Link my mood to my food, man.
May 14, 2012 7:09 AM   Subscribe

How can I be better at making a connection between what I eat and how I feel?

I've realized that I don't really recognize what effects various foods have on my mood or general energy levels. Save for things with obvious effects like strong coffee or spicy foods, I don't really make the connection.

I'm male, rapidly approaching 40. I eat well, a decent muesli with yogurt & a banana for breakfast, and otherwise a typical Japanese diet with lots of fresh vegetables (I do most of the cooking at home.) I do understand the value of eating healthy, so I'm not really looking for things like, "the veggies, they are good for you."

What ways can I start to pinpoint the foods I eat and attribute them to feeling *on* (or my anxiety) if that's possible? Was that sprig of broccoli the thing that flipped my switch? How specific can you get?
posted by brappi to Food & Drink (8 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Eat fewer kinds of foods to isolate the variables and to give your body a chance to get used to not having foods that trouble/energize you. Take notes if necessary. It is called an elimination diet.
posted by michaelh at 7:13 AM on May 14, 2012

Keep a food diary. Make a spreadsheet. Track what you eat and drink (don't overlook the effect of caffeine and alcohol), your sleep, your physical activity, and your moods. After a couple weeks look for patterns.
posted by entropone at 7:16 AM on May 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

I know that you can go to an allergy specialist to see what foods adversely affect you.

The test, however, is rather expensive, and from what I understand is not covered by insurance.
posted by Kamelot123 at 7:19 AM on May 14, 2012

Some people claim protein is a mood elevator, as is dark chocolate. Bananas have tryptophan, which converts to serotonin. You could try eliminating starches and carbs for a period of time and see what happens.
posted by Ideefixe at 7:40 AM on May 14, 2012

Here's my personal list. I doubt it will be the same as yours because I am not you, but here you go.

--Potatoes make me feel warm and comfy and full and happy (especially when you eat them at breakfast)

--Bread makes me feel lethargic and fat and lazy

--Cucumber and tomato make me feel alive and fresh

--Lots of veggies (ie in a stir fry) make me feel energetic, light and confident

--Berries make me feel young, sweet and sensual

--Eating meat makes me feel decadent, narcissistic and guilty (when i think about it, which i don't always do)

--Green onions make me feel amazing and fresh

--Pomegranate makes me feel satisfied and lucky

--Eggs make me feel secure and satisfied

I don't think there's any science in this, but these feelings and moods have to do with how ethical I feel about what I'm eating. When I know the food I am eating does not cause too much harm to the ecosystem or the earth, I enjoy it more. I don't know if you feel the same way, but that could be a starting point for feeling good when you eat.
posted by costanza at 7:43 AM on May 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Definitely a food diary. You need to take stock of how you feel before you eat, write down what you eat, take stock immediately after eating, and then about 30 minutes later. Take note of both physical and emotional conditions during those times. When I was figuring out allergies, moodswings etc., this is the kind of thing I did (although I was more rigid about it at some times than others) and it's a great way to really get in touch with how your body is reacting. The other thing to do during this process is just eat. Don't watch tv, surf the internet or read a book. Just eat and notice how you're reacting to the food.

As for isolating specific foods, you can start having snacks with only one kind of food and use the process above. As you know, things like emotional well-being can be affected by food, but also by a lot of other things like exercise, the amount of sleep you get, how you handle stress etc.
posted by Kimberly at 7:55 AM on May 14, 2012

This is really hard because if you change your diet and hold it there your body will adapt over months. So you have to realize that there will be transient effects and long-term effects. Just keep that in mind.
posted by zeek321 at 7:58 AM on May 14, 2012

A food diary is one option. I don't have the discipline for all that spreadsheeting (which is to say, I just don't care enough to do all that work for so long). Something that seems to work for me is just paying attention to my moods and physical state - I'm grouchy, or anxious, or cheerful, or high-/low-energy, or achy - and then looking back for environmental factors.

1. Have I been getting more/less sleep/sunshine/exercise than usual?
2. Have I been eating more/less fat/meat/carbs/sugar/vegetables/fish than usual?
3. Am I in a life situation that could be causing me a lot of stress right now? (Sometimes I don't notice that I'm stressed about X - project, studying for finals, wedding planning, family health issues - until I notice that my anxiety and loss of appetite started the same day X did),

Once you've watched this for a while you might start to notice certain patterns, say that waking up early makes you feel better all day even though you're tired for the first half-hour, or that coffee makes you anxious, or that eating a big meaty dinner and slice of cheesecake makes you feel 'blah' all evening once the sugar rush wears off.

Of course, you need to know what sort of variables there are out there, and for that you'll need to listen to the effects other people say certain foods have. Or do a big spreadsheet where you can correlate things long after the fact. But just being in the habit of paying attention to your mood, noticing "nothing has happened differently this morning than usual, but I feel great" or "I don't usually get this angry about this kind of thing" can do a lot to let you start noticing patterns.
posted by Lady Li at 8:04 AM on May 14, 2012

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