In school, we’re taught that our diet is important for our physical health. I exercised a lot and was otherwise pretty healthy, so I figured that I could manage without actually having to eat a good diet. I’d burn off any of my extra carbs, anyway, and I could take supplements if I was feeling deficient in anything.
Little did I know that eating unhealthy processed foods, sugars, and even things like bread would lead me down a dark path towards depression. Due to this, I had to seek therapy to help repair some of the mental damage I’ve accrued from eating unhealthy food for so long.
In this brief article, I’m going to talk about how a bad diet can wreak havoc on your mental health and explain why I needed therapy to help overcome the damage done by carbs, sugars, and nutritional deficiencies.
Why Is Diet Important for Mental Health?
There are two ways to look at this: either you can focus on the fact that a healthy diet improves your mental health, or you can focus on the fact that an unhealthy diet is bad for mental health. At my current state, I’m trying to look at both of these ideas.
This has led me to develop two philosophies:
- A good, healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish provides the nutrients that I need to be happy and healthy. These foods keep my brain functioning in its optimal state and can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
- An unhealthy diet – or even a brief ‘relapse’ of unhealthy foods – can be terrible for my mental health. I didn’t notice for so many years, because I was used to eating sugars, bread, chips, and other refined foods. Since I’ve stopped eating these, I’ve become aware that I was living my life on a constant rollercoaster of ups and downs. Now, even relapsing by having a chocolate bar or a couple pieces of bread sends me up on a ‘high’ that leads to an inevitable crash.
A lot of evidence has been done in this area, and now leading scientists and researchers have recognized the link between diets high in sugar and depression. Chronic sugar intake can lead to serious depressive symptoms that can persist for a while even after stopping sugar – like they did with me.
Harvard even did a large review on “nutritional psychiatry,” revealing that the brain functions less efficiently when unhealthy foods are filling it with free radicals and depriving it of the nutrients that it needs to be healthy.
Makes sense, right?
The Aftermath of a Bad Diet – Therapy and Depression
It wasn’t until I decided to improve my diet that I realized sugar and carbs were causing my depression. I certainly felt loads better after that, but some of my depressive symptoms stuck around and I had to start seeking therapy for my mental health state.
Since I’ve cut sugar and carbs out of my diet, I’ve lost more than 70 pounds. This weight loss on its own has led to massive improvement of my self-esteem, and seeing a therapist (which I found online) has helped me learn the skills and techniques that I need to become happy and healthy in the long-term.
If you’re not able to afford therapy or if you don’t live in an area where there is a good infrastructure for helping people with mental health problems, you can always consider online therapy as I did. It is much more affordable and accessible than traditional counseling, and has been proven to be an effective form of counseling.