We have discussed a few of the signs you may need to make a lifestyle change. Today I’d like to explore how diet and exercise can transform your body and health but also your overall wellbeing, including your mental and emotional health. That’s right; a healthy lifestyle affects more than just the number on the scale, your clothing size, and whether your doctor looks at you with an eyebrow raised when he takes your vitals. A healthy lifestyle can change your self-worth, your outlook on life, and your mood. Here’s how it works its magic.
A healthy diet is the cornerstone of a healthy body. Sure, you also need to get your body moving for overall physical health but it all starts with what you are putting into your body. If you’re not putting the right things into your body, you’re not going to be able to be physically active.
Let’s start by defining what a healthy diet isn’t. It’s not:
- Restricting your calories to a ridiculously low level that leaves you hangry all the time
- Subsisting on nothing but “rabbit food”
- A short-term quick fix to drop a few pounds
Instead, a healthy diet is
- Nourishing your body with all the vital nutrients it needs
- Eating sensibly within what your body needs to fuel your daily activity
- Eating good-for-you foods you enjoy, including allowing yourself the occasional treat
The question now is, how does your diet affect your mental wellbeing?
- Regular meals and snacks prevent mood fluctuations because your blood sugar drops.
- Balanced meals made up of mainly whole foods and complex carbohydrates prevent drastic blood sugar spikes and crashes, helping your mood stay stable.
- Staying well-hydrated can prevent mood fluctuations, improve your energy, and increase your focus.
- Eating whole foods provides your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals to keep you feeling well, prevent disease, and keep your noggin working properly.
- Whole foods keep your gut healthy and happy and a happy gut can improve your mood.
- Eating a variety of healthy whole foods can help you manage stress by decreasing the physical side effects of that stress.
- Cutting back on caffeine can lower levels of anxiety and irritability.
- Getting enough protein with each meal ensures that your brain is getting the amino acids it needs to control your moods.
- Your brain needs healthy fats so including sources such as olive oil and nuts can be good for your mood and brain.
Exercise, or any form of physical activity that gets your heart rate up, isn’t just good for keeping the pounds from piling on. It’s also good for your mental and emotional well-being. So, how does getting sweaty improve your outlook on life?
- You’ll probably sleep better at night which boosts your energy, helps you manage stress, hones your focus, and makes you feel less cranky.
- It improves your mood by causing your body to release chemicals called endorphins, natures very own feel-good chemicals. Endorphins can help reduce blue moods, depression, and anxiety.
- You may see your self-esteem improving. Not only do you feel better about yourself when you’re in a good mood. Feeling healthy, fit, and strong makes you feel better about yourself which buoys your self-worth and confidence.
I mentioned before that weight loss is a mental effort. Turning your life around in any way is a mental shift. However, your diet and exercise have a role to play in whether your mind is working with you or against you when you’re trying to make those changes.
Transforming your body and your life isn’t easy but it’s so worth it. The mood-boosting abilities of a healthy diet and getting regular exercise puts you in a position to make better choices, think more clearly, manage stress, and fight negative thinking. What you put in is what you get out. When you start looking after your body, it will look after you but it doesn’t happen overnight.
You can’t expect one healthy meal or one half-hour of getting physical to trigger instant transformation. I know we live in a world of instant gratification. I mean, Photoshop can take 10 lbs or 10 years off in 10 seconds. The thing about lasting change is that it takes time to show results, which build through an accumulative effect. Eating an apple now isn’t going to put you in a good mood but eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise over a period of time adds up to lasting physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.
Do you want to know the best part? As your mood, mental acuity, and self-esteem improve due to that accumulative effect, it gets easier and easier to stick to your lifestyle changes!