Reclining on the couch and munching a piece of chocolate (or five) is one of my secret pleasures. But research reckons that we are happiest when we eat a wholesome and nutritious diet. Junk food, on the other hand, can increase our chances of suffering from anxiety and depression.
It seems the age-old adage that you are what you eat is now truer than ever.
On some days, that would make me a giant Tim Tam!
When I was 20, I fell ill with glandular fever and ended up with post-viral fatigue. I was then diagnosed with clinical depression. The world was bleak and I hated every inch of myself, inside and out. Every morning was a struggle and I have many people to thank for helping me shift my thinking and heal myself.
During that time, I found comfort in crap food. I could easily scoff an entire Domino’s pizza and follow it up with Cadbury’s chocolate and a few glasses of Coke. I was desperately, exhaustingly unhappy. Food was my crutch. I didn’t reach for nourishing foods. Instead, I fed my mind and soul with junk. As a result, my mind was junk and of course my body reflected that.
So even without the studies, I know that what I feed myself has a tremendous impact on my self-esteem and self-worth. Thankfully, I no longer have depression and I fuel my body with filling foods (well, most of the time!) It is sometimes still a struggle to detach my emotions from the foods I seek.
Celebrity trainer Michelle Bridges has just published an article in the Sydney Morning Herald on the topic. She cites a 2000 study, in which 1000 women were interviewed about their diet and mental health symptoms. The study found that the women who ate a lot of fatty, processed food were more likely to experience depression and anxiety, than those who ate a variety of nutritious foods.
Another recent study found a link between teenagers’ diet and their mental health. The author of the study, Dr Felice Jacka, has even proposed that the right diet may actually help prevent depression in young people.
I wish I had known as a 20 year old that my diet may have been keeping me on that frightening mental rollercoaster. However, I don’t regret a moment of my battle with depression, because it has allowed me to really understand it and those who suffer from it.
It made me appreciate my body and take steps to nourish my mind and spirit with the right thoughts, food and friends.
So can you eat your way to happiness? In my experience, absolutely! What do you think?