Mood Affects Food. No. Wait. Food Affects Mood.

Recently, on our Facebook page, we posted a few suggestions of foods that may help reduce tax-time stress. Let’s talk about food and stress for a moment.

The Mayo Clinic makes the following suggestion in a May 2009 article about the connection between food and stress: “Meditation and positive imagery are tools to reduce stress. Let’s try some food imagery: Picture a plate with bright green spinach topped with caramel-colored crunchy nuts, moist chunks of lean poultry, and bright orange and red dried fruit… Top this off with a bit of dark chocolate for dessert.” This imagery is followed by a question: “Have I lulled you into a peaceful state of mind?”

Yeah. Right. Peaceful and hungry.

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A storm is coming. Not really. Keep reading. A storm is coming; we eat. The sun returns; we eat. We have a disagreement; we eat. We storm away from the table in anger; hide in the kitchen and eat. We receive good news; we eat. A new season begins; we eat. A season ends; we eat. We endure all manner of stress and emotions and one of the most prevalent responses amongst members of our species is to eat. Let’s face it, it can take a lot to subdue our appetite.

Any stress situation releases in our bodies the very same chemicals as a basic flight or fight response. We’re on heightened alert, we use and crave immediate energy. This is an ancient response, naturally designed to make sure we feel compelled to secure the proper energy to maintain a strong body, which in turn ensures adequate muscles, agility and alertness to fight or run to safety.

This has worked for thousands of years. Our lifestyle has changed, but our body’s natural intelligence is an indestructible program and now fuel, in the form of food, is more readily available than ever, for many of us.

Isn’t it interesting how we create technology that uplifts us straight into space, and still struggle with ancient, deep-seated programming that compels us to eat, eat, eat? The bright side, of course, is that we have invented the culinary arts. Now that is a spectacular achievement. In fact, some believe that food history, more than the evolution of technology, is the true mark of the evolution of our society. You might want to debate that over a good meal.

So it appears the food “thing” is a vicious (deliciously vicious) circle: Emotion makes us eat and eating leads to new emotions that demand more food of their own. What it all boils down to (we’ll have to consider this expression in a Fricassee of Words) is self-awareness.

As the Mayo Clinic article further suggests, we must identify our behaviors and break out of bad cycles. Ironically, when it comes to food, it is while sharing meals with others that we most often find the incentive and momentum to change. Making time to sit down and eat in good company sets the stage for planned and well-proportioned meals and builds a track record of wholesome moments associated with food.

As for the food meditation: It is what we do when we anticipate a good meal, isn’t it? And it is quite relaxing.

Read The Mayo Clinic ArticleThe Food and mood connection.

Find Your Mood: Read the 158 Main or JPD Menus

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