Travel for work has meant that I’ve been away from the moor for two weeks, so I’ve written about a different topic for this week’s blog. This week I’m writing about how my diet can become nutty in a good way.
There is a well-established link between diet and mental health. When I’m of sound mind I listen to podcasts about food and diet made by the Zoe team. I listen to them on Audible because I’m an avid listener of audio books. They’re also available free of charge on the Zoe website:
I like the Zoe podcasts because they are intelligent and based on sound science without being preachy or trying to sell products and dietary supplements. One of the important things they promote is the role of the gut microbiome and how a healthy and diverse microbiome can help with all sorts of mental and physical well-being.
One of the tips they suggest is that we should be eating thirty different types of plant a week. They also say that nuts and seeds are good for you.
When I’m in one of my mental health episodes – which take the form of high anxiety that can last for weeks or even months – my diet is terrible, and this prolongs the episode. I eat things that will give me an immediate kick – chocolate, fish and chips, pizza, burgers – and weight piles on because I tend not to exercise.
It’s a feedback loop because I’m not doing all those things we know are good for MH such as walking in nature, eating well and so on. Added to this is loss of confidence from gaining weight and thinking that I don’t look attractive.
What keeps me going is that I know from past experience that I’ll emerge from it, and I just hang on to that until it’s over; and when it’s over I can sort myself out again.
Relief of emerging and the sorting out process can manifest a bit of OCD behaviour. The one I’ve got now is what I’ve come to call the eleven-seed breakfast. The logic is that if I need to eat thirty different types of plants a week for a good gut microbiome, then I can take a short cut by getting as many as possible into a single meal.
So, after my recent episode I went out and bought as many different types of nuts and seeds as I could find – which turns out to be eleven: almonds, pistachio, sunflower, pumpkin, hazel, pine, chia, flax, cashew, pecan, macadamia.
For my breakfast porridge (made with barley flakes rather than oat because that’s supposed to be better) I include a teaspoon of each different type of nut and seed. Zoe also says that spices count in the thirty plants a week, so I also add a teaspoon of cinnamon (‘true cinnamon’ because that’s supposed to be the best type).
The OCD logic being that I can eat nearly half of the thirty plants needed for a week in a single bowl of porridge in the morning, which then makes added the remaining eighteen weekly plants less of a mountain to climb.
I admit it’s a bit nutty, so to speak, but it’s actually quite tasty, and has to be better than my junk food diet when I’m in an episode, and hopefully will help stave off or reduce the next crash.
Most importantly of course is that it makes me feel well and – ahem – keeps my dietary system functioning as it should. Though I’m not recommending that you need to be as OCD as me!