You hear it all the time: You are what you eat. But what if I like to eat NY Strip Steaks and mashed potatoes washed down with a tumbler of whiskey? Does that make me someone’s middle-aged uncle?
In all seriousness, I’ve had three sips of whiskey in my entire life, but if I could eat a NY Strip Steak and mashed potatoes every night for the rest of my life, I’d be a happy, happy girl. (And if you threw in grilled cheese for lunch and something else covered in cheese with a side o’ salty meat for breakfast, I’d
maybe totally let you get to second base.)
To say that I don’t have a natural hunger for healthy foods is a gross understatement. Don’t get me wrong: I thoroughly enjoy a salad (before a REAL MEAL) and absolutely love fruit (when I’m picking on it while drinking wine and eating cheese), but I’ll never understand those people who “crave a banana” or “have a hankering for Lima beans” (I’m quoting my husband). I literally have to force myself to eat fruits and vegetables, not because they don’t taste good but because they don’t taste as good as, say, the chicken or pasta smothered in something delicious sitting on the plate next to them. (Lima beans were a bad example of a vegetable that tastes good, but a great example of the inexplicable shit that comes out of my husband’s mouth!)
I’ve known for ages that I wasn’t eating as healthily as I could, but, as it often happens in life, things like convenience, apathy, and laziness won the battle. I can’t even remember the last time I ate fast food or drank a soda, but overall there is a lot of room for improvement in my diet. I do myself a favor by occasionally having steamed asparagus alongside my steak dinners and replacing snack foods with raw veggies, but truth be told: I don’t put enough thought into what I put in my mouth (yeah, yeah, that’s what she said).
I learned a few months ago that there’s a correlation between anxiety and blood sugar levels–something I knew in my heart to be true but never gave myself credit for because I’m not a scientist. It turns out that, according to “science,” the brain should be supplied with a steady source of glucose, and when blood sugar levels are low, panic signals are sent to the adrenal gland to produce more glucose as quickly as possible. It’s a crazy thing, that science! It all made sense: my anxiety and panic are at their absolute worst in the morning (when I normally would eat at most a 90-calorie breakfast bar), and I always mysteriously feel better after I eat lunch (my most substantial meal of the day, consumed 7 hours after I wake up in the morning). No wonder my poor body was sending panic signals! With science backing me up, I’ve made a point over the past few months to eat a substantial breakfast every day rather than fruitlessly gnawing on a Special K bar or skipping the meal altogether…which has made me feel better by leaps and bounds, but has caused me to (sigh) gain a few pounds. So, yeah. There’s that new intake of calories to consider–but they’re calories that have had a really significant and positive impact on my physical and mental wellness, and calories that I’m not willing to give up. In exchange, I decided a few weeks ago to say goodbye to carbs and focus instead on lean meats, fruits, and vegetables (I miss you, sandwiches! Do you even KNOW how much I love you?) in the hopes that I could shed a few pounds while still giving my body the balanced glucose it needs throughout the day.
It seemed like a really good idea–and I was doing surprisingly well without my beloved sandwiches–until yesterday, when I stumbled upon an interesting article on the links between food and anxiety. The fun never ends around here…
*clearing my throat*
I’ve been researching this like a madwoman for the past 24 hours, and, across the board, one of the top 5 foods a person with anxiety should be eating is COMPLEX CARBOHYDRATES. Ha! But of course! Granted I wasn’t eating the types of complex carbohydrates I should be eating, but still. It’s so perfect a representation of my life! Deprive yourself of the thing you love–which is also the thing you need–in order to feel better, and then feel worse. I’m pretty sure there’s a country song written about this very thing…
I’m certainly not an expert on the subject and you should consult your doctor before blah-blah-blah…but below is a list of some obvious and not-so-obvious (to me, anyway) foods that are suggested to help combat anxiety and depression.
- Turkey – tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which helps you feel calm. (I despise turkey, naturally!)
- Foods rich in Vitamin B – a deficiency in Vitamin B can trigger depression. Foods rich in Vitamin B include beef, chicken, pork, leafy greens like spinach and romaine, legumes, oranges and other citrus fruits, rice, nuts, and eggs.
- Complex carbohydrates – carbs increase production of serotonin, and whole grains in particular take longer for the body to break down, which releases sugar into the bloodstream more slowly and steadily. Complex carbohydrates are found in oatmeal, whole grain breads, brown rice, carrots, and sweet potatoes, among others. (So I can go back to eating sandwiches of the whole grain variety? I’ll take it!)
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – these can be uplifting and enhance your mood, as well as reduce the risk of heart disease (bonus). Omega-3 fatty acids are found in salmon, lake trout, anchovies, sardines, and other fatty fish. (Salmon is okay, but not something I could eat with any regularity, and everything else on the list makes me dry heave. I’m looking into taking a fish oil supplement instead.)
- High-Protein Foods – protein increases the production of norepinephrine and dopamine, which improve alertness, mental energy, and reaction time. High-protein foods include Greek yogurt, fish, meats, cheese, eggs, nuts, beans, soy, and lentils.
- Water – I was really surprised to learn that dehydration plays a role in anxiety, and that almost 80% of us are dehydrated on a daily basis without even realizing it. Bottoms up, bitches!
- Magnesium – most people with anxiety are magnesium deficient. Foods high in magnesium include pumpkin, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and leafy greens.
- Vitamin D – the best source of Vitamin D is direct sunlight. As if I needed a medical excuse to step away from my desk each day…and now I have one!
The list could go on and on, but these are the common themes I found throughout my research. (Are you picturing me with a bun in my hair and wearing dark-rimmed glasses whilst pouring over textbooks? I hate to disappoint you, but my hair is down, I’m wearing pajamas, and my eyesight is still 20/20).
So, with all of this in mind, I’ll be re-evaluating my diet for the tenth time in as many weeks. It’s frustrating on the surface but part of the learning curve. As I always say: I’m learning as I go.
In the meantime, those extra pounds will be have to be shed with my jump rope, which arrived in the mail today. (It looks so cute sitting on my dining room table!) Also, my husband and I have taken to playing tennis in the yard while the chickens are roaming. You should see us–I referred to it the other night as “Wimbledon for Imbeciles.” The lawn isn’t level, we completely suck, and 9 times out of 10 it looks like we’re playing croquet rather than tennis. But it makes us sweat and kills time while the girls are pecking around in the yard. So let’s hear it for small victories!
(There’s one tennis story I have to share: we were actually volleying back and forth decently at one point, and I started to feel the competitive blood flowing through my veins. My husband hit a fly ball to me (what is the term in tennis for that? who cares) and I didn’t think I had a chance in the world of hitting it. I jumped as high as I could and hit it with the tip of my racket, at which time I screamed, “Yeahhhhh, BITCH!!!!!!!!” And then I saw the ball out of the corner of my eye go directly to my left rather than toward my husband, and it hit a tree…and then, BAM! It promptly hit me. And there’s your daily lesson in humility.)
*I apologize for the abrasive title of this post, but the only other title that came to mind was “Food for Thought,” which seemed way too cliche. Thanks for stickin’ with me!