Boosting Your Introvert Energy and Mood with Food

Despite overall good physical health… I don’t always sleep well. I experience the  introvert energy drain and my emotions simmer dangerously close to the surface…

tiredMuch of this is due to my temperament and it frustrates me. I absolutely embrace my sensitive, intuitive, deep-processing self but sometimes it just stands there with limp, low-energy arms, not hugging back. It lets me down and I feel tired, fuzzy-headed and weepy.

I can’t wallow in that state for too long. I have things to do, people to care for and a beautiful life to seize. So… I find ways to bolt myself out of the malaise.

I have an aversion to pharmaceuticals so I experiment with less chemically options.:)

My latest experiment in creating a bright and vibrant me? Nutrition.

Please help me find energy and abstain from bitchiness

As a mom, introvert and sensitive woman of the 2000s I want/need the stamina, clarity and bright eyes of a good night’s sleep, green leafy diet and clean living.

foodsmileI read a lot about diet and its correlation with health and well-being.  I LOVE food! I almost walked out on a first date once because 5 minutes into our meeting (at a chic eatery with an awesome menu) he said he wasn’t much of an eater.

Slowly creating and savoring beautiful meals with others is one of my favorite things in the world to do, but I wanted professional guidance regarding the use of diet to get out of emotional funks and low-energy days.

I met with a dietician named Brenna (nice). I told her I wanted to balance my hormones, gain energy and obtain mental clarity.  To her credit, she didn’t even bat an eye.

Bye bye Kashi cereal

The biggest key to my well-being turns out to be regulation of sugar intake. This is not a huge surprise. I have a tusk-like sweet tooth that also enjoys savory carbohydrates. The thought alone of crusty bread with a chewy center gives me a mouth-gasm.

It seems that fluctuations in my blood sugar levels cause many of the symptoms I am trying to get a handle on.

High blood sugar causes: Insomnia, hormone imbalances, mental fog, inflammation

Low blood sugar causes: Cravings, fatigue, insomnia, crying easily, brain fog, anxiety and my personal favorite, hangry (hungry + angry).

Even though I know to eat carbohydrates with protein in order to create sustaining energy I was missing two other key factors.

First of all, I allowed myself “good carbohydrates” like whole grain bread and Kashi cereal because I thought they were complex enough, with extra fiber and significant protein, to justify their inclusion in my everyday diet. I was missing the knowledge thatstressed desserts the only good carbohydrates come from whole foods like vegetables and fruit (should eat 5-9 cups a day). I ate Kashi GoLean Crunch every day for breakfast with a 1/2 cup of berries and an 8 oz. glass of orange juice plus milk and flax meal.  The cereal alone has 35 grams of carbohydrates. The juice 26 grams. The milk 13 grams. Berries 4 grams. That’s 78 grams of carbohydrates which divided by four equals 20 teaspoons of sugar to start the day.  Yikes, that is quite a spike which eventually thanks to an insulin rush would turn into quite a drop in sugar. Protein (about 19 grams) modulated some of the spikes in my breakfast but I was missing something else.

Butter makes it better

Secondly, I was missing FAT!  Yummy fat, fat, fat. Such a satisfying word. Specifically, I was missing the good fats like butter, avocado, nuts, seeds, coconut oil, olives, olive oil, sour cream, cream cheese, whipping cream. The only healthy fat included in my breakfast was the ground flax meal (approx. 2.25 grams). Brenna told me I need 1-2 tablespoons of healthy fats per snack or meal.

Healthy fats support: better metabolism, mental and emotional health, hormonal balance, balanced blood sugar and absorption of vitamins and minerals.

Eating for a brighter more vibrant introvert

How have I changed my eating habits to put this real foods diet in place? The biggest change has been at breakfast.  I still walk out in the morning and stare longingly at the cereal cupboard (the desire is fading slowly) but I have come up with new options. Eggs! I love eggs (thank God) and so does my middle son so a breakfast with eggs at its center is appealing (and comes together surprisingly quickly).

The tough part? Surrounding the eggs with vegetables. Adding meat and vegetables to breakfast seems strange to me other than an omelet with bacon. It seems very dinner-like, but I made sure to stock my refrigerator with masses of fresh vegetables (I highly recommend a shopping trip to the grocery store to complement your new diet otherwise you’ll fall back on old standbys). Nitrate free bacon and sausage make it better.

