Many people who feel low in mood or feel anxious struggle to maintain a regular pattern of eating. For some people, their appetite reduces and people may skip meals or reduce their food intake. Others may experience an increase in appetite or a tendency to eat for comfort but find that they become self-critical as a result. Others may carry on eating but only eat ‘junk’. These changes are very common but could be making you feel worse. Low blood sugar levels can be a trigger for anxiety and if you are not fuelling your body this could be having an impact on your mood, energy levels and concentration. If you are over-eating or eating the wrong kinds of food, this could result in feeling lethargic and quite often people will feel guilty or become very critical towards themselves as a result of this.
What is regular eating?
Gaps between eating should be no more than every 4 hours and healthy snacks are OK.
Regular eating may look something like this:
10:00am healthy snack
2.00pm healthy snack
6.00pm Evening meal
Clients have often found things like breakfast biscuits a helpful and convenient way to get back into eating breakfast and some clients have found it helpful to have dried fruit and nuts within easy reach for something quick and convenient.
If your appetite is low, regular eating is not about the quantity you eat, so even if you only manage small amount such as a banana at breakfast time, this is OK and it is better than skipping meals altogether. People can find that when they start to eat more regularly, their appetite increases and they start to want to eat more but sometimes we need to start getting back into a regular eating routine before this happens.
If you forget that you have not eaten for long periods of time because you are busy or because you are no longer used to a regular eating pattern, then how about a reminder on your phone? However, you do it, eating regularly will help with you energy levels, concentration and mood and put you in a better position to begin your therapy.
If over-eating is a problem this is often a way in which people are trying to feel better but can have negative longer term consequences such as feeling guilty, becoming self-critical, or changes in weight or health. Often when people experience this difficulty they will try very hard to stop over-eating but many of us know how difficult that can be. As soon as you have the thought that you shouldn’t eat that lovely cake, it is all you can think of!
One idea is to delay the urge rather than deny yourself what you want altogether. So, instead of thinking
‘I must not eat it’
try ‘I will wait for half an hour and see if I still want it.’
This gives the urge a chance to pass and makes it more of an active choice if you do still want to eat that lovely cake.
Another idea may be eating what you would like to eat but doing so mindfully. This means that you take your time eating it, experience it more fully and perhaps want less of it. For more about mindful eating you could visit http://thecenterformindfuleating.org/.