Emotional Health & Healthy Nutrition

Have you ever wondered whether there’s a connection between the types of foods you eat and your emotional health and moods? When you are really hunger yet angry at the same time, you are experiencing what some folks have identified as being, “hangry”. What happens when you were expecting this awesome promotion at work and despite your best efforts and commitment, you were passed over? Are you expressing your anger by screaming at every one you meet or are you internalizing your feelings of anger by self-blaming? For some folks, setbacks and missed opportunities can be soothed by eating comfort foods. By the way, most dictionaries define comfort food as any “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.” (https://www.dictionary.com/browse/comfort-food). Comfort foods could be a pint of your favorite double fudge ice cream or perhaps a decadent slice of cheesecake or a mile-high stack of warm blueberry pancakes? Other people find solace by using alcohol, tobacco and drugs or take part in risky behaviors during emotionally difficult times. Examples of risky behaviors might include gambling, driving recklessly or participating in extreme recreational activities. “Maybe it’s no coincidence that food and mood are just a letter apart; the two are peas in a pod. Think about it: you stick to a giant dinner salad on a “winning it” kind of day, and reach for a tub of ice cream after a bad date or a frustrating day at work. It’s a delicate relationship, and it can spin out of control if you’re not careful.” (https://tinyurl.com/y6a9vax6)

How can we better manage our emotional health and moods? God’s word says: “A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,”. (Proverbs 17: 22; https://tinyurl.com/y49jxdxr)
Here are a few questions to work through understanding your mood and food connection:

  • Identify your emotional triggers – what causes you to well up with anger, sadness, anxiety, worry, guilt, frustration, etc.
  • What’s happening around and within you to provoke these emotional feelings?
  • How does comfort food and cravings bring “comfort” after experiencing a setback or failure?
  • Can I talk about my feelings and seek advice from my primary care provider or a therapist, counselor, Pastor or Faith Community Nurse?
  • What support and hope can a Stephen Minister or Mental Health Coach offer?
  • How can a Church Elder or Shepherd offer connections within my church community?

“Some research has shown that having a positive outlook can improve your quality of life and give your health a boost. You may also need to find ways to let go of some things in your life that make you feel stressed and overwhelmed. Make time for things you enjoy.” (https://tinyurl.com/y5nbu64q)

Monique Tello, MD, MPH declared that, “I am passionate about diet and lifestyle measures for good health, because there is overwhelming evidence supporting the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle for, oh, just about everything: preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, dementia, and mental health disorders, including depression.” (https://tinyurl.com/y5bg98bc)  

What can we do to have balance in our lives? Are there certain foods that support and strengthen our emotional health, that decrease our vulnerability to distress and anxiety? “Food and mood have an effect on one another. Understand how they interact so you can make good diet choices and avoid emotional or impulse eating.” How can we take better care of our self during times of disappointments, overwhelming stress and disrupted routines and habits. Find out next week in Part 2 of the story!

Prayer:  May the God of ALL comfort, grant us His peace and wisdom as we seek to understand how food and mood impact our quality of emotional health. May the Holy Spirit grant us His guidance to reduce our need for unhealthy foods and cravings. Thank you Father God for providing science-based options through people steeped in faith values and traditions. Help us to “emotionally” rest in your blessed peace. Amen.