Is Your Food Making You Moody?

food choices mental health mood refined carbs Oct 12, 2022

Can what you eat affect your mood?

We recognize the association between a healthy diet and a healthy body, but we don’t as often acknowledge that a healthy diet also positively affects the health of your brain, and therefore our mood.

It’s complicated though, because with all the possible emotions we can and do experience throughout the day, combined with the frequency of eating in our lives (likely at least three meals per day) there is a LOT of opportunity for food and mood (or emotion) to collide: A bad day at work, a difficult conversation, or even a happy and joyful event all influence our food choices.

Girl in store picking up sugary sweets

If you're having a bad day do you go straight for the sugars? Do you make poor food choices at this time?

It really can be a vicious cycle. When our mood is depressed or negative, we don’t tend to make the best food choices. Those are the times we often reach for refined carbs, sugary, salty and other hyper-palatable foods. Of course, that makes us feel even worse, and we then, in turn, keep reaching for the food that doesn’t make us feel well. The opposite is also true: when our mood is happy and calm, we tend to make good food choices, which then positively affect our mental and physical health and therefore our ability to keep choosing healthier options.

It should be no surprise then that we really need to pay attention to mood during the course of our eating day (or eating window) so that if we find we are eating for reasons other than hunger on a consistent basis and choosing less-healthy foods, that we can do something about it.

Woman drinking a glass of wine

When do you find yourself pouring a glass of wine? Stressed? Happy? Celebrating? Do you know the reason behind it?

As you are sitting down to eat, tune into your emotions: Does your current sadness have anything to do with the fact that you are eating a bowl of cereal for dinner? Does your current happiness have to do with that extra glass of wine or two that you are having? Does your fatigue from the busy day have anything to do with the cravings you are having for another chocolate chip cookie? The Ate app is a fantastic tool for being aware of these patterns.

Once in a while, there is nothing wrong with eating for reasons other than physical hunger, it’s important that we do it consciously. When we can recognize that we are reaching for food for emotional reasons rather than physical hunger, we then are empowered with choice: both of whether to go ahead and eat and then WHAT to eat.

If you are having a tough day and all you want is a pizza, try giving it a bit of an upgrade by making your own and adding spinach to the sauce or even including a side salad. If you’re out celebrating and want to enjoy a few drinks, just make every second one a tall glass of water. If you think ice-cream is the only thing that will cure the stressful day, opt for the highest quality ice-cream which will contain the highest quality ingredients, and then slowly and mindfully enjoy every bite of it.

Home made pizza

If you're still craving something, go ahead and eat it but make a better choice by opting for better quality or making it home made! You'll satisfy your cravings without digging for foods that will make you feel worse off.

There is absolutely no doubt that what we eat affects more than just our bodies. What we eat also affects our brain health and mood. Just being more aware of this can help us to make better choices and start to question WHY we might be reaching for the foods we are. The more mindful we can be IN these choices the better.

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