For many people, the relationship between food and mood is a difficult one. We have all experienced reaching for a bag of chips when we are feeling down or calming our nerves with a long island ice tea. Of course, this downward spiral can be hard to get out of.
This is because there is a strong correlation between the food you eat and how you feel. Breaking bad habits and reaching for the right foods can leave you feeling happy and energized, help you sleep better at night and most importantly, improve your health.
So is having a good diet really the path to happiness? Read on to find out.
Mood vs Food
There is a very real connection between our mood and food and it is often a chicken and the egg kind of situation. Do we make poor food choices because we feel bad in ourselves or do we feel bad in ourselves because we made bad food choices? Truthfully the answer is often both.
I am all too familiar with this struggle. I grew up never really giving too much thought about my weight. I had a very average childhood. It wasn’t until I went to college that I first started to put on some weight (the dreaded Freshman 15).
After I got married, I kept putting on more and more weight. The worst part is, I think, that it is such a gradual thing that you get used to what you see in the mirror every day and you get used to how you feel and think it’s normal. I was so used to getting on with work all day and then coming home for a nap that I never truly realized just how unhealthy I actually felt!
It has only been since turning my poor habits into healthy ones, losing weight and changing my lifestyle that I realize just how bad the situation really was.
Food is fuel. Just in the same way you need to put gas in your car to make it work. For me, I was putting all the wrong fuel into my body and expecting it to work efficiently. When really, I was drained of energy, unable to maintain focus and feeling generally bad about myself.
This is so typical of many Americans. When they are already overweight, they still turn to food for comfort. This is actually due to the relationship between certain foods and hormones.
How Bad Food Choices Lead To Bad Moods
Carbohydrates stimulate the release of serotonin, the hormone which affects our mood and sleep. For a short while at least, serotonin makes you feel happy. This is why it is typical for carb cravings to result in reaching for a bowl full of pasta or a box of cookies. Similarly, chocolate promotes the release of endorphins which also make you feel good. This is one of the reasons women tend to turn to chocolate when they experience that typical mood change as part of PMS.
The problem is, these food-induced mood boosts are only temporary and the foods that cause them also make you gain more weight. This leaves you feeling worse than you started and the cycle begins again.
How Being Healthy Leads To Being Happy
Just as eating poorly and feeling bad becomes a downward spiral, you can put that into opposition and make it work in your favor.
By changing your diet to include healthy choices will lead to a happier and healthier life. I can tell you this from experience. After deciding one day enough was enough (when a very close friend of mine thought I was pregnant due to how much weight I had gained) I started making better choices and in turn, felt better in all aspects of my life.
Eating a diet packed with real foods, (no processed stuff) antioxidant-rich superfoods and less carbohydrates can do many wonders.
With just these small changes, you start losing weight and seeing those numbers drop on the scale each week of course lifts your mood and makes you feel happier.
This boost of happiness is a powerful motivator to keep going. Not only this, but you feel better about how you look which makes you feel good, you have more energy and you sleep better at night. Your stress levels are lower and more importantly, your new healthier food choices combined with your new found weight loss lowers your risk of multiple chronic diseases and actually extends your lifespan.
All of this from making healthy diet choices. Now we have changed the cycle to work in our favor. We feel happy because we eat better and in turn, we eat better because we feel happy.
So is having a good diet really the path to happiness? In my experience, I’d certainly say so.
Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact.