Can Changing Your Food Transform Your Emotions?

Of course it can: eat nothing but crisps and drink nothing but cheap lager for only one week, and you’ll see the world in an entirely new way.

I’m interested in the opposite direction, of course. And I’m turning myself into a guinea pig for five days to see how far I can go in that short space of time.

My consulting room experience has been that certain conditions – especially Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Panic – can be brought right to heel by a couple of weeks’ worth of fruit and fresh vegetables. Not in every case, and anyway, when you are lumbered with either of those, you don’t have very much mental space free to plan your way out of it food-wise. And many people don’t have the freedom – they have family and children to think of.

The experiment will last for five days and will be just food: no filling in of CBT forms, or self-hypnosis CDs or guided meditations or inspirational speakers or Happiness Projects. I’ll be taking no exercise beyond my usual.

And it’s purely for interest’s sake. I don’t really like the idea of using food as medicine: it’s to be enjoyed, preferably with friends and with wine and with variety and love and music and candles and late nights. I won’t have much variety over the next few days. (My hunch is that most people’s diets are surprisingly restricted, but habit hides awareness.)

My daily diet will consist of:

Breakfast: fruit broken up into plain yoghurt, with a dash of honey, sprinkled with flax seed and walnut pieces.
Lunch: Lettuce, spring onion, avocado, sweetcorn, tuna, cucumber, radish, with lemon/oil dressing.
Dinner: (I eat late most evenings, so this is always light) Steamed or boiled vegetables, emphasising broccoli and carrots.

It’s not aimed at specific nutritional balance, although it’s probably not too bad on that front. This is all about morale.

I’ll let you know what happens. And I’ll end it with a huge roast meal and an evening in the White Bear, like any sensible person would.

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6 responses to “Can Changing Your Food Transform Your Emotions?

  1. One question I’ve always had about these “fruit and vegetable” diets that people recommend for mood is that they seem to be also biased towards rawness.

    Now there are good reasons to do that, but:

    a) It always seems like mixing two variables. (As an aside, I think sashimi could usefully fit into this kind of “raw” diet.)

    b) The people from my family who have been lifelong vegetarians eat a lot of raw fruit, but seem to manage with heavily cooked, curried vegetables. I mention this, because a good vegetable curry is healthier than your lunch salad and far, far more appetising, hence just more enjoyable, so easier to live with and (I would contend) better for your mood.

    Incidentally, for a bunch of medical reasons I’ve had to experiment with a series of restricted diets over the last five years or so and the experience brings to mind my feeling that these matters are more individual than we give them credit for.

    To generalise horribly, there are two kinds of people in this world, those who genuinely like eating and those who don’t. Those who don’t can easily alter their mood simply by changing the contents of their diet, as in your experiment.

    Those who like eating however, will find that the removal of the joy of eating (and there’s next to no continual joy in repeated salads) just makes life that little bit greyer. Whether or not that cancels out the mood effects of less cream sauces and roasted meats, I wouldn’t know, but I’m pretty sure that there’s more of a tradeoff for some than the average food-disinterested diet preacher tends to admit.

    Now, of course, you can teach yourself to be less interested in something, but I wonder if even that is (like cigarettes?) a different experience for different individuals.

  2. Of course it is. I’m just trying it out for my own interest/amusement.

    And vegetarians and curried vegetables: Lord. How many times have I been made ill by these concoctions?

  3. 😉 There’s a difference between concoctions and a cuisine.

  4. So, James, what do you suppose the England XI had been eating? What exactly is a milk-sop? Do you suppose that blancmange forms much of their diet? (Apart from the bean-pole, who I thought did rather well.) When the Seventh Cavalry consists of Spurs’ fourth best striker plus the star of the LA Galaxy treatment room, you know that the squad is not very strong. What struck me is that McLaren ended up with the dysfunctional central midfield that has so disappointed for years, plus Becks, who kept being invited by Gerrard to sprint forward. The country is well provided with Fourth XVs who apply more intelligence to their task.

  5. What is clear is that England have been serving up gruel for far too long…..Please Sir, no more…..

  6. “Specific” diets don’t help most people. A diet is a very personal thing. People have different tastes, different medical problems, etc. If you’re obese, you probably have a health problem. Talk to your doctor and find out if you do. Then ask the doctor what kind of diet you need to go on. Start there. I was diabetic and since being diagnosed I’ve lost over 70 pounds doing my OWN diet. My diet might not work for you though. Mine is based off of being diabetic and therefore limits my carbs.

    But I still eat pizza and still lose weight. 😉