Butter is my new boyfriend.  I am so smitten with its taste and smell. I got away from butter because I thought it upset my stomach (slightly lactose intolerant) but I have had zero problems eating it at every meal.

foodmood-clothfairySo lately a typical breakfast looks like: 1-2 eggs, half-of an English muffin (allowed once per day) with 1 TBLSP. butter, 1-2 cups of spinach and mushrooms sautéed in butter or coconut oil. It’s growing on me. My other meals are similar except no eggs. I add fish, chicken, pork or grass-fed beef instead.  Big salads for lunch are encouraged but I’m finding I’m often not that hungry at lunch time. I often eat some nuts or a small yogurt (plain or low sugar) and a piece of fruit.

Supplements

I want to mention that Brenna also gave me supplements to complement my diet.  I was already taking fish oil but she increased my intake of omega 3s to 3000mg per day. I also started taking vitamin D3.  Vitamin D enhances serotonin and dopamine production – both are valuable neurotransmitters providing a feeling of well-being. We tried Magnesium to help me sleep but it gave me a headache and made me feel heavy and lethargic in the morning so I stopped after one night.

Supplements are specific to each person, their body-makeup and needs.  I urge you to consult a professional if you want to get serious about using them.

So do you feel better?

It’s only been a week but I do feel better.  I have noticed I am not so irritated when it comes to up and down interruptions and busy-ness with the kids.  This morning I slept until my alarm went off.  That hasn’t happened in weeks (I often wake way too early and lie there thinking and thinking).

I still cried when reading this blog post, Beautiful People, and got all moved and excited by the new music I added to my iPod.  The amazing parts of my introverted, sensitive temperament are still intact but the foggy thinking has cleared and the emotional down-ness has subsided. I’ve tackled tasks I’ve been putting off and finished them.

I felt extra smiley and energetic when I went to the health club the other day.  Once happy_healthy_womanthere my friend said, without solicitation, that I looked great.  The towel guy smiled at me extra brightly which I think was him mirroring my own high spirits.

I feel lighter and more vibrant which I think is a reflection of the light and vibrant food I am eating.

Dark chocolate still calls me every day.  So does Kashi.  I haven’t had to deal with PMS yet so it remains to be seen if my new diet can vibrantly beat the crap out of that bully, but I’m optimistic.

Do you notice how you feel after you eat certain foods? How balanced are your emotions and energy levels? Would a cookbook with energy-bursting recipes be appealing to you?

** It should also be noted that I workout 3-4 times a week.  Fitness is where I think, build strength, boost energy and get creative.

Related posts:

How To Be Lively, Energetic and Vibrant When Your True Nature Is Thoughtful, Introverted and Reticent (space2live)

The Importance of Not Being Ernest (New York Times)

Understanding the Introvert Cycle: Why We Go From Irritable to Ever-Loving (space2live)

The Simple Secret to Euphoric Living (space2live)

Is There a Linke Between Vitamin D and Depression? (Life Extension)

Dear Sugar: I’ve Filed for Divorce (a la carte spirit)

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33 Comments

  1. pyjamadays
    October 12, 2014

    Good read, thanks Brenda! ^^
    Ah so is that what that horrible feeling is; fogginess? I keep having this feeling that’s so hard to explain. It scares me because the only thing I can relate it back to through my experiences is depression, and I certainly do NOT want to take a trip down that lane again…ever. As I’m sure anyone can agree. 😛 Am I piecing the two feelings (yours and mine) correctly, or are they different? For me, basically it’s just an extremely “low” mood for a short period of time; which at the time feels like it could last forever. It feels disabling…I can’t do anything for long before I retreat to my bedroom and sob like an idiot and then sleep the mental pain away. Nine times out of ten, I’ll wake up feeling refreshed! It doesn’t make any sense to me and I don’t feel like I have any control over it whatsoever which is so frustrating. 🙁 When I get into that state of mind, my mind always picks on things that I can’t reassure myself on also…for example, it made me realise that going to university could be another massive, regretful mistake if I make all the preparations and move there only to discover that I’ve just had enough of study. That the reason I can’t pick up any new interests any more isn’t just because of the physical exhaustion from my job…that it’s because I just don’t have the interest for learning any more. It’s scary because it’s true. That could happen, and there’s no way of knowing whether it will or not.

    I wondered if it could be a symptom of Bipolar Disorder, but Bipolar sufferers experience highs and lows for longer periods of time I believe? I have never spoken to a Bipolar sufferer before, but from what I have read it sounds a lot more serious.

    Whether or not this feeling I’m trying to explain is similar/the same as yours, I am going to try focusing on what I eat also to see if it makes any improvements. Can’t hurt to try, right?

