Patience, bad moods + anxiety are often challenges for parents. Can you relate?
Whether it is for ourselves or our children, we are always looking for tools to help boost our patience, keep us happy + reduce stress. And the economy has listened!
There is more than enough out there to “add to the toolbelt” when the inevitable flip-out starts to brew: time-out timers, behavior classes + medication to name a few.
What if we told you that solving these challenges was simple + easy?
Yes, there it is again: the terrifying truth that a family-centered solution does not need to be complicated or costly.
What if the culprit causing most of this was simply the food we are eating?
This is the truth that we discovered after years of dealing with anxiety, stress + mood swings ourselves: our moods were either caused or magnified by the food we were eating.
Our children had similar moods corresponding to the quality of food they were eating, too.
Today, we are going to walk through our personal experience with nutrition + moods, including:
- how we identified what food was impacting our state of mind,
- what we do from a nutritional standpoint +
- a recommendation on a great resource to get everyone thinking differently about the mind-body connection through food.
Let’s get into it!
The Mind-Body Connection
Let’s start with level-setting that there is a connection between our bodies + our minds. The two are not mutually exclusive.
In addition, the belief that the mind impacts the body but the body can’t impact the mind is being proven to be false.
If you want to get into the detailed science, read until the end because we will provide our favorite resource explaining the way our mind-body connection works. The professionals can do a much better job at explaining the science, so we’ll stick to a simpler conversation.
Simply put, everything that we ingest is used as fuel for breathing, digestion, walking, talking, exercise, etc. The type of fuel determines not only our ability to perform but how we perform. If we intake low-quality fuel, our performance will be of the same caliber.
Now, let’s take this analogy further + apply the same idea to our brain performance.
Our brain needs fuel such as vitamins + nutrients to keep it working correctly. If we are not getting the right nutrients + we’re pumping the body with unhealthy food, the brain has limited resources to function properly + gets depleted.
Since the brain’s priority is to keep the vital body processes going, the mind ends up not having the capacity to control our mood. Think of the self-care quote “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Just as well, “you can’t have patience on an empty mind.”
“You can’t have patience on an empty mind.“
How We Identified the Foods That Impact Our Moods Negatively
To start identifying foods that were impacting us, we looked at what made us feel the worst immediately upon consumption.
One horrible feeling for us was the “meat sweats”. You know when you get a huge cheeseburger or steak dinner + then you are just a lump on the couch afterwards? For us, that was the starting point!
We then looked at what negative feelings had a little bit of a delayed onset. For instance, Courtney would get a really bad stomach ache after eating fresh dairy.
Starting with what obviously bothered our stomachs felt like the intuitive first step. Then, we paid attention to our skin reactions, which can be huge indicators of food sensitivities or allergies.
Courtney wishes she knew that sooner in life. She dealt with terrible acne in high school + tried so many pills (even “the pill”) to fix it, only to find out that it was probably caused by her diet!
Then we looked at what the more “popular” allergies — like gluten — were that we hadn’t considered before. We turned out to feel infinitely better when we cut gluten out of our diets for a longer period of time.
It’s important to know that you won’t see immediate results every time you make an edit to your diet — the changes can take weeks to physically manifest!
For example, when we strategically cut alcohol out from our diets, we didn’t immediately see the positive effects. We notice a big difference a few days later + then an insane difference a few weeks out from there!
Had we only skipped having a glass of wine with dinner every few days, we never would’ve arrived at that simple invaluable edit to our mental health.
Keeping a journal or recording your moods alongside your physical food observations can help correlate the triggers. Courtney found that when she started editing her dairy + gluten intake, she felt less jittery, more focused + calmer.
Our Approach to Nutrition
During our transition to a healthier diet, we heard the words “eliminate” or “restrict” often. These words did not go over well with us because any type of hard-line restriction on ourselves tends to lead to more stress + anxiety. With more stress + anxiety added, we would sabotage the intended benefits instead of gain them.
Instead, we’ve found the best descriptive word for our nutrition approach to be “awareness”.
We are now aware that certain types of food will cause us to be vulnerable to having a lack of patience or a bad mood. That awareness makes it easier to organically limit our intake with physical action.
For example, Kevin is aware that gluten challenges his mental state. He feels the foggy effects immediately after consumption.
That awareness allows Kevin to get in front of the predictable mood swing by pausing after consuming gluten + reminding himself that the upcoming feelings of anger/impatience/stress are not actually “real”. That those false moods are more often than not being induced by the food.
Note: you can of course feel anger, impatience + stress unrelated to food intake, this is not prescriptive: just what we’ve happened to observe in our general experience!
Identifying food triggers helps Kevin to make an empowered decision — even down to eating a piece of pizza — because he is conscious of the associated mood consequence + can act appropriately with them.
Kevin’s food awareness has become almost like a form of meditation + it’s become a decision-making tool for gauging future intake. If he has a heavy gluten day, at dinner he will pass on the bread or pasta + eat a quinoa bowl or salad instead.
More than 80% of our meals are on-point (trigger-free) + we’re taking into account what is best for us to perform at a high level. We’ve found that one (or a couple) of “cheat” meals are not going to impact our overall mood outcome, so we allow for flexibility to have some fun because — let’s be honest — food brings us joy.
Our Favorite Resource for Mindful Nutrition
We found Dr. Mark Hyman’s book “The Mind-Body Solution” to be such a great investigative tool for working through our relationships with quality food, triggers + their overall impact on our mental health.
We still — even years later — go back + reference that book. It’s become a bit of a nutritional Bible! You can check that out if you’re curious to do your own deep-dive.
We would love to hear your thoughts. What types of food can you identify that impact your state of mind?
How can you use awareness to help limit stress + increase joy?
Continue the conversation with us + other like-minded entrepreneurial parents in the comments below!