Changing How I Eat Helped my Mental Well-Being

As a therapist and coach, I am incredibly interested in health. I am a huge advocate for overall wellness and “holistic” health but I haven’t always been this way. When I used to think of “health”, I thought of a person who didn’t need any medication, didn’t have any diseases and exercised frequently. I didn’t pay much mind to how what you eat correlates to overall health. My, how things have changed…

About a year and a half ago I found myself feeling lethargic, stressed, and genuinely unhappy. It seemed like this was just a constant for over a month. I was just miserable. I felt like there was a cloud hovering over my head that made it hard to get out of bed some days. Energy was nonexistent, and I felt so unlike myself. It was scary.

I had this weird itch that maybe my food choices and lifestyle had something to do with it. As a kid, I was frequently on medication for chronic illnesses (nothing too serious) and in out of doctors’ offices on the regular. I took pills every day, twice a day, to mask symptoms of thyroid and GI related issues. I hated it. So last year when I found myself feeling so far from my normal, I decided to do some experiments on my own before seeking a doctor.

My first step was to take a look at what I was eating. I eliminated lots of commonly irritating food groups from my diet for a period of time, made sure I was getting lots of sleep and allowed myself to let go of some of the things on my “to do” list. I viewed this time as an experimental reset.

I learned so much about myself during my reset. Here’s some of what I have taken from my experience..

• What I put into my body affects my mood ..a lot.
o When I fuel myself with nourishing foods, I feel light, energetic and happy. If I get lazy or stop paying attention to how I’m eating, I will quickly notice a significant change in how I feel about myself, how I treat others and how much energy I have.
• I need a lot of sleep and it doesn’t have to be a struggle.
o Sleep was something I struggled with ever since I can remember. Once I started paying more attention to what I was putting into my body, I started sleeping so much better. I could fall asleep right away (unheard of) and wake up feeling rested (crazy!!).
• I’m a bit more introverted then I had previously thought.
o Throughout my “reset” I spent a lot of time on my own, reflecting and resting. I noticed how much I began to treasure my nights at home reading, walks on the beach with a podcast and time cooking in the kitchen. I had no clue how much I need time to myself to fully recharge.
• I have a pretty significant physical response to stress.
o When I stress out, my eyelids tend to swell. I’ll find a random rash somewhere on my body. I also notice sore muscles and feeling tight. Something so strange that I can’t understand it. I’ve gotten testing, met with many doctors and most of them have deemed it an enigma. I’ve noticed that when these pop up, I’m always under a lot of stress ..so until further notice, I’m deeming it the cause. I do a lot more to manage my stress proactively now.
• I have Celiac Disease.
o Following my little reset, I introduced the eliminated food groups back into my diet. I had a massive reaction when I added gluten back and followed up with a medical professional. After some testing, turns out I have Celiac Disease and had no clue. (No wonder I was feeling lethargic!!)
• There are plenty of ways to manage stress that don’t involve posting up on the couch with a pint of ice cream or stuffing my face with pizza on the reg.
o (I still do these things on occasion but not nearly as often  ).
• I learned how to listen to my body and follow my intuition.
o I knew something was up and had a gut feeling that I could do something to help myself. By eliminating foods from my diet for a bit, I also eliminated a lot of noise in my head. I learned how to pay attention to what was going on inside my body, listen and respond appropriately. I am not always perfect at it but I’m getting better. It is a skill I will constantly be developing but I am so grateful to have discovered the ability to do this.
• I feel incredibly empowered when I fuel my body well.
o I can’t tell you how proud I felt following my reset period. I had accomplished something I never thought I would’ve been able to do by cutting out these certain food groups for a bit. I felt strong in my body and mind.
• It’s STILL okay to splurge sometimes!
o I still love ice cream and pizza. I still eat them (now with gluten free crust). I am just much more mindful of my choices!

Changing how I ate taught me a lot about how to care for myself and about what I need as a human being. I share this because I think that as a society we could do more to talk about the correlation between physical, mental and spiritual well-being. Our bodies are one and I believe if we are unwell in one area, it may have an impact on another. As a huge advocate for wellness, I hope this post inspires you to become curious about the foods you choose to eat, never punitive. Learning to find what works for you and your body may take a completely different path then it did for me and that is totally OKAY.

Picture of Chelsea Connors

Chelsea Connors