Sep 22, 2023
Nourishing the Mind and Body: A Story of Overcoming Unhealthy Eating Patterns
A story of a person whose unhealthy eating habits lead to mental issues. Consistent exercise and a healthy diet helped her transform her life.
Food. Leafy, fresh and crunchy vegetables; umami tasting fish and meat to fibrous nuts and greasy, instant-gratification providing fast food that left one licking their fingers at the end of every meal.
From Childhood to Campus: A Shift in Lifestyle
Sneha loved all sorts of food. Having grown up in a household that valued healthy and fresh food, most of her childhood and teen life consisted of a balanced meal cooked in her home. However, it was not the scenario that she was facing currently. She had moved out of her home to a college campus for her undergraduate and since then had not been very much conscious about her food intake. Along with the low-quality mess food, she was also constantly consuming street food on a semi-regular basis. While this was not the case when she went back to her home during the vacations, it had created a very unhealthy lifestyle for her.
The Mind-Body Connection: Food's Role in Health and Well-being
Food is a valuable ingredient in ensuring that one lives a healthy and happy life. Not only does food provide the necessary energy to maintain the functioning of the body but also keeps one's mental health in check. Physical and mental health is something that goes hand-in-hand, with better physical health leading to mental alertness and state of being. So how does food play a role in one’s mental and physical health?
Foods which are considered healthier - like leafy vegetables, good fats and carbs tend to release energy slowly and gradually in the body, leading to a consistent source of energy throughout the day or until the next meal. On the other hand, greasy and food high in sugar content tend to provide a strong burst of energy to the individual but cause quick stagnation of the energy well before the next meal. Therefore, consistently having fast-food and greasy food on a day-to-day basis leads to uneven distribution of energy, tiredness throughout the day. This can directly influence how one feels throughout the day.
A Cycle of Unhealthy Habits
Sneha had the similar problem of eating unhealthy food whenever she could and eating a lot of midnight snacks and snacking between the three meals provided in college. Her health had also degraded due to the fact that she ate a lot of food during exam time, due to being increasingly stressed. This had led her to gaining weight but also depending on sugary food to maintain her stamina and energy throughout the day.
As a consequence, it leads to a lot of health issues, both physical and mental. In terms of her physical health, she had developed acne, gained weight, started losing stamina if she didn't get a quick sweet fix, and made her very hormonal before and during her periods. Both the physical changes and lack of stamina made it very difficult for her to be mentally alert and had started taking a toll on her sense of self.
Sneha tried to combat the issue of unhealthy eating by completely cutting off fast-food. But since it had already left a mark on her mind, it led her to leading a life where she constantly avoided junk food six days a week but binge eating sweets and fast-food on the seventh day. This then started taking a negative toll in her life where her inability to balance diet and lifestyle made her overly conscious of her food intake.
It is not only the attitude towards food that affects one's perception of themselves and food. Unhealthy eating habits also lead to hormone imbalance, inability to maintain a particular weight, one’s own perception of food being unhealthy, etc. As a consequence of this, Sneha’s mental health started deteriorating at a rapid pace. Her relationship with food and ultimately her body – both in terms of body image and her own perception of health started becoming stale. Sneha stopped wearing tailored clothes and started wearing ill-fitting and baggy clothing. As well as that, due to the worsening mental health, she stopped going out and hanging out with her friends, exploring different places and meeting new people. This led to her losing a lot of her support groups that she could have relied on to get better.
Finally, when she stopped hanging out with her friends completely, they all collectively had to intervene in order to ensure that she was not losing herself to negative perceptions about herself and her body.
Healing from Within: Embracing Change
By gaining back her support group, Sneha was able to make considerable changes to her lifestyle that eventually led her to improve herself and her own perception of herself. She started working out, not only to get her stamina and health back but also to replace the sweet fixture. As she was relying on sweets to provide her energy. But since she started working out, she was finding energy in her workouts and she was able to regain her stamina that she lost. As well as that, Sneha developed a more healthy relationship with food. Since she couldn’t do it by herself, she visited a dietician to help her make a plan which she could follow without feeling hungry throughout the day. As a result of that, slowly and gradually, she developed a good relationship with food which made it easier for her to shift her eating habits to a much healthier place without the worry about binge eating fast foods and sugary sweets.
Eventually as the months passed Sneha was about to develop a good eating habit as well as a good relationship with food and her own body. She mended her relationship with others as well and as a result, she became more confident. As she got more physically healthy, she was also able to have a better mental mindset in order to deal with problems arising on a day-to-day basis. She started eating a more healthy diet and would only eat junk food once in a while when she went out with her friends. This allowed her to enjoy all types of foods without having any guilt regarding her diet. For example, Sneha would often eat healthy leafy food for most days of the week. She found that it is easier to restrict herself to going out once a week for food. So she had resorted to eating out only when she went out with her friends, as she was able to share and taste many different types of food in the process. Meanwhile, on the days that she did eat a more healthy diet, she would restrict to a diet that consisted of local cuisine and home made food that had low amounts of butter, ghee and oil. She airfried most of her snacks, which allowed her to snack between lunch and dinner.
Reflections of Triumph: A Journey's End
As a result, Sneha was able to reach her ideal goal by the end of the year. With consistent exercise, a good healthy diet which she followed with the help of her dietician and drinking plenty of water throughout the day, she was able to develop a good eating habit that made her more happy, healthy and satisfied in life. Having a good relationship with food also drastically improved her mental well-being. She became more confident as a person and started living her life to the fullest. And by the end of the year, she could say to herself that she was a very happy person. That is how food affected her own perception of herself and her life.