May is Mental Health Month. Our whole body plays an essential role in our mental health. Furthermore, how we fuel and move our body and fuel our brain can improve our mental health. Our mind and body working together can be a challenging message for the eating disorder community as diet and exercise behaviors are a significant focus for those with an eating disorder. The three keys to messages about nutrition and physical activity to promote good physical and mental health, even in the face of an eating disorder are variety, moderation, and balance.
What is variety?
When we look at nutrition for optimal health, it is important to choose a variety of foods from all food groups. We want plenty of foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. For example, this includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, fish, nuts, avocados, and olive oil. When we choose a variety of these foods as the foundation of our nutritional intake, our bodies, and our brains benefit. These foods also provide the energy we need for our body to function well.
What is moderation?
Moderation is key because it is also important to enjoy our foods and not fall into black and white thinking patterns where we can only have foods that are highest in nutritional value. Over-focus on health can lead to guilt or shame about eating and can even potentially develop into orthorexia. If you or someone you love find yourself unwilling or unable to enjoy even an occasional food for fun that isn’t a nutritional superstar, please talk with a health professional for an eating disorder screening.
What is balance?
Balance ensures that we are getting the nutrients we need. Moreover, we are also making space for foods we enjoy just for fun. It also reminds us that eating is just one priority in life. Balance is not a constant state. It happens over time, so it’s important to reflect on our diet regularly.
In celebration of Mental Health Month, plan and enjoy a meal of delicious, nutritious foods with some of your favorite people. Take time to enjoy the visual appeal, scents, flavors, conversation and the full experience. When we do this, we contribute most to over overall wellness – body, mind, and soul!
Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything. Genesis 9:3