Two years ago I was told, “If the client wants nutrition advice, they will go and see a dietitian, there is no space for it in a counselling room". I disagree.
Like many, for years I wouldn’t take food too seriously, it’s just food, isn’t it? Surely everyone knows you have to eat well to be slim and healthy, but I wouldn’t connect it to mental health. As I started searching the internet and reading book after book, what I found
was a surprise to me. The connection between what we eat and how we feel is not just some kind of coincidence. There are hundreds of medical journals and research which shows that not only what we eat affects our body, but there is an undeniable connection to our mental health and wellbeing.
Studies have shown how gluten, processed foods and sugar can really change a person’s mood and their anxiety/depression levels.
For example, anxiety can be related to our daily life experiences, but it can also be triggered by the foods we eat.
Our diet has changed fundamentally over the last 50 years. We have access to processed and sugary foods like no other time in human history. In today's world, we consume 150 times more sugar than 100 years ago. As a result, the relationship we have with food these days is so different than years ago.
There is no perfect diet for everyone, we all have unique bodies with different needs. What seems fine for one person could be another’s poison. That is why it is so important to stop and look at this aspect of our life. A healthy, nutritious diet is a wonderful way of reducing stress on the body and in return we get the space to explore the psyche.
Self-care is key to managing, identifying and addressing mental health issues and the many root causes.
We simply can’t ignore the science and knowledge we have, there's a growing body of research that suggests that eating highly processed and sugary foods can cause a whole host of health problems.
Relationship with food, including all kinds of disordered eating might be very challenging to work with in therapy.
Psychotherapy shouldn’t be all about food, I agree. But completely ignoring it can be detrimental for our clients. Quite often making changes to their diet and optimal nutrition can be what they need, and removing foods that they are sensitive to can be a good start that enables them to work on deeper issues, with a clear head and brain that is free of inflammation.
Western dietary habits and choices are linked to depression, anxiety and many other mental health issues, we can not deny it anymore. More than ever, scientific data is emerging, connecting food and our mood.
I speak with passion as I believe what we eat matters to our mental health.
A holistic and natural way of treating depression, anxiety and all forms of mental health issues is the way forward.
Anxiety or depression cannot be treated by diet alone but it can be a very good start and perhaps it’s not such a bad idea to ask our clients: What do you eat?