Our diets can massively impact our mood and mental health. This is true for anyone, let alone people with mental illness. But diet seems to be low on the list of ways to get well. I’m not sure why this is, but I think it’s time I shared my experience of diet and health.

I take quetiapine for bipolar2. A medication that messes with your metabolism. I’ve been on it for nearly three years and gained around 1.5 stone in weight… which thankfully I’ve now lost. It was very challenging to lose this weight. I had to massively restrict calories and exercise like there was no tomorrow. So I’m afraid it’s not easy.

My too tips for losing weight whilst your medication are: up your caffeine intake before/after exercising as it helps to burn fat. Eat a low fat, high protein diet. Cut sugar and bad fats out of your diet. Exercise as much as you can, HIIT is fantastic because your body burns fat even after you’ve stopped exercising. And don’t be too hard on yourself. It will take quite a few months.

But diet isn’t just about weight management. It can massively affect mood and mental health. You need to do some testing and figure out what foods affect you in what ways. For me, if I eat too many stimulants like caffeine or sugar I have trouble sleeping. I feel grumpy and low. If I eat too much red meat I feel sluggish and tired. If I eat too much gluten in the form of bread type products I feel bloated and tired.

You know as well as I do that junk food is bad for you. So stop eating it regularly. Everything is fine in moderation. I live by this rule: eat healthily during the week, have a treat at the weekend. It’s tough, especially when you’re busy and working. But healthy food doesn’t have to take hours to prepare. A stir-fry, pasta, roasted veggies, grilled fish… even beans on toast! All of these things are quick and healthy to prepare.

Make clever choices with snacks. Pick some fruit instead of a chocolate bar. Rice cakes instead of crisps. A flapjack instead of a brownie. A sandwich instead of a sausage roll. Stay away from temptation by planning where you’re getting your lunch and consciously decide to not visit the drive-thru.

Making sure you eat well and regularly is an important tool in your wellness kit. If your blood sugar drops low your brain function reduces and you’ll feel low and irritable. Start the day with a good healthy breakfast. I eat porridge every day because it’s a slow-release food that sustains you throughout the day.

Gut health has also been linked to mental wellness. Keep your gut healthy by eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. Fill your body with fibre and supplement with good bacteria by eating fermented foods and drinks, kombucha is wonderful, plus natural yoghurt.

And lastly water. I suffer from headaches, so about six months ago I bought a huge 2l water bottle that I now drink every day. The difference in my tiredness levels is extraordinary. I used to be wiped out by around 8pm, but I now I’m more awake and alert during the day and don’t go to sleep until much later. Try it, I guarantee you’ll feel the difference.

So good luck with adding a healthy diet to your lifestyle. Test different foods and learn what works for you!

Here are some links to read a bit more on the subject: Mental Health Website, Nutritionist Resource

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