How Your Food Affects Your Mood

Photo by Ella Olsson on

Good afternoon lovelies.

It’s a cold, wet horrible day here in the UK, and yet something that has really been on my mind (or rather, affecting it) the past few days is the fact that what we eat can really impact the way we feel. Don’t believe me?

Have you ever noticed how coffee makes you feel more awake or sugar makes you feel hyperactive? It’s not coincidence, darlings, it’s the science of our metabolism. Our body metabolises everything we eat.

Even, unfortunately, the bad things.

Your body is essentially one great big science lab, requiring all kinds of chemical formulae and inputs from us to keep it running smoothly. If it doesn’t get the nutrients it needs, things start to go wrong. We can develop physical illnesses like aches and pains, weight loss or gain and brittle bones. But it’s not only our body that can be impacted, our thoughts can be, too.

For our body, the more processed our food is, the longer it takes down. In order for our body (an organic process) to be able to break down food easily, we need to eat organically. The more chemicals and yucky bits that are added at production and now involved in the digestion process, the more our body needs to break down, the more toxins get left lying around and the worse we are going to feel. If the gut-brain connection really exists (and why else would it be called ‘gut instinct’?) then there is every reason that a bad diet would affect the way we think and feel. Eliminate the bad guys from your diet, and you should perk up within a day or two.

Last year, I went on vacation. While I was there, I developed the worst lower-right abdominal pain that I’d had in a while. It felt burning and gnawing and I feared the worst.

“Not now, not on holiday” I thought. I tried to function and enjoy myself, but the pain was unbearable. I could last a family holiday without needing to be admitted for a ruptured appendix, surely?

Some Senokot, a few glasses of water and a bathroom break later, I was perfectly fine again. Shaken and ashamed of what just happened, but nonetheless pain-free.

The cause? Pizza, garlic bread, spicy chicken wings, topped off with a Cornish pasty. Crucially, a whole tonne of carbs and nothing of what is supposed to be good for me.

Over the past few days, my diet has been awful. I got through a Coconut Toblerone and it’s given me all kinds of hell with acid. After I had a pizza on Tuesday, I spent all of yesterday with anxiety and brain fog which begs to the question: Is it really worth it?

Damn you Pizza GoGo for making your wings taste so good.

Living with anxety and depression doesn’t mean we need to cut out what we like to eat and drink, it just means we need to be aware of the affects that these treats have on us. Pay attention to what gives you an upset or noisy stomach, and your body and mind may thank you.

Some of the most common culprits include:

  • Refined sugar
  • Processed foods (canned, frozen, fast food)
  • White flour (bread, pasta)
  • Dairy
  • Sweeteners
  • Caffeine

I’m not saying don’t have treats, but please, please be aware of what treats are so much of a treat for you, really. If something you eat causes you to feel anxious, confused or miserable, is it so much of a ‘treat’ at all?

Remember the saying “you are what you eat”, if you want to feel great, you need to eat great:

  • Eat plenty of lean, unprocessed white meat (skin removed is ideal)
  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits & vegetables
  • Try giving up dairy and see if that helps, too
  • Have sweet treats in moderation
  • Opt for water or no added sugar fruit juices instead of tea or coffee
  • Cook fresh, rather than buying frozen or ordering in

Above all else, remember that exercise is also important for metabolism so be sure to keep moving for at least 30 minutes everyday!

As for me, I’m now heeding my own advice and snacking on satsumas and cranberries. It’s a far cry from nutty chocolate but hey, at least it’s festive!

What foods do you find make your mental health particularly bad? Let me know in the comments!

Helen xx

Why I’m Getting Rid Of My Bathroom Scales (Plus, My Anorexia Story)

I want you to take a good look at the above image, and tell me,

In which photo do I look happier, 2004 or 2008?

Now look again,

You see? What you see in 2008 is a young woman who is gripped by anorexia. I was gripped with the fear of being unloveable and unhealthy, so I worked out what weight I had to be to be the ‘ideal’ BMI of 25, and then I went at it, and I’d do whatever it took to stay that way.

  • I was eating 6 apples a day, and loving the grueling, queasy acidic stomach feeling because I knew that meant the fat was melting away.
  • I’d eat half of every meal and avoid fried foods, cheese or too much sugar. I was convinced that if I ate any ‘bad’ foods, I’d have a heart attack almost right away.
  • If I put something ‘bad’ in my mouth, like chocolate, I’d taste it then spit it out.
  • I’d weigh myself, almost religiously, at least 3 times per week. If I’d gained even a pound, I’d refuse to eat to balance things out.
  • Similarly, if I ate something bad, I’d eat something ‘good’ (like a carrot, or another apple or two) to balance the ‘bad’ out.
  • I’d consume ONLY a portion worth the calories I wanted to consume. If a yogurt drink was 120 calories per 100ml and the bottle was 250ml, I’d drink what I thought was about 100ml and throw the rest away so I could have calories from something else.
  • I had panic attacks after every meal because I feared the food I’d eaten was too much for me to stay ‘healthy’.
  • I was tremendously picky about food on dates, and if anything came with chips or cheese, I wouldn’t eat it.
  • If I ate something unhealthy, I’d go for excessively long walks that burned off the required amount of calories to be ‘healthy’.

