Eating to reduce stress

When it comes to our food choices most of us think in terms of what the food means in relation to our physical appearance (Is this going to make me fat?)  Many think about the more serious impacts (high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, cancer?) While all of that is great, because the underlying concern is health, how many people realise that the food choices we make have a direct impact on our stress levels?

Think about it like this…

Firstly, if you have any thoughts in your mind that the food you eat is going to cause any of the above mentioned atrocities, then stress is already present – psychological stress.  No matter if the thought is raging in the front of your mind or just whispering from a deeper knowing place… there it is.

Secondly, whether or not the food DOES create any of the above mentioned, the very thoughts of the implications create a negative emotional response – so you also have some level of emotional stress!

Thirdly, there’s the physical stress!  This EXISTS regardless of any conscious thoughts you do (or do not) have when it comes to what you eat.

Here’s why…

No matter what you eat, your body has to break the food down, digest it, use elements of it in functional and regenerative processes and eliminate it.  There’s a lot going on under our skin that we rarely stop to think about.  In fact, we tend to take it for granted.

Every time we eat we are asking (expecting & demanding) our bodies to ‘know’ what to do with the food.  If we make healthy choices, we make it easy on our bodies.  It knows exactly how to assimilate food that is provided by nature, and therefore the physical stress we impose is minimal.  ‘Normal’. The body uses the energy required to digest and still has the energy required to tend to other functions of the body.

However, when we stray (decline) from foods that nature provides the digestive process becomes harder.  Our body is incredibly intelligent, so it figures out what to do with all the processed and chemically infused ‘food’ we feed it – but the physical stress it endures to do so, has been massively increased.  As has the energy required to digest and therefore there is less energy available for the other systems of the body.

The implications of this are many and varied.  Some of them we feel instantly after a meal – tiredness, bloating, stomach cramping.  Others take time to manifest – obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer.

There is so much more to talk about on this topic (and I will do so in coming blogs) but let’s start with the basics.  Let’s start by reducing some of our physical stress by cleaning up our diets with this 3 week Stress Busting Diet…

3 Week Stress-Busting Diet

For the next three weeks I challenge you to stick to whole foods as much as you possibly can.  It’s that SIMPLE!

This means fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean meats (all organic if you can swing it).

Be very aware of what you eat and how it makes you feel.  Keep a journal if it helps, recording what you eat, how you felt after eating it, how you felt later in the day and when you woke the next morning.  Notice your energy levels whether they are increased or decreased and see if you can notice a patterns relating to your food intake.  Are you beginning to feel less stressed and anxious?  Does your skin look clearer?  Has your digestion improved?  Have you shed a few pounds?  If you stray and eat processed or unhealthy foods, how did you feel?  Write down everything!!!   When you begin to see and feel the benefits you will be amazed by the power of your food choices.   You will find that the initial anguish and restraint that comes with making big changes is well worth while.

Here are some guidelines on what to eat and what not to eat over the coming 3 weeks. The most simple rules to follow are; trust your intuition and eat the food that nature provides.  If you follow those guys, you can’t go wrong.

INCREASE (or introduce)

  • Increase your intake of fruit, vegetables and whole grains
  • Increase intake of produce that is in season and organic
  • Increase intake of raw, steamed and lightly sautéed foods
  • Increase (or introduce) freshly made green-juices
  • If you would like to include meat – keep it lean and organic

ELIMINATE (or reduce)

  • Eliminate all refined sugars and processed foods
  • Eliminate refined starches
  • Reduce (or eliminate) your intake of animal products that are high in saturated fats
  • Eliminate fried foods
  • Eliminate artificial sweeteners
  • Eliminate (or reduce) intake of stimulants such as – alcohol, caffeine, nicotine and other drugs

These changes may seem hard at first, so it is important that you feel safe and supported.  You can contact me at any time for advice and support, as well as doing the following:

  • Surround yourself with people who will support and encourage you
  • Consult your GP for advice
  • Commit to the changes as best you can, if you slip up, DON’T GIVE UP!!! Keep on going – you will be proud of yourself when you make it through the 3 weeks.
  • Expect wonderful improvements in the way you feel – they will be all the encouragement you need to keep you going!

Originally published on Holistic Stress Management April 1, 2013

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