Mood Food

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Growing up in a fairly healthy household, (full of zucchini, beans and other healthy choices that children loathe). I was the most “regular” kid in grade school. Being regular as an adult is great but not so much for a kid that has to raise his hand to go to the washroom!

For me it was always a treat to have Franken Berry cereal at a friend’s house when I slept over. I was so excited! For those of you who aren’t familiar with Franken Berry, SHAME ON YOU! It’s this fantastic, overly sweet, diabetic shock inducing colourful bowl of plastic disguised as food. You’ve probably had something similar… Lucky Charms, Cinnamon Toast Crunch or Trix. You know, the good stuff! A kid’s dream breakfast! Anyway, I’m sure you’re all wondering, what does this have to do with the Frankenstein Condition?  

Well, it brings us to the question, “Does food affect mood?” The answer, of course, is yes.  Why else would we have the word “hangry”? Yes it’s a word… in the dictionary… for real. So for our monster it can be a coping mechanism or a driving force for change.

But why and how? Well, that’s something that will take more than a blog to answer. There are entire books dedicated to the topic, scientific studies, nutritional reports, I’m pretty sure Oprah and Dr. Oz have spoken about it. That said, for our purpose, let’s consider two things.

First, some of us self-medicate with food. We’ve all heard people say you’re “eating your emotions”. Aside from sounding a bit cannibalistic, they are right on the mark. The exhilaration or anticipation of eating certain foods is the rush. We’ve heard the quote “do you live to eat or eat to live.” There’s a lot of truth in it. For a lot of people the ice cream or chocolate isles are like a pharmacy. There’s a reason all of the “bad” stuff is displayed at the end of isles or at the cash. It’s a quick fix. Makes you feel better and delivers that dopamine rush. I think the cereal that I drooled over as a child should be renamed “Cap’n Dopamine Crunch” or “Frosted Dopamine Flakes”. My point is, when our monster is in control and anxiety and stress are present, we can quickly “medicate” ourselves with food. We call it “treating” ourselves. It can be a slippery slope when this becomes a regular part of our routine. Ask yourself if you are treating yourself or is it avoidance of something.

Second, is the amount of “definitive” posts claiming that “these three foods will…. Save your life? Make you lose ten pounds in two days? Cure your depression?” Yeah, right. We’re bombarded by them daily. Admittedly, there is a lot of truth and great information out there but, like the news, be aware of the “fake nutrition”. If something seems too easy or results are promised too quickly they are likely untrue.

Usually, like I did, we go down this path to lose weight or gain muscle. Maybe both. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this but consider your motivation. Is it for health reasons or are you chasing the “ultimate beach body”. The pursuit of the perfect body can become a destructive loop. You may achieve your goal, then fall off the wagon and have to do it all over again. This will leave you feeling like a failure.

Go for the marathon solution instead, not the sprint. Quick and easy rarely lasts. Work with your body type, your chemistry and a professional. Consider your lifestyle and general health.

Moderation is key. Don’t beat yourself up about staring into an open fridge, cupboard or cookie isle every now and then. But, if you find yourself there 4 more times… that afternoon… with food stains on your shirt… maybe it’s time to start thinking about why. So, dig deep into your bowl of Franken Berry, if you wish and raise your spoon proudly. Like drinking straight out of the milk carton or “double dog daring” someone, it’s fun to be a kid every now and then.

Robert Smith