    Thanks once again! 🙂

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      October 13, 2014

      Dear PJ Days,
      In my case, the brain fog is more of an inability to focus and a sleepy feeling. I usually get this after eating too many carbohydrates. I do experience the periods of low mood though. I think that may be hormonally and sleep deprivation related, in my case at least. Exercise and connecting with myself and others helps. I also have a friend who gets like you do and then cries a lot and sleeps it off. I think negativity and lack of sleep are the catalysts for that for her.

      I have a good friend who has bipolar disorder. That involves extreme anxiety and deep depression for her. She can’t function without medication – strong medication. I doubt what you have is BP disorder.

      It sounds like you have a lot of self-awareness. You know what you need as far as self-care goes. Yes, try to clean up your diet. It has helped me.

      Thank you for sharing your experience! 🙂

      Reply
  2. ilona fried
    November 15, 2013

    Great post! I feel like we’re on a very similar path of self-discovery and making changes, including befriending butter! I just wrote about “divorcing” sugar….I hope you’ll visit and read.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 16, 2013

      I loved your article! I added it to the related posts section of “Boosting Your Introvert Energy…”. I never realized how much sugar affects my mood and energy. I still crave it but adore the lighter, clearer feeling I have without it. Thanks for directing me to your post. I need to spend more time exploring your site. I could be there a while.:)

      Reply
      • ilona fried
        November 16, 2013

        Thank you for adding my post! Do visit my blog, and stay as long as you want! Glad to have found a kindred spirit along the path.

        Reply
  3. morgancnicholswriter
    November 10, 2013

    P.S. I just read the ‘Beautiful People’ post and it totally brought tears to my eyes too… so true!

    Reply
  4. morgancnicholswriter
    November 10, 2013

    I love your breakfast suggestions Brenda – gives me more ideas to try, as I’ve got a bit bored of just eggs and toast. About six weeks ago I discovered that low blood sugar was more of an issue for me than I’d thought, and read the book ‘Low Blood Sugar’ by Martin L Budd. I’ve been trying his diet since then to remedy my low blood sugar problem – which manifested in a lot of the symptoms you describe. The effect of changing my diet was instant, and the best thing for me has been that I no longer have big energy dips and need to sleep during the day every day – I have so much more energy and like you mentioned, am getting on with things and finishing them which feels amazing! I must admit I’ve had a few deviations from the diet at times but staying away from sugar completely is one thing I’ve kept up. Thanks for sharing your experience, so relevant as ever.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 10, 2013

      Oh thanks! I will look up “Low Blood Sugar”. I am still looking for more breakfast options myself. Eggs are getting old. Let me know if you come across any. I do have a smoothie instead every few days but drinking my breakfast isn’t as fulfilling.:) I still feel like I have more energy and my thinking is clearer. Another thing I’ve noticed is my digestion is better. I don’t get the bloated feeling as often. Hope that isn’t TMI.;) It may be that I don’t drink as much milk since I don’t eat cereal anymore or it could be that my body just had a hard time digesting sugar.

      “Beautiful People” was so moving. Sigh…

      Thanks for commenting.:)

      Reply
  5. packplayfair
    November 4, 2013

    “Butter is my new boyfriend” is now my favourite line. T-shirts should say this.

    Reply
  6. November
    November 2, 2013

    I’ve found that nothing has much of an effect on me. I always feel the same or I always feel bad. Whenever someone greets me with the terribly-annoying “hi, how are you”, I have to lie and say “I’m good”. I’m NEVER “good”. I am always exhausted, lethargic, moody, tired, in pain….no matter what I do or don’t eat, how much I sleep or don’t sleep, whether I exercise regularly or not. Getting out of bed at 6:30am is the hardest thing I do all day, but since I’m my most awake around 11pm, getting a decent night’s sleep is near to impossible…..since it takes a good 30-60 minutes to fall asleep, usually after a frustrating, concentrated effort to quiet my chaotic mind with either counting or repeating the alphabet. Since I’ve been like this (and it’s only getting increasingly worse with age) for 30 some years, I’ve just come to accept it. I will soon be splitting from my spouse and I have a little hope that a night without his snoring, tossing/turning, sleep-talking will have a positive effect on me. At the very least, I will be immensely happy to be free of the constant shoving at him to turn over so he stops snoring. I’m quickly becoming a firm believer in separate bedrooms. Sleep is more important than the societal/romantic necessity of sleeping in the same bed.

