How do eating habits affect mental health?

mental health, mental health wellbeing, how to deal with depression, is anxiety leading to overeating, mental illness.

“Is it really important to think before we eat?”

“Will my eating habits affect my cognitive and functional skills?”

“Why do we eat more or don’t eat at all when we’re stressed or depressed?”

These are some of the questions that cross our minds intermittently.

We often wonder if eating habits could directly affect our mental health or impact people suffering with mental disorders like anxiety and depression, among other things.

The answer is “Yes”.

What we do, say, eat has the ability to change our brain and its processes and structures. This process is called ‘Neuroadaptation’. Our eating and consumption compulsions play an important role in contributing to our mental health.

“Tell me what you eat and I will tell you who you are,” wrote Jean Brillant Savarin, author of an influential nineteenth-century book on physiology of taste. In his book, he also mentioned the importance of each food item and their ingredients.

When we talk about stress, we usually think about everyday stress or long term trauma. In addition to that, our brain also perceives many bodily events as stressful like sleep deficits, infections, surgeries, attempt to quit smoking, eating unhealthy foods, etc. Mood and food are correlated in many ways. Unhealthy eating habits could also cause mood fluctuations. Consuming excessive caffeine, alcohol could make you feel anxious, depressed and agitated. Whereas, eating healthy home cooked food could uplift your mood instantly.

In today’s world where people are focusing on being healthier and cutting out on sugars and fats to the point of getting obsessed with calorie intake. Let’s dive deep into the world of nutritional psychology and understand how important it is to find a balance between our physical and mental health and focusing equally towards a holistic wellbeing.

According to a study led by psychologist Maria Pulido from University of Barcelona, children who consumed more soft drinks, sugar and fast food had higher prevalence of diagnosed Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder(ADHD); the study also found that children who ate less fatty fish, vegetables and other rich-nutrient food were more likely to have symptoms of ADHD. Although, these associations don’t prove causality the authors suggest that diet plays an important role in ADHD development although through an unknown mechanism.

According to a few researches, anxiety also plays an important role in common diseases like stomach ulcers, hypertension or chronic pain. In addition, in my experience as a therapist I have experienced clients who were referred to me for anxiety, primarily diagnosed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Patients with anxiety disorder might also experience extreme chest pain, diabetes and certain gastrointestinal tract.

Unfortunately, our society has somewhere made us feel that it is more important to look a certain way and not the way we feel. Over the years, we have heard things like, “You should lose some weight!” “Do you not eat at all? Why are you so skinny?” The truth is no matter how perfect you look or match all the beauty standards people are still going to comment on your appearance.

Also read:

Some general trivia for our readers:

Eating disorders are abnormal eating habits that could threaten your health or even one’s life.

It includes:

  • Anorexia Nervosa is when a person thinks they are fat and they restrict their eating habits and also starve themselves from eating at all, which lead to death.
  • Bulimia Nervosa is when an individual eats excessive amount of food and then purge by making themselves vomit or using laxatives.
  • Binge Eating is also called emotional eating is when a person binge eats excessive amount of food but do not purge.

Treatment for Eating disorders:
  • Psychodynamic Psychotherapy
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Enhanced Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT and ECBT)
  • Interpersonal Psychotherapy (IPT)
  • Family based treatment (FBT)
  • Dialectic Behavioral Therapy (DBT)
  • Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Some guidelines to maintain a healthy lifestyle and mental wellbeing:

  • Cultivate mindfulness eating habits.
  • Be aware of what your body needs and consult a nutritionist to better understand your body needs.
  • Try to exercise at least thrice a week for stimulating happy hormones to your brain
  • Understand that body and mind are two sides of the same coin. If you are stressed it’s going to affect your body. If you consume 5 cups of coffee a day you are tend to feel more anxious and agitated than usual.
  • Practice mindfulness activities on everyday basis to connect with your mind and body.
  • Maintain a food journal and keep a note of food that makes you irritable and anxious or overwhelmed.
  • Prioritize your routine and sleeping habits.
  • Cultivate a hobby or focus on more self-care habits, understand that your mind and body needs more self- love.
  • Seek professional help to be more self-aware and heal from the trauma.

Find a counselling center near you-

Also read:

Shruti Padhye
Share This Blog
Recent Blogs
Winning Minds: How Emotions Shape Athletic Success
Chronic Anxiety Disorder
Explore Intersectionality: The LGBTQIA+ Community and Mental Health.