While eating whatever satiates our taste buds seems to produce guilt-free giddiness in our youth, age has a way of reminding people they’re going to die someday – and the more pleasurable the eats, the nearer the expiration dates on our lives. That has certainly been the case where I am concerned, and it has me concerned to the point where I’m ready to take the necessary steps in making what benefits my mind, body, and spirit my primary concern, as opposed to what provides me the most instant gratification in the shortest possible time.
Having absolutely zero expertise in the area of diet & nutrition—and having only recently begun taking my diet seriously after nearly 15 years of “off the wagon” eating; I find myself on a quest to upgrade my eating habits. Not just for reasons of personal appearance, but as a means to improve my physical, mental, and emotional health. The motivation for this is rather simple: I don’t want to feel like a dying man at the age 42.
My state of body and mind appeared reasonably sound in the first three months of 2012, only to nosedive shortly after leaving a mental health facility I was being treated at in early April. Not having the daily routine provided by said mental health facility to keep me in check was certainly a major factor, as was the meds I was taking and continue to take weren’t nearly enough to rein in my numerous ailments.
At first, it was my mood that was ceding ground to the forces of evil. I believe this tailspin of my mood was triggered by paranoia, negative thinking, and my anger bordering on rage brought on by the slights I believed I was being subjected to by people from whom I obsessively craved praise, attention, and validation from.
Then my sleep, in the form of insomnia, began to suffer as well. Manic, racing thoughts permeated my psyche on a daily basis, refusing to yield to the darkness of night and allow me the necessary sleep to regenerate, recuperate, recharge, and replenish. The chaos and calamity of the night would often spill over into the daylight hours, meaning the hours I was supposed to be awake and energized offered little if any respite from the torment of sleep deprivation further increasing my anxiety.
In the last month or so, anxiety has been an increasingly common presence in my shithole of a life. At night, my heart would feel as if were three times its normal size and pushing itself to the brink, exhaustively trying to keep my body oxygenated. My anxiety would get so bad, especially at night, that I feared an overnight stay in a local hospital would be my only option for my frayed nerves. Discerning the physiological effects of my neuroses from the physiological effects of heart disease, hypertension, or diabetes was fruitless. I felt as though all my chickens had come home to roost and an early demise was imminent.
It was as if my entire being had surrendered to the negative forces. So, that brings me to the diet and nutrition components of the changes I’m attempting to implement in my diet, nutrition, and exercise. All three have played a gargantuan role in determining my comfort level and state of mind, more so now than ever before. Pizza, spare ribs, chips, fried foods, salty foods, foods made edible with refined sugar and/or flour, soda (diet or regular), and mocha lattes all get high marks for instant gratification, depression, negative looping, manic thinking, and nearly unbearable levels of anxiety.
Minimizing those foods—as well as regulating their intake to the middle of the day and abstaining as much as possible from their consumption during mornings and night time—has proven highly effective in reducing my neuroses, lifting my mood, and improving my overall mental, emotional, and physical condition. The salad pizza I order from Grey Block Pizza yields as much pleasure as those with pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce, yet—if consumed in moderation—spares me the regret I normally feel eating fattier, saltier pizza pies. Additionally, the leafy green lettuce and avocado is more nutritious than processed meats and cheeses, and they help keep me regular.
I have found—to my utter shock and dismay—that raw fruits and vegetables are leaving me feeling… well, healthy. They aren’t nearly as inviting or pleasing to my palate as the sugar, fat, salt and fried in lard foods that previously dominated my diet; nonetheless, I can eat them at any hour and remain psychically hinged afterwards. Oatmeal has become a staple of my diet as well, something that tastes good at any hour, doesn’t make my stomach feel as if it were housing a 50 lb. anvil, and has a congenial relationship with my heart. Add an hour of exercise to the mix and I’m feeling better and healthier than I imagined possible just a few weeks ago.
The relationship between diet, nutrition, and mental health is undeniable. What you eat affects what you think, and what you think affects how you feel, which affects what you do. Do right by your stomach, organs, and intestines and your stomach, organs, and intestines will reward your resolve with productivity, peace of mind, and salubrity. What you lose in pungency you gain in contentment, and relief from anxiety.
By Greg L.