The Food, Mood and Movement Triangle
Most people have made the connection between food and mood. In other words how you feel can very much influence your food choices. The classic example being that of a person who feels blue or down in the dumps and reaches for the tub of ice cream to eat whilst watching TV. How we feel is instrumental in determining what and how we are going to eat.
Some people have also noticed the opposite effect where eating certain foods will make you feel a certain way. A simple example is drinking coffee, which can make you feel racy or 'energized'. And some foods can make you feel really sleepy or lethargic, or bloated and uncomfortable and even drop your moods.
And of course there is the research that talks about our gut bacteria and how these too can have a 'say' in our dietary choices – for example, certain bacteria in our digestive tract dominating in numbers can make you crave certain foods which then can make you feel a certain way.
Bottom line is that many people can be caught in a bit of a vicious cycle of eating something they are craving and then not liking how it makes them feel OR feeling down and out and reaching for a food that adds to this feeling.
Food and mood.
Mood and food.
Gut health and food.
Gut health and mood.
These are all linked....
But what is really the driving factor here? Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Where do we start to make a change – At the food level? At the mood level? Looking at gut health? Are they perhaps all as important? And/or is there an ingredient missing - pun intended?
What about movement or posture? What has this got to do with food?
Movement through exercise is well known to increase endorphins in the body – these are little ‘feel good’ chemicals that are released within the body with exercise and have a positive impact on how we feel about ourselves. Regular exercise is supportive for health and well-being not just on a physical level but also on a psychological level. And consider for a moment that posture is very closely linked to moods - we know that when we are feeling 'great' we can walk with a skip in our step, keep our heads up and shoulders back and look people in the eyes. And then... we have those moments or perhaps days (or perhaps months for some) where the skip is gone, the dejection sits strong, the shoulders are slumped and the eyes are glazed over. This is how our body feels when it’s all too much and we feel down and out. And guess what foods we will tend to be drawn to in such a state? Most likely not the ones that will bring back light open posture and positive feeling. And of course on those days when we feel great - if we manage to hold onto this long enough, then we know the food choices are a breeze. The things that could normally tempt us, don't feel so tempting, and it is like we are free to be us and we tend to go for foods that support us rather than make us heavy and flat.
Ok so can we begin to see how all of these are interlinked: food/nutrition/digestive tract health - mood/emotions/psychology – movement/posture. One feeds the other, and back again. Either in a way that supports you or in a way that pulls you down.
So let's take it back to movement which is the building block or the foundation behind all of this. Just to be clear, it's not about suddenly having to make yourself move in a particular way nor about making yourself sit straight and pretend to smile.
But could it be as simple as re-learning to move in a more natural, gentle way and restoring your open elongated posture i.e being more open in your chest and long in your spine with all your daily activities.
Gentleness is a natural quality we all have, it is deep within us, we don’t need to re-learn it, it’s just about re-connecting to it. Moving gently isn’t about moving slowly – it’s about a smooth flowing way of moving that takes away all the hard pushing way we can move when we are stressed or needing to get something done to a time frame that puts us under pressure. When we move gently its like giving all our soft tissue – particularly our connective tissue - a grease and oil change, it lessens that deep tension in your body that makes you feel out of sorts.
Our connective tissue (CT) is the fundamental tissue in our body that makes up our entire body, it is super important for our general well-being and our natural spring in our step, or our vitality. It’s ideal state is fluid, flowing and flexible - it is what supports our fully flexible pain-free movements. When we push ourselves beyond what our body is able to do at the time, or we stress about an issue, or continually worry about stuff, it is like a threat to our CT and it hardens/tightens in protection. That is that deep tension you can’t seem to get to or release from a massage, or a stretch or a certain exercise.
Moving gently and smoothly slowly allows your CT to soften, expand and it takes the compression or hardness off all your joints. Just walking smoothly, enjoying the way your chest is open, your arms and hips are moving freely at a pace to increase your breathing rate can be the best connective tissue therapy you could give yourself. Your endorphins are flowing, your softer CT allows more blood flow to every part of your body, bringing oxygen to all your cells and removing toxins from those cells - you can feel so lovely from inside out, even after 15 minutes. It is more important to walk or exercise with enjoying the movement that allows you to be more connected with your body, which is far more beneficial, than how long or how hard you did the exercise.
So next time when food and mood takes over to make you flat, consider that it is your CT and movements that have led you to those choices. Hence will power is not the answer, but rather it is about observing and learning what type of movements lead to what type of choices. It can be as simple as making a choice to move in a gentle way that really unlocks a natural connection and supportive relationship with your body, yourself and your food choices!
Now how moving is this!
Maybe it is some food for thought!