Eating Habits and Mood

Most people understand that there is a strong relationship between eating habits and physical health. Many, however, often overlook the connection between mood and eating habits. Our eating habits are affected by our moods and our moods are in turn influenced by our eating habits in a continuous cycle.

The frequency with which a person eats has a profound effect on blood sugar levels. In turn, blood sugar levels affect our moods. Additionally, some particular foods directly impact levels of specific brain chemicals. Changes in brain chemicals have a strong impact on mood. Often a depressed mood can cause a lack of motivation to prepare good meals and contribute to a loss of appetite. Combined, these two factors lead to bad choices of foods and inconsistent meal times.

Two major pitfalls to avoid concerning mood and eating habits are crash dieting and emotional eating. Crash dieting (overly restrictive dieting) contributes to a decline in mood. This depressed mood usually occurs due to the consistent self-denial imposed by the restrictive diet. The depressed mood combines with anxiety and together they lead to binge eating. "Cheating" on your diet causes feelings of guilt and shame which in turn leads to more self-denial.

Emotional eating is an attempt to comfort oneself with food as a way of dealing with negative emotions. Some of the life events that can lead to emotional eating include: loss of a job, financial problems, illness, relationship difficulties, stress, fatigue and even bad weather.  Emotional eating can begin or lead to poor eating habits if they have not been developed.  It can also continue patters of eating that are unwanted because coping skills have not been developed.

There are several ways that one can take control of the mood/eating habits and turn it into a healthy behavior:

  • Discuss your diet with a medical professional before beginning any new weight loss routine to ensure you get the appropriate sources of nutrition that are right for your body.
  • If you have been suffering from mood problems for a long period of time, seek help from a trained mental heath professional to gain guidance and support concerning your mood irregularity. They can also assist with identifying and implementing coping skills to aid in healthy eating habits.
  • Eating at regular times can help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Eating smaller meals more often (especially breakfast) can help increase metabolism.
  • Try eating proteins that have high levels of tryptophan. Most commonly known as the ingredient in turkey that makes us all sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner, tryptophan is also an amino acid that is required to make serotonin. Serotonin is a brain chemical that helps regulate mood.
  • Eat poultry, oil-rich fish, beans, baked potatoes, oats, nuts and seeds which can all be excellent sources of tryptophan.
  • Take in healthy carbohydrates. They are needed to help you get a good night's sleep to feel rested enough to prepare healthy foods and stay consistent with good eating habits.