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We all know a balanced diet keeps our bodies healthy but did you know it also affects our emotional health? So we need to be careful not to use food to try to meet other emotional needs, which in the long run could make us feel a lot worse.

Humans have an instinct to use food to help manage our mood. That magic combination of fat and carbohydrate is hardwired to give us a sense of security, stemming back to earlier times when such food was scarce. But this can create a vicious cycle where we overdose on sugar, feel a temporary high, and then fall into a slump and need to self-medicate with more. This becomes a habit, creating a pattern match that gives us the expectation of having food to hand at all times.

Our Workplace Wellbeing Trainer, Steve Peck offers some advice on how to use food to stay well:

It’s not just food; what we drink makes a difference too.

Caffeine affects our sleep, and high doses will also produce the same physical symptoms as anxiety – raised pulse, rapid breathing, etc – and where our body goes, our brains often follow. It seems we are also turning to alcohol to try to reduce our stress. While an occasional drink is usually fine, habitual drinking for stress means we sidestep better and healthier ways to meet our emotional needs.

So, here are some tips on how to meet our need for food and drink in a healthy way:

  • Have a clear routine that doesn’t include snacking. 
  • Don’t eat straight from the packet. Put biscuits or crisps on a plate and allocate how many you want.
  • If you want a treat, stop, take time and really enjoy it. Taking pleasure in our food and drink is a wonderful thing, so pay attention to it.
  • If you are still working from home the advice is to get washed and dressed as normal. This doesn’t just help us feel more professional; if we are putting on work clothes rather than trackies we will soon see whether they still fit!
  • Make time to meet your need for movement. If you are moving less than before, you will need to eat less too.
  • Limit your caffeine and alcohol consumption to help maintain good quality sleep.
  • Take time to prepare your food to enjoy the process, not just the outcome. This will also meet your need for achievement.
  • Check in with all your emotional needs. Suffolk Mind has lots of tips for meeting each need during this strange time. That way you can keep food and drink for what it’s for – good nutrition, a pleasurable activity and something to nourish and sustain.

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