Processed Foods Contribute to Depression?

Understanding mental illness has been a challenge for years. That’s why it is so exciting when research reveals an avenue that may help us to prevent and/or control mental health issues like Depression.

Today the BBC cited new information, reported in the British Journal of Psychiatry, which ties processed food to the development of depression. This study, done in the UK, compared a group of subjects who consumed a diet comprised of mostly whole foods (fruits, veges, fish etc.) to a group of subjects whose diet was more typical of the average British person (or American person), being made up of processed foods such as; sweetened desserts, fried food, processed meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products.

The results of this 5 year study were impressive in that the subjects who ate larger amounts of processed foods had a 58% higher risk of developing depression and those whose diet consisted predominantly of whole foods had a 26% lower risk of developing depression.

It makes perfect sense that the body and the mind are intricately connected and this exciting new research shows us just how much control we may have over how we feel emotionally. Furthermore, it offers proof that perhaps we should all be listening to our mothers…because they were right when they told us to “eat your vegetables…they’re good for you!”

The Weight of the Holidays

The little monsters came and went with Halloween and now we are left holding the bag of left over treats! What will you do with yours? We certainly don’t want to waste food now do we? So odds are that one by one, we will eat those tempting left over treats. And when they are gone we will be facing Thanksgiving feasts and then the Christmas season with all of its attendant parties and food-centered gatherings. No wonder then that the average American will gain 5-7 pounds between Halloween and New Years Day!

We are counseling our clients that now is the time to take a proactive approach to the holidays in order to avoid gaining those extra holiday pounds and we are encouraging you to make a commitment to someone and to stay accountable to that person regarding diet and exercise whether it is a friend, family member or your personal trainer.

Recent research, reported in the New Englad Journal of Medicine, indicates that your friends and family members are a key part of weight loss and are also important too a successful weight management program. A recent study of over 12,000 adults reported that a person’s risk of becoming obese increased by roughly 40% if her spouse or sibling became obese and that risk jumped as high as 170% if a close friend were to become obese.

This is why it is important for friends and family to support one another’s goals this time of year. And it is also important for you to know what your own goals for your weight are. Knowing what your calorie intake per day should be is extremely helpful. For women, take your current weight (or desired weight) and multiply it by 11 (men multiply by 12) and that will give you the number of calories that you can ingest each day and neither gain nor lose weight. Simply knowing this number helps many people think about what they put in their mouths and that single action can help keep you true to your weight management goals this holiday season!

We will share some Holiday Weight Management Tips in the coming days to help provide you with the tools to meet the holidays head on and have no regrets come January first! That way you greet the New Year with Health and Happiness and in the mean time, donate your left over candy to a food bank, daycare center or a local Boys & Girls Club – or even better – just throw it away!

Be Happy and Healthy – Here’s How!

Are there things to be worried about right now? You bet!!! The economy, swine fly, our kids and parents are just a few of the things that cause us concern. Today’s adults, teens and even children have their plates full of things that can bring stress, worry and anxiety with them. Note that these situations CAN cause these feelings in us but they don’t HAVE to. Researchers are showing in study after study that it isn’t stress that makes us worry, it is the way in which we CHOOSE to react to those stressors.

Take public speaking, an example of a situation which causes many people to feel anxious, worried and sometimes even physically sick. Yet not all people respond to the stressor in this manner because they do not perceive it to be a stressful situation. Again, it is how we perceive stress and how we respond to it that determines the effect that it will have on us both mentally and physically.

Recent research indicates that self efficacy (a feeling of being in control of a situation) influences our immune system, our emotional happiness and even our longevity. Stress, by its nature, is defined as a situation that challenges a person (or an animal) beyond his/her ability to deal with the demands of that situation. In other words, if you feel capable in a situation, you do not experience if as stressful. If you feel helpless, you do feel stress.

So rather than worry about things we cannot control; the economy, the people in our lives, whether we seccumb to the flu or not, we need to focus on those things that we can influence in a positive way. Here are just few tips for having health and happiness:

  • Living in the present rather than the past or the future and really savoring the moments that give us joy is one method for increasing our happiness and health.
  • With permission from your doctor, start a program of physical activity. Research shows that moving your body increases health and happiness by releasing chemicals called endorphins and endocannabinoids (natural chemicals similar to those in morphine and marijuana!). Not only will moving increase your physical health but it will also increase your mental health as well and you might live longer too!
  • Be grateful for what you have rather than wishing your life were different. No matter how poor or how successful you are, there will ALWAYS be someone better off and someone worse off. If you want to be REALLY happy, go find the one who is worse off and do something to help or cheer or take care of that person. Research shows that people who do things for others are happier than those who do things for themselves!
  • Choose happiness. The brain is wired so that it can only experience one emotion at a time. If you are feeling worried, scared or sad, if you stop for a moment and look for something beautiful, happy or comforting, that is what your brain will experience. You have the ability to re-wire your feelings, again choose happiness.
  • Choose health. Research shows that happy people are sick less often and that when they do get sick, their symptoms are less severe and last less time AND they live longer than do unhappy people.

Bottom line: it is up to you! You can allow the circumstances of this world to dictate how you feel and you will be on a constant see-saw of emotions OR you can choose health and happiness. What will YOU choose?

Research:

Cohen, S., Alper, C.M. , Doyle, W.J.,Treanor, J.J. & Turner, R.B. (2006). “Positive Emotional Style Predicts Resistance to Illness After Experimental Exposure to Rhinovirus or Influenza A Virus.” Psychosomatic Medicine 68:809-815

Hitlin, S. (2007). Doing good, feeling good: Values and the self’s moral center. The Journal of Positive Psychology: 2(4): 249–259

Pressman S.D., Cohen S. (2005) “Does Positive Affect Influence Health?” Psychological Bulletin. 2005;131:925–71.

Ratey, J.J. (2008). Spark; The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Little Brown and Company: New York.

Ray, O. (2004). “How the Mind Hurts and Heals the Body.” American Psychologist: Vol. 59, No. 1, 29–40

Scheier, M. F., & Carver, C. S. (1987). Dispositional optimism and physical well-being: The influence of generalized outcome expectancies on health. Journal of Personality, 55, 169–210.

Seligman, M.E.P. (1998). Learned Optimism. New York: Simon and Schuster.