The food and mood connection

If you are reading this, chances are that you are actively focused on being healthy, getting healthy, or some other wellness related goals. A new year is a great time to start changing your habits, but don’t fall into the New Year’s resolution pitfalls of making your goals too lofty and unsustainable.

When incorporating new healthy routines, whether it’s fitness or nutrition or journaling or whatever, it’s important to connect to the “why” behind it. And to get to the bottom of the “why.” In some coaching guidance I received about goal setting, there’s this theory about the 5 whys. If your goal, for example, is “I want to lose 10 pounds,” ask yourself why, 5 times. It goes something like this:

  • I want to lose 10 pounds
  • Why?
  • So I can fit into my jeans
  • Why?
  • So I can feel better about myself
  • Why?
  • Because I want to build my self-esteem and confidence.
  • Why?
  • So I can take control of more things in my life.
  • Why?
  • So I can feel empowered to change the things I know I need to change.

So…and this is just an example, everyone has their own reasoning — is this really about the 10 pounds? Does the number on the scale really control you that much? I think diving into the rationale behind your goals really helps to structure a clear goal with a visible path forward.

I had this discussion with a client, and it led to a discussion about making some different decisions around meal planning and overall nutrition. When making a change like crowding out animal products or adding in healthy greens, one of the things that can make it feel like less of a sacrifice or deprivation is to track how that change makes you feel. How do you feel when you prepare it, when you eat it, when you get up the next day, or when you’ve done it for the first week? Do you notice improvements in energy, in your sleep, or your focus? Do you feel better that you are doing something for yourself? Seriously, think of all the feelings that food evokes. The notion of comfort food comes into play. If your comfort food in the past has been all the junky foods you’re trying to crowd out, ask yourself whether that food actually provided comfort, or was it a go-to in a mindless, irrational, emotional way?

When you start to pay attention to how you feel after crowding out something, or adding in something new, you start to get to the root of intuitive and mindful eating. This is not something instantaneous – it takes time. But aren’t you worth it?

This week, pick one of your new habits and journal about why you are doing it, and how it makes you feel. Just owning those feelings can be very empowering! And that’s how you nourish yourself, both on and off the plate.