The Importance of a Healthy Diet

I haven't posted on this blog in a while. Life's been getting in the way. One of its more aggravating tendencies. There always seems to be so much going on. We'll make it through an exceptionally busy week and emerge unscathed with the notion that come Monday it'll be a simpler time. When will we realize that it's naive to have such impressions? The harsh reality is that our days always have the same number of hours and our weeks will always be constituted of seven days. 

The one thing we can change is what we accomplish throughout our week. We can prioritize the things that are of highest importance to ourselves and make time for these things in our busy schedules. What's one thing that you cannot go to sleep without doing? Going on a walk? Reading a couple pages of that book you've been working on? I feel that there's one thing people, especially ones with a jam packed schedule, don't prioritize often enough. A healthy diet. 

I'm sure everyone knows that an improper diet can have negative effects on their physical health and eventually lead to a number of  indispositions. That's not what this post is in regards to. A poor diet is also detrimental towards your mental health. Felice Jacka, who is the president of the International Society for Nutritional Psychiatry Research, states " a very large body of evidence now exists that suggests diet is as important to mental health as it is physical health". She says that an unhealthy diet is " a risk factor for depression and anxiety". Our diets not only impact the number on the scale, they influence how we feel on any particular day. 

Our brains require glucose in order to function properly. Without it communication between neurons breaks down as they degenerate due to a decline in neurotransmitter production. This decline occurs as a result of lower BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) levels. The BDNF protein is a growth factor that takes care of the maintenance, differentiation and survival of neurons. There is a positive correlation between lower BDNF levels and your body's ability to metabolize sugar. As one falls, so does the other. Its a downward spiral as diabetics and pre-diabetics would know. 

Glucose is a simple sugar found in all carbohydrates. Now don't go rummaging through your fridge and discard everything that reads 5 or more grams of carbs in it's Nutrition Facts. Glucose is not the enemy. It's  much sweeter 'cousin', fructose, is. Found in fruits and used as an added sugar in processed foods in the forms of corn syrup and white sugar, fructose is ubiquitous. A study conducted at the University of Montreal and Boston College in 2009 demonstrated a connection between both memory and cognitive deficiencies and a surplus of sugars. Depression, overeating, and learning disorders have also been attributed to a diet high in sugar. 

Processed foods' tastes may satisfy us in the moment and provide us with a temporary 'high' of sorts but ultimately worsen our physical and mental health. The energy a smoothie provides you with lasts a lot longer than that which you receive from a chocolate bar. Exchanging the former for the sugary delicacy that is the latter can be a difficult choice to make, heartbreaking even. However, I assure you that waking up the next day with the ability to get out of bed and go on a morning jog is worth it. When your diet boosts your energy levels your desire to exercise increases as well. All that extra energy has to go someplace. Exercise is also one of the natural approaches to increasing and sustaining BDNF levels. 

There are a number of foods you can incorporate into your diet at a more frequent rate that can have a positive impact on your mental health. Probiotics, for one,  are able to reduce stress and anxiety levels as well as improve mental outlook. They're comprised of bacteria that improve gut health by limiting inflammation along the gastrointestinal tract. They also strengthen neurotransmitters from the gut to the brain. This prevents you from overeating thus improving your physical health and mental outlook in the long-term.

Overeating and/or an imbalanced diet is a gateway to weight gain and obesity which can cause one to develop self-esteem issues. We should all love our bodies and work towards being able to do so but arriving at self-acceptance is more difficult than it seems. The latest trend in the media when it comes to clothing brands is including more diversity in modelling campaigns. A trend which little girls have been awaiting for generations. Unfortunately the divide between body types is still all too real. Slimmer models still sign the more prestigious contracts and are generally more prevalent in the industry. The media is one of the many factors that contribute to the erosion of one's self-esteem and body image. 

Self-esteem problems tie in with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Psychologists are still studying which develops first. The low-self esteem or mental health issues. One thing is clear. As they tie in with each other and form a strong bond they begin to feed off of each other until they're unstoppable. The only person with the power to tackle these self-esteem issues is you. I'm aware that the previous sentence sounds like a Silver Linings Playbook-esque dialogue. 

 So hold yourself to higher standards. You are accountable for the more controllable aspects of your health and well being. One of these aspects is your diet. What you feed your body and mind is what they'll provide you with in return. What's sitting on your plate? With that said remember to treat yourself in moderation. That chocolate bar is also very crucial in staying sane at 12 am on the cusp of an all-nighter.  


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