This is your brain — on food.

Growing up fat, I struggled a lot with diets, my self worth, and my relationship with food which still manifests itself today.

It turns out I’m not alone.

The way we eat can have a huge impact on our mental health, and our mental health can have a huge impact on the way we eat. Brain health and food are intrinsically, cyclically, linked.

So I learned a lot in my conversation with expert nutritionist, Rhiannon Lambert from Rhitrition to help us to understand the complex relationship between food and our mental health. (Here’s the full video interview.)

Stress and food

Rhiannon’s top 3 tips on how to have a better relationship between food and stress, and how to tackle binge-eating.

‘Slow down the eating process. Remove distractions like the TV or having your phone on when you’re eating, because when you’re not looking directly at the food, the hunger signals aren’t doing their job effectively. ‘

‘Sometimes a client will tell me, “I felt terrible today. I had a huge argument at work and I feel pretty worthless.” And I’ll question if it’s really a fact that they’re worthless. Why do they feel that way? Breaking down if it’s a feeling versus fact can help with the (eating or bingeing) mechanism that’s about to come.’

‘Research suggests that if you restrict completely, and you follow crash diets and you try and eliminate everything, you are way more likely to overeat on the item you don’t allow yourself to have (during times of stress).’

How to love food and feel guilt-free

Rhiannon’s top 3 tips on reframing your relationship with food.

‘Red items are things you never allow yourself, amber could be something you allow yourself occasionally, and then green would be lots of vegetables and fruits that you eat all the time.

‘Do that exercise, question why they’re in that category, and if that’s helpful to you? If it’s not helpful, then try and move a red item to amber and introduce it into your diet occasionally.’

‘To eliminate feeling guilt you need to talk out loud. And if you can’t talk, write. If you internalize it, it’s only going to create a vicious cycle of more unhealthy behaviour patterns to compensate.’

‘Try and say something nice to yourself every single time you identify a feeling of guilt. Be kind to yourself, and acknowledge it’s a long process, but you can make a start at it.’

Improve your relationship with food

Rhiannon’s top three takeaways for people that struggle with diet and mental health.

‘Aim for a balanced plate, because if you’re doing that at every meal, nutritionally speaking, you’re on to a winner. You’re definitely getting what you need in your diet, which means you’re nutritionally functioning in the right way.’

‘Is there something missing? Is there something that’s not quite right? Is it sleep? Is it an activity every single day? Is that then affecting how you’re feeling? What can you do to enhance those factors instead of turning to food as a compensatory mechanism?’

‘Do something positive for you that’s related to food. Make it fun, get some friends over, do something that’s going to change your association with it.’

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If you enjoyed this snappy snippet — you can check out my weekly newsletter on optimizing brain health and mental performance every week, according to science, in your inbox every Sunday by signing up here.

I’m the Co-Founder of brain health and mental wellness company Heights.

We make the highest quality natural smart supplements taken daily by some of the sharpest brains in Europe, and create content from science designed to help you reach your heights.

Co-Founder of Heights, & Host of Secret Leaders, I write about brain health, mental wellbeing & entrepreneurship.

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