself treats in a balanced way and sitting there thinking about chocolate for the rest of your life without actually eating it isn’t going to make you feel too happy.
Now for the scientific stuff:
Serotonin is a chemical that is released in the brain. Serotonin is important because it makes people feel happy and controls mood. Low serotonin levels can cause depression, headaches, sleeping problems and memory problems. Serotonin is made out of protein and in order for our body to make it, we need to eat protein (meat, fish, eggs, meat alternatives, nuts) but not only does our body need protein, it also needs insulin (from starchy food) as well as zinc and vitamin C in order for the protein to be taken up into the brain. If you want your mood to remain stable and positive then it will help you to eat regular, balanced meals especially regular starchy foods throughout the day.
Different Foods Have Different Uses
Carbohydrates (starchy food) are important for energy and good mood and are often a good source of fibre.
Fruit and vegetables are full of important vitamins and minerals and again are a good source of fibre.
Protein is important for good mood and strong muscles but also for good hair, skin and nails.
Fat is important if you want good skin, hair and nails. It might get a lot of hate in the media and we may feel that ‘fat free’ is the best thing to read on a nutritional label but that is nonsense. Fat is as important as protein or carbohydrates. Fat gives our bodies energy and is essential for cell functions as well as allowing our nerves and brain to function.
What is Healthy Eating?
- Enjoying your food! My dietician once said to me, “If it tastes good then it’s healthy”. I also think it is important to point out that chocolate does not cause weight gain, neither does pizza. 3500 calories is a pound, if your intake is below that and included a chocolate bar then it doesn’t matter. Food is there to be enjoyed and eaten in moderation.
- Eat a variety of foods. Whilst you could eat 2000 calories worth of chocolate and it would have no affect on your weight if you ate nothing else that day, it probably wouldn’t be too good for you nutritionally but neither is 2000 calories of fruit and vegetables. Variety is key.
- Eat the right amount to be a healthy weight.
- Eat plenty of foods rich in starch and fibre. Bread is often slated in the media but actually it’s pretty good for you, especially wholemeal-starch and fibre in one!
- Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables.
- Don’t eat too many fatty foods, but you need to have some!
- Don’t have too many sweet foods and drinks, but you need to have some!
- Eat a balanced diet. A balanced meal should include starch, protein and fruit/veg/salad.