NUTRITION (Day 21: The July “I Believe…” Challenge

by Dani Fake Webb on July 21, 2010

Today’s Category: Nutrition

(If you’re new to this challenge, take a look at the intro video explaining the concept.
You can get more details on how to participate.
And click here for the daily categories.)

Nutrition Saved My Life

I never gave much thought to what I ate. I was one of the “lucky” ones who never seemed to gain weight no matter what I ate. Therefore, I ate what tasted good…I ate whatever was convenient…I ate because I had to.

Then depression found me.

depression_3A few years ago, my outside world fell apart: I faced a horrible accusation and judgment from my community; I was involved in a legal nightmare; a close friend was killed; I got married and moved to a place where I knew no one; I was under tremendous financial strain from the inability to sell our Seattle home; I nearly lost my father (the list goes on and on…but I’ll stop there.)

In those years, I became keenly aware of what it means to live in survival mode.
Though I did not have a nervous breakdown, I became keenly aware of what it might feel like.
Though I was not suicidal, I became keenly aware of why someone might commit such an act.

I was very resistant to anti-depressant medication (but just for me. I am very supportive of them for other people. Go figure.). My husband and friends continued to encourage me to do something about the dark hole I was in. When the pressure from those who loved me to take meds became too strong, I fought for an alternative.

My reasoning was this: Anti-depressants work because they alter the chemistry of your brain. What if I could use nutrition to alter my brain chemistry? It was worth a shot.

I went to the library and checked out three books on nutrition and depression. I read each book, taking copious notes. From this, I created a nutritional plan for myself, and learned more than I ever wanted to know! (NOTE: this list is from what I wrote in my notes. It is NOT meant to be a guide for you…unless you add your own research and apply it to your own situation!)

  • Increase the mood vitamins (B, Omega-3, SAM-E, St. John’s Wort).
  • Decrease simple carbs (nothing white was a good rule of thumb).
  • Serotonin, Dopamine, Noradrenaline, Glutamine, GABA & Endorphins all play a role in mood.
  • Stress depletes B6, which produces serotonin. Avocados, baked potatoes, bananas, chick peas and yellowfin tuna can help replace B6.
  • B12 helps form GABA, and can be found in clams, milk, salmon, yougurt and sardines.
  • Folic acid helps make dopamine, and is in asparagus, chick peas, lentils, oatmeal and OJ.
  • Stress depletes magnesium, which stimulates GABA production, which helps make dopamine. Find magnesium in almonds, spinach, sunflower seeds, tofu and wild rice.
  • Vitamin C boosts the immune system and helps fight brain cell damage from exposure to cortisol. Broccoli, brussel sprouts, OJ, red and green peppers, and strawberries are all good sources of it.

From all this research, I intentionally started paying attention to my diet. I made a list of the foods that I had diet-nutritionlearned could impact my mood, and worked to eat to feel good. Eating became my survival.

What follows in this post is the list of foods that I worked to incorporate into my diet. For three months, I ate nothing that was not on this list. And, for the first time in years, I began to move out of survival mode and into living mode.

Green_leafy_veggiesToday, I am not as disciplined to only eat from this list. And, not surprisingly, the further I wander from it, the worse I feel. I have learned to listen to my body and know that when I feel down, anxious, stressed or “unstable, ” it is time to take a look at my nutrition. More often than not I will discover that my diet has migrated to include more sugar, more fat, more simple carbs. These are bad for my mental health! So I adjust…and feel a deep sense of gratitude for how nutrition can keep me healthy, not just in body, but in mind. Thank god for good nutrition.

Dani’s “Get Un-Depressed” Food List

  • Seeds: Flax, pumpkin, sunflower, sesame
  • Nuts: Walnuts, almonds, cashews, pecans, peanuts
  • Protein: Fish, soy, turkey, yellow fin tuna, salmon, sardines
  • Root Vegetables: Onion, carrot, sweet potato, potato, pumpkin
  • Vegetables: Spinach, anything green, especially dark green and leafy, red or yellow, asparagus, broccoli
  • Omega-3: Walnuts, pumpkin seeds, flax-fed chicken eggs, kidney beans, flax seeds
  • Healthy fat: Avocado, olive oil
  • Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, whole grain bread/pasta, barley
  • Beans/legumes: Black beans, pinto beans, lentils, soybeans, fava beans, chick peas, kidney beans, lima beans, split peas
  • Other nutrient rich food: garlic, OJ, citrus, berries (especially blueberries and strawberries), bananas, yogurt, milk, cheese, eggs, mushrooms

Until next time, may you love your life today.

Dani-Signature

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Dani Fake Webb is a coach, retreat facilitator, speaker, and writer. She is also the founder of Destination: Life!, a company dedicated to helping people discover their passion, live their purpose, and love their life.  If you want to learn more about living a fulfilled, purposeful life, you can sign up for a FRE*E subscription to the Destination: Life! E-Zine. Just click here: http://danifakewebb.com/newsletter. Or, contact Dani directly at info@danifakewebb.com.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Renae C. July 21, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Wow Dani, it’s impressive to me that you had the energy to totally revolutionize your eating in the face of such overwhelming stress and depression. It takes a lot of energy to do the research and then put it all into practice. But I’m so glad you did.

Christine July 21, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hi Dani
I am in the middle of the sort of years you experienced but I am slowly getting myself back into the light. When I went to my doctor who told me I was severely depressed (no s**t) but failed to do any blood tests, only by finding a naturopath and then finding my iron was extremely low did I start on the path to healing. I was in the Martha Beck June training so I also believe some of the self-coaching I have done with this has helped me too. I love your foodlist and am going to start being much more aware of my nutrition too.
Thanks

Ellen Stoune July 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm

Impressive is right! Thank you for sharing so much of yourself. I feel kinship, enlightenment (not sure that’s a word but ought to be) and inspiration.

Melissa Foster July 22, 2010 at 6:11 am

What a great post! So informative! I eat many of these foods, but don’t hold to it strictly. I don’t know why though! Because I do feel so good when I stick to this diet.

I love how you broke down what each food can help with. So helpful!

Thank you, Dani!

Annie Wolfe July 22, 2010 at 11:56 pm

A hardily agree with you Renae and Ellen!

Dani,

Yesterday when I read the two new challenges, Money and Nutrition, I broke down crying at my desk. I was stunned that you added the two topics weighing me down over the last few days.

Specifically with nutrition I want to thank you for sharing another piece of your journey, and for letting it be yours and nothing more. It’s amazing how contagious it can be to simply be let into someone else’s life.

I went to the store today with the memory of your list in my mind, and very peacefully picked a few of the items from the shelves. It was a new experience to look for nutrition with peace rather than urgency. I’ve grown up with nutrition being rather laborious. My Mom’s a bit of a genius at it, and I have straggled along behind always hoping to get to her level.

Today it was just for me, and for my health and the health of my family. I didn’t feel worried or overwhelmed, just calm and peaceful and really looking forward to making dinner.

Dinner was delicious. Good, sound, balanced nutrition. And I enjoyed simply eating it for my health.

I believe that I got more out of hearing about your journey of nutrition than all the bazillion books I’ve read over the last many years. Thank you for that.

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