I was obsessed with staying the ‘ideal’ weight.

To my mother, I was gorgeous and pretty. To my then boyfriend (now, luckily, husband) I was a pain in the ass.

But this is what weight loss and dieting can do to you if you’re not careful, and this is why I’ve refused to have a relationship with my bathroom scales ever since.

Don’t get me wrong, in recent days I know that I have gone a bit too far the other way. I am definitely a larger woman now (I blame my husband for introducing me to some wonderfully unhealthy things!) and I definitely do know that I need to lose some weight. But you know what? I’m doing it for me. And I’m enjoying the journey along the way.

This whole new thought process started about 3 weeks ago when I thought about joining a WeightWatchers regime class. I couldn’t be the only one who thought the very idea of weighing yourself publicly seemed bizarre? It turns out, I was far from alone (NB. Bit of an old post).

So that was me decided, no WeightWatchers, or Slimming World, or any of those other programmes for me.

To be honest, any time I’ve looked at any of those recipes, they just.. well… don’t look particularly tasty to me. I’m not a fan of sweet potato, or courgette, or aubergine. It’s carrots and peas for me.

Come to think, I’m not sure who would do more tricks for raw carrot, me or the dog. Alas, I digress.

Lately. I’ve been a very, very bad girl. A bit better than I used to be, but still a bad girl.

I was in bad habits, and I used to eat 4 chocolate chip digestives with a cup of tea as ‘breakfast’ because it was about all I had ‘time’ to eat. So, so, incredibly not healthy.

Aware that I needed to change, I had a discussion last week with Matt, about my past. I pointed out that I refused to go back ‘there’, back to my old way of being. To me, a size 16 would be perfect, curvaceous and shapely.

“If you get to a size 16, I’ll be very, very happy.”

His tone was clear – if I got to a size 16, he’d have a tough ol’ time resisting me.


So this morning, I changed the routine. I had 30g of Tesco’s dark chocolate crisp granola, topped off with 1% milk, and then I took the dog for a brisk walk afterwards.

I get it, my choice cereal contains dark chocolate, but why should I deny myself of the most important thing in life? Pleasure, and happiness?

Our walk started off quite briskly, but after about 20 minutes, we slowed down to enjoy the scenery. Sure, my back hurt, but this was more about something else. As I lifted my chin and felt the winter sun light my hair through the winter trees, this was about more than just exercising, this was about living.

It was about the simple, small little things.

We can exercise to stay alive, or we can exercise to live.

With the sun in my auburn hair, I smiled and I felt the most beautiful I have felt in quite some time. Neither from being fat, nor from being thin, but just by being me. Simply and presently me. If I hadn’t have gone, I wouldn’t have had some gentle exercise, nor experienced this moment of being. Isn’t that what living should be?

Aware of my desire to change, I stared at the bathroom scales last night. What were they to me? A tool of my health? Or a way to control my very being? Unsure if I was just being lazy, I reseafched my way of thinking. Once again, there were others who thought like me

I decided that I’m not going to give away my bathroom scales, and nor am I going to bin them. Instead, they are going out for recycling. You see, by giving my scales to some other poor soul, I inflict the pain and suffering of being controlled by the digits on them. Nobody, ever, should have to go through the mental pain, anguish and control of anorexia.

Health is not a number on a scale nor the digit at the front of the rack. Health is measured by how much you do and how you choose to live. Anyone is beautiful without single figure clothes sizes or extensive beauty regimes. When you get know the person inside, you realise that true beauty is far more than skin deep.

If you want to be healthy, remember:

  • Eat 5 pieces of fruit and vegetables per day.
  • Limit (but don’t cut out, unless you want to) sugar and alcohol.
  • Limit processed foods and try to cook fresh
  • Remember portion control
  • Eat no later than 4 hours before bedtime
  • Get 8 hours of sleep each night
  • Stay active (even if it is just a casual walk with the dog!)
  • Try and quit smoking

Laugh and smile often, because even if the scales didn’t move downwards today, you are beautiful anyway!

Keep smiling, folks!,

Helen xx