    I’ve discussed this with my doctor, had my levels checked…..everything is within normal range. There’s nothing wrong with me physically. I think it’s just normal for me to never have energy, to always be tired, to always have headaches, to never sleep well…..I don’t think it is directly related to my introversion either, except that being a forced extrovert (job, relationships, etc.) stresses me out, which makes these physical problems worse. Although the way I feel contributes to my depression. One can only do so much to eliminate stressors.

    I’m happy that some people benefit from healthy eating, regular exercise, and are able to sleep well. But for some of us, these things don’t happen and/or don’t help.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 2, 2013

      I hope the changes that will follow your spouse’s departure spark some new life and energy in you. I think you will sleep better without a snoring man next to you. If you are sensitive like me, you hear every little sound. I bet your body has developed a habit of dealing with his snoring. May you find delicious peace in his absence. The change in routines may give you wings friend.:)

      Reply
  7. LB
    November 2, 2013

    Ohhhh, I could have written this! Reduce carbs, increase good fats, eliminate sugar. Like magic! The difference in mood is incredible. I don’t have a PMS issue, but I am perimenopausal. My issue has always been headaches and the elimination of sugar and simple carbs has all but eliminated those. The only time I really get them now is during weather changes, and there’s not much I can do to control that!

    I’m so glad you discovered eggs! I never use milk or orange juice (way too much sugar!), so the cereal and juice breakfast went out the window for me a long time ago. I’d starve without my eggs! Here’s what I do: scramble them up with whatever veggies are in the fridge. Doesn’t matter what kind, but I almost always include spinach and sweet pepper. I call it my “kitchen sink scramble.” 🙂 You can saute them first, or not, whichever you like. If I feel like meat, we usually have a bowl of browned ground turkey in the fridge. Or I might treat myself to a couple slices of bacon. Or no meat at all. Maybe a sprinkle of grated parmesan. Entirely mood dependent. If I eat at 7:00 am, I’m rarely hungry before noon or even 1 pm.

    Oh, I’m so excited to read about another convert!!

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 2, 2013

      I like the ground turkey in the fridge idea as well as parmesan cheese in the eggs. New ideas make it more fun. I’m still drinking juice. I just bought 100% cherry juice. It tastes incredible! I am mindful of the sugar but it does have some other health benefits too. What do you drink, just water? Thanks so much LB!

      Reply
      • LB
        November 5, 2013

        I usually drink some kind of drink mix in water. Crystal light or something like that. The naysayers will say it has additives and sucralose, and it does, but those things don’t seem to bother me, so it’s personal choice. I really don’t care for plain water, unless it’s ice cold, with lemon, and usually only in a restaurant. My water at home tastes terrible. I will have to try the cherry juice, it sounds good!

        To prove my point about the headaches, I had a rather high carb day yesterday and guess what I woke up with this morning? Yup… a nice headache. **sigh** some learning comes harder than others…. but nobody’s perfect :-/

        And BTW… I love the new bigger font size!

        Reply
        • Brenda Knowles
          November 5, 2013

          My daughter gets headaches fairly frequently. Maybe it’s linked to high carbs? Although, she is in deep with sugar this week from Halloween and she hasn’t had any headaches…

          Reply
      • LB
        November 6, 2013

        I’m no expert on headaches in general, only on my own. There are so many different possible causes and triggers. Sugar/high carbs is one of mine; who knows what your daughter’s triggers are? One way to figure it out is to keep a “headache diary” where she lists all her activity and foods in the 12 to 24 hours leading up to a headache, and then describes the quality of the headache. Such a diary would show patterns which can then be consciously changed..

        I looked for cherry juice at the store and the labels show lots of sugar. Natural sugar, but sugar all the same. Do you drink it at 100% strength? Do you dilute it?

        How goes your nutrition experiment after a few more weeks? Are you finding better sleep? And thereby your introvert tendencies don’t kick in quite as much, or as strongly? I am very interested in your experiences here, as I’ve seen similar tendencies in myself, but I also have a pretty strong stress response which triggers my introvert tendencies. I’m noticing the more stress I’m under, the less nutrition seems to matter. (Let me qualify that: good nutrition always matters in terms of feeling physically well, sleeping better, etc. but it doesn’t seem to have any effect on my introversion if my stress levels are kicked into high gear) Does that make sense? LOL

        Reply
        • Brenda Knowles
          November 6, 2013

          I definitely dilute my cherry juice or drink a very small amount when full strength.
          I know that I am strongly affected by stress as well. High emotions drain me quickly and I need solitude or an intimate connection (not physical). This is only week two of my new low sugar diet. I do feel good and don’t seem to feel as sluggish. I feel more bright eyed.;) There are lots of positive social and environmental things going on too so it’s hard to tell what’s causing the good mood and energy. I am in search of breakfast alternatives. Smoothies and eggs are getting old… I’ll keep you posted.:)

          Reply
  8. David Kanigan
    November 1, 2013

    I LOVE FOOD TOO! Great post Brenda.

