...because hangry is a very real thing...
As highlighted in my previous article called Emotional Self-Care, one of my greatest passions as both a person and a clinician is increasing understanding of the link between physical health and mental health (that "power couple" I like to call overall well-being).
A colleague and good friend of mine, Jessica Brennan*, is a Registered Dietitian who focuses her practice not only on the importance of adequate nutrition and exercise, but also on things like quality sleep and stress management to improve overall health and wellness. While this is wonderfully convenient for me personally, I also trust her as a key resource and referral for any of my clients who struggle with nutritional health, maladaptive relationships with food, or who need help figuring out the best diet and exercise routine for their specific needs, goals, and lifestyle (key word: specific).
One of the many reasons I appreciate Jessica's work is that she doesn't believe in any one perfect diet (hallelujah!). At a recent training conference, I heard a statistic that the #1 area of marketing with the most money spent per year in advertising - targeting us every single day in more ways than we know - is dieting. That may seem pretty obvious, but it still blows my mind how obsessed we are as a society with approaching quality of life and values from a highly superficial outward perspective. Majority of the time, these subliminal messages are targeting those of us longing for a quick, easy fix to all of the things we are dissatisfied with about ourselves and our lives (spoiler alert: that doesn't exist).
Lately, Jessica and I have been discussing how similar our viewpoints are on health and wellness, inspiring us to join forces with our differing skill-sets, educations, and specialties to talk about how exactly this is all connected, and why it is so important.
One major point that I try to discuss with all of my clients, regardless of what issue brings them to therapy, is that there is no way to be "running on all cylinders" mentally, intellectually, or emotionally, if your nutrition** and physical health*** are suffering - and vice versa! I find that a lot of people are either unaware of the implications of that fact, are making themselves sick trying to overcome or "prove it wrong", or are simply in denial to avoid making positive and necessary change.
...while that is tough to see - I understand it. I have been there, and I know there are layers upon layers of reasons why people choose unhealthy lifestyles that often inadvertently end up sabotaging their efforts to be successful, attractive, happy, or in control.
But we can't ignore the subjects that are easiest to avoid, and there are mountains of studies and empirical research findings revealing the direct key role that nutrition plays in the onset, severity, and duration of serious mental disorders such as depression, anxiety, ADHD, psychosis, addiction, and common issues people struggle with on a daily basis like lack of motivation, sadness, irritability, insomnia, fatigue, relationship distress ... i could continue, but you get the picture.
To continue reading about this, and to learn about Jessica's holistic, realistic, and self-compassionate approach to the food we put in our bodies - please click here for part 2 on this topic.
Stay tuned for further research in the field on this, and for updates on my blog about how I am integrating the powerful bond between nutrition and mental health in my practice - with a wide array of human issues and concerns.
* Jessica Brennan, RD, has a private nutrition practice in Redondo Beach, CA. For more information on her services, you can visit her website here.
** Nutritional health does not necessarily mean either over-eating or under-eating, being over-weight or under-weight etc. These overused labels are often arbitrary and vary person by person. Nutritional health is about eating a balanced diet, from which your body is able to get all of the energy and nutrients it needs to function properly. It is important that you consult with a professional if you are concerned about your nutritional health.
*** I use the term physical health here as a general umbrella term, encompassing many factors such as sleep, stress management, nourishment, physical fitness, medical self-care, substance use, neurological functioning, etc.