(This entry is directly taken from course material used in a peer led group support session in Second Life and as such, was designed to be used in an informal group situation. Please bear that in mind when reading)
This week’s section of our eight week course is:
I’m going to be going through our nutrition section. Please save comments or questions until I ask just because it’ll help us manage our time better.
Before we start I want to talk a little about judgement. This is a judgement free zone. The point of this module is to talk about things that affect our health - mental and physical. This is not a judgement on how you eat or how much weight you are carrying. You may be carrying some extra weight, you may not be carrying enough weight - there’s no judgement on any of that here. Please don’t be afraid to talk about it when you need to because it’s very important that you feel like you can.
If you are taking medication then you should consult your doctor before making any major dietary changes. For example if you are taking an MAOI (which is a type of antidepressant) changes in diet which include the introduction of fermented, matured, cured, hung or dried foods are inadvisable. These foods typically contain a higher level of tyramine and the interaction between tyramine and MAOI can be very dangerous.
Likewise the level of lithium in your blood can be affected by changing the amount of salt or fluid in your diet and introducing grapefruit can affect how much of your anti-anxiety medication can get into your blood flow.
So as you can see, it really is vital that you seek medical advice before changing your diet if taking medication. I can not stress this point enough. Please don't do anything dangerous or anything that would impact your health in a negative way.
If you're aware that you have an eating disorder (diagnosed or undiagnosed) please seek advice and guidance from your doctor/psychologist regarding your nutrition plan.
That doesn't mean that you can't learn from this course module or that you aren’t welcome to participate but you should understand that some/much of this may not apply to you.
✦ Food Diaries
Food diaries can be very useful. Recording changes in your diet and writing down how your mood has been that day (or even multiple times through the day) can help you track if anything particular is influencing how you think/feel/function. It can help you figure out which foods are helping to trigger positive changes and negative changes and help you to adjust your diet accordingly. Seeing it all written down can also be really useful in your goal to help you eat more healthily.
Food diaries can be purchased from places like Amazon, but it’s really not necessary as you can absolutely make your own. You could use a notepad and pen, google sheets, google docs or whatever program you prefer to work with. You can also download blank templates from the internet and print them out or use a PDF program to edit them.
You can also find apps on your app store on your phone or tablet and fill them out that way.
When I started working on this section, I was going to create a notecard to link a bunch of templates and diary designs that you can make use of. But honestly, there are so many options with a wide range or level of complication that I decided the NC would have to be REALLY long in order to give a good overview of what’s out there. Instead, I’m just going to give you guys a couple of links to bookmark which will show you some options.
I highly recommend you make use of google and search terms such as, "food diaries for mental health" to have a good look at what's out there. If you do decide to make your own this will help you decide which components you want to use or which you feel are necessary in templates, apps or purchased options.
✦ Blood Sugar and fat
A drop in your blood sugar levels can cause a sudden drop in your mood. It is therefore important (especially if you suffer from unstable moods) that you make sure that your nutrition isn't also messing with you.
If you can't manage to eat regular main meals, then try breaking it down. Have smaller portions spaced out through the day (little and often).
What you eat is also important. If you're surviving on foods with high sugar or fat then you're going to experience spikes and drops in your blood sugar that could also impact your mood. Alcohol also does this, even if you aren't drinking enough to get drunk.
I know for some people it's hard, but breakfast actually is really important. Starting off the day with a nutritionally balanced meal can really aid in your mental health balance.
Slow release energy foods are also a really good option. Foods like pasta, rice, wholegrain bread and cereal, nuts and seeds can help to keep you stabilized.
Your brain needs fatty acids (such as omega-3 and -6) to keep it working well. So rather than avoiding all fats, it’s important to eat the right ones.
Healthy fats are found in: oily fish, poultry, nuts (especially walnuts and almonds), olive and sunflower oils, seeds (such as sunflower and pumpkin), avocados, milk, yogurt, cheese and eggs.