Good Food Good Mood: I’m in control? Food, mood and de-bitchifying

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I grew up with parents who, in the ‘70s, were fairly healthy and health-oriented. My parents did international folk dancing for their exercise and socializing; my mom gardened, composted and made every meal at home; my dad with his near-genius photographic memory pursued relentlessly his interest in herbal supplements and alternative medicine; and, for the most part, I grew up as an active kid eating home-cooked meals made by a mom who could sneak kale into pretty much anything.

As I moved beyond college, into my twenties and into my own apartment, The realms of food, nutrition and care of my body moved more into my control. I thought I was eating fairly healthfully. We were told to eat rice cakes, no salt, no fat and nothing fun. That’s what was promulgated as healthy. It was the ‘80s.

Then the early ‘90s came and my sister, who’d been a Peace Corps volunteer and teacher, first in Fiji then in Namibia, came back to the states and my home town to get her master’s degree. We were both in our early 30s and confounded by our middle sections getting bigger, by hints of cellulite and by overall weight gain.

What was particularily confounding was that my sister had been living overseas in small villages with no access to take-out pizza or DoubleStuff Oreos, no car to drive and no modern American habits that contributed to weight gain. She walked everywhere in her small villages, was a vegetarian and ate a most non-American diet. Yet she’d also gained weight. We were perplexed.

She did something about it.

She started to read and study and take notes and share her notes with others. She encouraged the family to join her on a quest of becoming healthier. Along the way, she encountered Dr. Barry Sears’ book, The Zone Diet, an early-wave book in the movement toward consuming more protein, more fat and fewer carbs.

Together, we embarked on this diet, and for me this was literally the first time in my life that I dieted, in the sense of actively managing my intake of food with intent. And what a fascinating experiment that was.

We planned our meals, cooked together and tracked our grams of protein, carbs and fat. We followed the system diligently for several months and watched inches melt away. It was a miracle.

But, for me, the true miracle was in a completely unexpected discovery: that my food intake and my mood were intricately connected. Prior to our Zone Diet experiment, I was sometimes nice and sometimes a bitch. And the on-off switch for these two dispositions seemed to be controlled by someone or something else other than me.

With eating in The Zone, I started to notice my energy levels, my mood and how what foods eaten when impacted both. And suddenly, my hands were on the controls of Me. Like that, I could eat food that energized me and kept my head clear, or I could eat food that smacked me down to the ground and fogged my brain. It was one of the most momentous discoveries of my life!

Now, by no means have I been diligent each day and with each meal, and, yes, those gourmet donut holes I ate yesterday were awesome. (Actually, they were just ok.) And by no means, did I instantly de-bitch by food alone … that’s an on going journey and one for which menopause and maturity has contributed greatly to my diminished bitchiness.  

Also, I do feel that energy levels, mood, centeredness and personal empowerment are ongoing choices and challenges with countless rebalances throughout each and every day. And, still, I’m intensely grateful for discovering the power of food and my body’s chemistry — and not only the power to choose which foods I eat when, but more knowledge and awareness around what works for me.

Amen.

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