Have you ever heard someone say "I'd rather eat unhealthy and be happy, than eat healthy and be miserable"?
I find it very interesting that people assume they would be miserable eating healthy foods and happy to eat foods that harm them. Although people will say something like “at least I’ll die happy” and laugh it off, I don’t truly believe that this is what they want. The last time I checked, and correct me if I’m wrong, no one in the world has ever said “I absolutely love being on my high blood pressure medication, these statins are amazing, I feel great”! People who are sick are generally unhappy about being sick and people who are healthy are generally pretty happy about their health. The phrase “I’d rather be unhealthy and happy than healthy and miserable” is an oxymoron to say the very least. I’ve never met anyone who is chronically sick or dying from a lifestyle related disease that has said how happy they were that they ate a diet that led them to where they are now. No one in their right mind enjoys being sick and feeling unhealthy.
What makes this belief even more tragic is all the evidence we have to support how our emotions are directly affected by what we consume. The foods we eat will invariably dictate how we feel, and how we feel will dictate the foods we gravitate towards. According to Dr.Nishi Dhawan, "food affects the body’s metabolism, hormones and neurotransmitters which directly affect our emotions, concentration and energy". This means that consuming too much sugar, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine will have a negative impact on our moods by disrupting the balance of our hormones and causing an inflammatory response in the nervous system.
Not only does food affect the mood of your head brain, it affects the brain in your belly called your “gut brain”, also known as your enteric nervous system (ENS). Our gut brain has more neurons than are found in the brain and five times as many as the one hundred million neurons found in the spinal cord. It has been found that there are more neural pathways running from your gut brain to your head brain than from your head brain to your gut brain. Furthermore, more than 90% of the body’s serotonin lies in the gut and about 50% of the body’s dopamine. It would then suggest that the health of our gut is crucial in keeping our mood regulated. Those who eat a highly processed diet full of suboptimal fats and excessive amounts of sugar and sodium have been shown to have less gut bacteria than those who eat a clean, predominantly plant based diet. If our gut microbiota is out of whack, our whole system is out of whack, including our mood. In order for us to keep our moods up, our gut health must be examined, and the only way to make sure you have a healthy gut is by eating whole foods.
People who eat a highly processed diet with little fibre over a long period of time also may develop diverticular disease. Just like scurvy is a vitamin c deficiency, diverticular disease is a fibre deficiency, according to Dr. Michael Greger, and is the result of not eating enough whole plant foods. I don’t know if you have diverticulitis or know someone who has it, but let me tell you, they are generally not super happy about their condition.
Where am I going with all of this?
People who eat unhealthy foods will inevitably suffer from illness and disease, they will have a decreased amount of gut flora which will contribute to conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis and low mood, just to name a few. So how could eating unhealthy food contribute to feeling happier then? If unhealthy food causes a myriad of diseases including depression, should the phrase “I’d rather eat unhealthy and be happy than eat healthy and be miserable” stand up to some scrutiny?
The belief that eating healthy food makes us unhappy is the mindset, and the complete misconception, we need to get rid of. The thought that being healthy would make you miserable is a complete delusion and absolutely ludicrous in its notion. It doesn’t make a shred of sense that people who eat healthy, and people who are healthy, lead miserable and depressed lives.
It is important to note the difference between being mindful about what you eat and worrying about what you eat. Stressing over what you are going to eat isn’t good for your health either, in fact, it’s very counterproductive, but being mindful about what you choose to put in your body is both wise and empowering. It should bring us great pleasure to take care of what's been given to us and to honour our body's by committing to eat quality whole foods. Our body's are precious, life is precious, why waste it struggling with disease and illness that could have been prevented?
Eating healthy foods, focusing predominantly on whole plant based foods, will have a direct impact on your health and your mood in a positive way, it won’t make you feel miserable. Many people go on diets where they restrict calories or cut out whole classes of foods (aka the Atkins diet cutting out carbs), thinking that in order for them to be healthy, they must adopt a thinking pattern of extremism in order to achieve the results they want. The glucose in carbohydrates are used by both our cells and our brain to promote energy, satiety and feelings of general well-being though, so it is predictable that those who follow an extremely low carbohydrate diet for a long period of time will experience fatigue and low mood at some point. This drop in mood leads to the assumption that eating healthy makes me feel miserable, so you revert back into old eating habits that elicit heightened moods temporarily (like sugar or refined carbohydrates do). Dieting isn’t healthy and we must change our mindsets about what healthy eating really consists of. Eating whole foods that have been sustainably grown and raised without the use of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, herbicides, genetic modification or high amounts of sugar is what healthy eating is all about, not just cutting out carbs or going on another diet. The word diet should be used as a noun, not a verb.
Let’s let go of the notion that eating healthy foods will hinder our emotional life when the opposite is clearly the reality. The healthier a person is, the happier a person is. Since what we eat directly effects our health on so many different levels, and through so many different systems, we will invariably be happier people when eat healthier food.
If you want to know how to change your relationship with food and with yourself, get healthy and gain practical insight and tools that will help you sustain a healthy way of eating, please fill out the form below and subscribe to my blog!