Did you know that a bad eating habit is among the biggest tell-tale symptoms of depression? It is commonly seen that during stressful times of our lives, a cup of coffee replaces a nutritious breakfast, and a healthy and balanced diet is substituted by an instant, high in calories and high in fat food items. Other than our psychological health, depression can also have a toll on our physical health as well, so the symptoms start to appear, such as sudden increase or loss of appetite, an overwhelming sense of despair, sadness, and loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities.
Connection Between Depression And Eating Habits
When it comes to the overeating or binge eating aspect of depression, studies have shown that feelings of depression and stress can cause a person to crave sugar and other processed foods. Such food items are extremely addictive in nature as they stimulate the region of the brain linked with feelings of reward and pleasure. On the other hand, they can also inflame various parts of your body and brain, which can then lead to a variety of mood disorders, some of which have been mentioned above.
Similarly, inadequate nutrition in your diet can cause fatigue, or slow down your mind, and affect your decision-making skills, etc. Hence, an aggravated disturbance in your diet patterns and lack of required nutrition can even lead to depression and its symptoms of stress and anxiety.
When you eat too much, you will experience sluggishness and weight gain. Such an eating pattern traps you further into depression, either due to the lack of control over your desires or because of constant low energy levels that hinder you from getting out of bed and having a productive day. This may seem like a terrible cycle, but it can be broken with mindful eating.
How Can Mindful Eating Help With Depression?
Mindful eating or also referred to as "intuitive eating," can help you manage depression and its symptoms. Our eating patterns and the food we put inside our bodies become our very own existence. Good and mindful eating habits leave us feeling fresh both physically and mentally, looking our best and giving us a boost of self-confidence.
Multiple studies have proven that mindful eating has helped thousands of people manage illnesses such as depression, anxiety, stress disorders, and irregular sleeping habits, etc. This method of eating allows you to gain control of your eating patterns.
The meaning behind this newly trending term "mindfulness" is a lot deeper and profound than you think. It is not restricted to the act of being present in the moment but also refers to gaining awareness of how the "present moment" makes us feel. Similarly, mindful eating can be described as becoming aware of the experience and feeling each food or eating pattern invokes in us.
How to practice mindful eating to help with depression?
So, how does one mindful practice eating? It really is not hard. Essentially, you have to;
Eat without distractions and chew slowly:
Try to avoid eating with a movie or any other distraction. You need to focus on your food as it will you remain mindful. Studies have proven that focusing on your food and chewing it slowly helps it digest better. However, being distracted leads to shoveling large bites, which causes overeating which overrides your brain with the "reward and pleasure" feelings and ignores the cue that tells you that your stomach is full.
Listen to your hunger cues:
A hunger cue is your brain and body telling you if you are hungry or full. Hence, if your body tells you it's full, then you have to stop eating and vice versa.
Differentiate between actual hunger and boredom hunger:
There is a chance that every time you feel like eating, you are not hungry. There are a lot of possibilities, such as maybe your brain is bored, or you are dehydrated, etc. So, try drinking water or find an activity to occupy your mind until your body tells you that you actually need to eat.
Engage yourself with the food:
You must notify the experience and feel provided by that food. The goal is to take note of the after-effects of consuming specific food items. For instance, how do you feel when you binge eat? Do you feel sick to your stomach? Does it make you feel lethargic? Or, does it make you feel like you have lost control of everything? The chances are that you may experience all of it. Then, make a decision for yourself if you need to reduce the portion size or completely eliminate that food item from your diet.
One of the most crucial aspects of mindful eating especially, when it comes to managing depression and its symptoms, is to ensure that you consume highly nutritious foods. Focus on eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as meals high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, on improving your mental health. Moreover, dark leafy green vegetables are known for protecting the brain, including seeds, nuts, and pulses, and other food items that are rich in fiber are also good for the brain. All of these foods have proven to lower stress, manage anxiety, and send “happy chemicals” to your brain without destructing your physical and mental health.
Mindful eating is a continuous practice. Pay attention to the food and how it tastes and feels when you prepare your next meal or order takeout. Being intuitive or mindful of your eating habits does not mean that you have to spend an hour at your dining table chewing on your food. Instead, all you have to do is to pay attention to the experience as it develops. However, no specific diet can totally cure depression, but it can definitely help. Becoming aware of what you put in your body and how you put it inside your body can help you manage it by reducing the influence of its symptoms and can lead to a healthier life both physically and mentally.