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 2, 2013

      Based on your food posts, I think we get the same cravings David. That’s why we run and do other exercise, right? At least we’re mindful and savor the good stuff.:)

      Reply
  9. PsycheAwoken
    November 1, 2013

    Hi Brenda,
    I have a couple of breakfast items (without the veggies, yuck) that serve me well especially during the winter months when getting going in the morning is difficult. The first is easy and portable so you can take it out the door with you. Buy a package of individually frozen buttermilk biscuits and one of frozen (turkey/pork) sausage patties. Bake the biscuits, microwave the sausage patties and you have breakfast to go. I am refraining from naming brands. You could, if you absolutely have to, add mushrooms or tomato. My next favorite is my egg and muffin toaster. Google it. It takes about four minutes to produce one homemade, er, sandwich. I am normally a foodie buying the best, freshest ingredients I can afford but it is good to have some easy choices too. I was overweight my entire adult life until I changed my aversion to eating breakfast. Combining the carbs with protein has worked well for me too. Thanks for reminding me to put that cereal back on the shelf. Or eat it at dinner:-)

    PsycheAwoken

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 2, 2013

      Thank you for the suggestions! I love sharing food love.:) The dietician did say to have meat in the morning so I’ll look into the turkey/pork sausage. I’ll look up the egg and muffin toaster. Sounds intriguing. I may abstain from the bread components for a while as I’m trying to see if I can survive without them but man I know buttermilk biscuits are delicious.:) Thanks again.

      Reply
  10. Steven Barer
    November 1, 2013

    love your rambles, keep ’em coming
    a larger font would endear you to your fans over 50 🙂

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 1, 2013

      Thank you! I’ve tried to change the fonts but I would have to change my whole theme or upgrade. I’ll keep looking into it though.:)

      Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 4, 2013

      I did it! I upgraded my site so that the font can be BIGGER. I already love it.:) Thanks for the feedback.

      Reply
      • ilona fried
        November 4, 2013

        FYI, a person can also adjust the size of the type on their screen by clicking on “View” in the toolbar.

        Reply
  11. markat323
    November 1, 2013

    This is really interesting, and I know what one eats (and incorporating exercise) is such an important factor in how one feels and sleeps. I know this, yet I struggle all the time! Cookies are my downfall, and I am so with you on the bread. I recently went back to butter, and I have no regrets about it.

    You suggest stocking up at your grocery store on produce. I have found, especially lately, that having a bi-weekly delivery order from Door to Door Organics (doortodoororganics.com) forces me to eat more fresh produce. They especially like to send lots of leafy greens! In the past couple of years I’ve tried various types of chard, kale, mustard greens, and others. My next step is learning to use my crockpot effectively.

    Finally, my concern since my hysterectomy are hormonal issues. Luckily, I have not had too many menopausal symptoms, but learning from a dietician what foods might help would be really beneficial to perhaps keep any symptoms at bay! I may have to see if my insurance covers a visit to one! 🙂

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 1, 2013

      I wonder if we have Door to Door Organics here. I’ll look into it. I like that idea a lot.:) My dietician said the good fats keep hormonal fluctuations in check. She also advised against soy. She also said progesterone is the first hormone to decline during (peri)menopause so she gave me a progesterone based cream to use during the 2nd half of my cycle (when all hell breaks loose;). She put me on 5HTP for emotional well-being (it’s a form of tryptophan) and GLA (for hormonal health). Also Estrofactors which is supposed to promote estrogen balance. I didn’t mention all of these in the post because these are more specific supplements and they should be investigated thoroughly before choosing them for yourself. Good luck! This woman stuff is tricky.;)

      Reply
  12. Angi
    November 1, 2013

    What I eat, or don’t eat, definitely affects my mood. I can relate to the hangries! I try my best to eat clean most of the time, but sometimes I wait too long and make bad choices because of that lack of mental clarity. I also have autoiummune issues which contribute to the fatigue so all the more reason to eat well. Keep us posted on how the dietary changes are working for you!

    Reply
    • Brenda Knowles
      November 1, 2013

      Thanks Angi. I will keep you posted. I made it through Halloween without blowing it.:)

      Reply
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