Nutrition and mental health
Updated: May 15, 2020
The obesity and mental health epidemic is real. There are more obese people now than ever before. It is said that by 2030, 1 in 4 people globally will be clinically obese.
There are many reasons as to why the rate of obesity and increased mental health problems are growing so fast such as marketing, the availability of junk foods, technology and the lack of exercise etc, however in this blog I want to talk mainly about modern day foods, lack of exercise and the effects they have on mental health.
I, like so many people these days used to live off a diet of sweets, fizzy drinks and junk food. At the lowest point in my life my standard daily diet would consist of a cappuccino and chocolate croissant from Pret for breakfast, a chicken & bacon baguette with a bottle of coke and crisps for lunch and maybe a pizza or some kind of frozen microwave meal for dinner. I didn’t realise at the time but eating all of this junk was not only effecting me physically. but also mentally. I was suffering with depression, insomnia, heart palpitations and severe anxiety.
At this time I had really hit rock bottom, so I decided to talk to the one person who always listened and supported me when I needed it the most, my mum. She said, "Stevie you have to start moving more and making better food choices". she told me to simply start walking to work and back instead of taking the bus, start cooking my meals instead of eating only processed junk and packaged foods.
This seems like such a simple change however, I had gotten into such a rut and developed such a bad habit when it came to my nutrition and lack of exercise, that these simple changes didn’t even occur to me.
Within two or three days I already started feeling better. I realised that all the junk I was eating, ingesting high amounts of sugar, fat and chemicals and lack of movement was what was causing these insidious problems I was having.
I believe this is the issue with so many people today who are maybe feeling depressed, stressed, anxious or low in energy. They need to not only focus on moving more but also on their nutrition and making better food choices.
When you walk through a supermarket these days it’s clear to see why we have this epidemic with obesity and poor mental health. Most shelves are packed full of tinned processed foods, packaged foods or foods you may think are healthy but are laced with hidden sugars, fats or preservatives. This became so apparent when I started paying attention to what I was eating and when I started studying nutrition. On our weekly shopping trip I would walk through the supermarket and look at the nutritional information on the packages of many of the foods we would usually buy. It shocked me to learn that most common foods had massive amounts of added sugar, preservatives or were way higher in calories than what I had originally thought.
The lack of movement in modern day society and poor nutrition is causing this epidemic which is not slowing down. I encourage all of my clients when they first start with me, regardless of their goals to really pay attention to their nutrition. As important as exercise and movement is for achieving goals, nutrition is absolutely the most important factor. You can do everything right when it comes to training but if your nutrition is off then you simply won’t see results.
For me there is no better way to teach someone about nutrition than to have them track their calories for a short period of time. This will help a person understand the calories and macro nutrients in foods, which will mean making better choices once the person starts eating intuitively again far easier. I also encourage my clients to aim for an 80/20 split. This means 80% whole foods (unprocessed) and 20% foods of their choice, which includes treats.
This approach to nutrition will really help them understand about calories in foods which is essential and will also insure adherence and consistency over time, which again, is something you must do to achieve your goals and learn how to make better choices for the rest of your life. I also encourage people to start paying more attention to the nutritional value of foods they eat as making better choices can really have a huge impact on feeling your best physically and mentally.
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