Virginia Wolf wrote in the early years of the 20th Century that “One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well.” She was talking about the people who couldn’t afford any food, but the principles apply even to those with plenty of food. Sometimes the issue isn’t the quantity of food, but the quality.
A diet rich in added sugar is good for neither body nor brain. Too much fat, carbs, additives or calories in general can have a negative effect on both body and brain because they alter the subtle chemistry of the body, or add too much weight which in turn affects how we feel about ourselves. Finding a way to treat our body well is a struggle in a world where the convenience of long-lasting sugar-laden and carb-happy food overrides the inconvenience of a more natural diet with food that won’t last.
I’m going into this Winter low. I know that. Last night I went out to go to a monthly group meeting and ended up driving home. The thought of sitting there worrying about life and unable to do anything had me trapped. Strange as it seems, I came home, ate a small bowl of pork and mash, and then cleaned my frustrations away in two rather untidy and dirty bathrooms that I have been too ‘busy’ (translation: unfocused) to clean for a month now. I needed to centre myself, I needed to withdraw and to focus on one small change that I could make in order to feel lighter.
I really dislike the idea of taking any actual medicine I don’t need to have: I’d rather fight through feelings naturally, and find a way to live that boosts my feel-good factor. That’s part of the reason why hygge has been so great for me, because throughout my life embracing the cosy, the love of small things and the comfort of family bonds has always made me feel better. This year, I hope, is an exception, because the stresses have just come thick and fast without space or time to adjust. I don’t want to chemically treat myself if I can find a way to deal with it through behaviour and lifestyle.
Like I wrote yesterday, I’m taking November to reset my lifestyle, to boost the methods that I know work to boost my mood before Winter bites. Today, I’m looking at my diet.
Diet is a great way of active self-care and self-love — a key in cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which is often used to treat anxiety and depression. I believe seeing oneself as worthy of self-care and therefore worthy of being fed with nutritious food is a great step. (Anika Knuppel)
Eating well has health benefits in both mind and body. Overloading on carbs puts me at risk of Type 2 diabetes, makes me sluggish, slows my reaction down and creates issues with my gut that I know only too well. I can very quickly drop into a carb-addict life, where I frantically count the minutes to lunch time because I need the next fix. I used to be like that in my early twenties: when I said I lived for food, I literally meant it. I know from my weight gain that this summer I have overloaded on bread, pasta and other literal comfort food as a way to anaesthetise my thoughts. Overeating and overspending are my coping strategies at times of stress. Not good, I know, so this November will be a time to cut back on both.
I have been intrigued by this article, from Healthline, on women who used their diet as part of a holistic approach to mental and physical health. Treating mind and body as part of a whole sits very well with my beliefs and experiences, so I will be keen to follow the simple principles of these diets.
- Eat a lot less sugar. No bread, pasta, starchy carbs and a large emphasis on getting any sugars in the diet from fresh fruit and vegetables.
- Focus on quality proteins from chicken, oily fish and nuts
- Enjoy alcohol in moderation, or not at all.
- Treat myself to a small square of dark chocolate once a day.
- Focus on trying out vegeatbles of all kinds in all ways: soup, stews, raw, salads, warm salads, fermented… basically expand my way of eating veg completely.
- Cut back completely on processed fatty or sugary food. No fruit juices, sweets, full-sugar syrups in drinks or processed pastry-covered meat products like pies or pasties.
It’s strange to start a new year’s style diet the month before Christmas, but I need to act now. I can’t wait until January, and I think (having spent some time researching it) that I can tweek the diet enough to take some of the treats I associate with Christmas and replace them with food either close enough to the original, or completely different but acceptable. I’m going to be having a nutty Christmas, I think!
In my search online I’ve found a few useful products that I’m testing out. Instead of sugar in my coffee, I’ve bought these sugar-free syrups to make my weekend treats with. I’m also giving sugar-free powdered icing sugar and sukrin syrup a go with almond flour to try replacement baked goods, for the weekend breakfast. I’ve been considering going keto for a few months now, and why not give it a go, since it seems to be based on a mind-healthy way of eating?
I never move without a book, so I have The Everyday Ketogenic Kitchen to read over the weekend, and The Keto Thanksgiving and Christmas Cookbook to read in the next month, while I get ready for Christmas. Hopefully I can boost my health, physically and mentally, using food as well as my other pillars of health. Here’s hoping.
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One thought on “Virginia Wolf had it right…. food is a fundamental for a good life.”
Good luck. I’m with you on avoiding medication to “fix” things if you can. I hope the changes you’re making help. They sound like positive changes anyhow.
I changed things with my diet in July. I’d been vegetarian for years, but decided to go the rest of the way and become vegan. Doing so has helped me make some better food choices, since I’m ending up making more from scratch, and putting more thought in to what I’m eating. My carb and sugar intake is a bit higher than it should be, but at least most of the sugars are coming from things like fruit these days, and I’m eating plenty of vegetables and nuts for all those natural vitamins and things. I haven’t touched alcahol in longer than it’s been since I last ate meat (bearing in mind, I went vegetarian over a decade ago) so at least that’s not a problem for me.