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…
Much 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.
I 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 that 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.
So 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.
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 there 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.
The Importance of Not Being Ernest (New York Times)
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)