Happy new year! I hope that everyone had a nice Christmas?
Now that January is here we tend to feel guilty about our indulgence over the holidays. (‘Indulgence,’ is basically a nice way of saying we stuffed our faces). January = detox, clean living and joining an expensive gym.
As someone who is prone to black or white thinking, I must admit that after eating and drinking to excess, the idea of detoxification appeals to me. But I’ve learned from previous years that such extremes aren’t good for me. In the past I would cut out alcohol, caffeine and sugar.
This was the basic pattern
Day one – Feel great, purified and slightly smug
Day two – Feel sluggish and my mood plummets.
Day three – I turn into a raging bull/seven headed demon.. ON SPEED. My brain is screaming “You f**king stupid cow, why did you think you could do this?” Dan encourages me to sleep, A LOT.
Day five – Things have become easier and I feel better.
Day seven – I feel a sense of achievement.
Day twelve – I go out for drinks with friends, with every intention of staying strong… and then I’m like “f** it, life is too short.”
Day thirteen – I feel disgusted with myself for having a glass of wine the night before. “I’m weak and pathetic. What’s the point, I might as well pack in and go back to normal.”
Well isn’t that an inspirational tale? Two weeks is usually my max before I cave. It’s a pattern that after five years I’ve finally decided to review. A strict 100% detox doesn’t work for me, it increases my anxiety and makes me feel like a failure.
However, on the flip side I do believe that nutrition is an important part of mental health. Alcohol, caffeine and sugar all trigger adrenaline spikes and deplete serotonin in the brain. Too much will cause havoc. My anxiety is a shape shifter, each year I encounter new symptoms. At the moment, nightmares are a favourite. The kind where I wake up screaming and scare the shit out of my husband. (It’s a joy sharing a bed with me)!
Excess amounts of alcohol and ‘bad food’ definitely have an impact. I can actually feel the shift in my brain when I’ve gone too far. I wake up feeling sluggish, twitchy and irritable and these feelings don’t subside until I’ve eaten something sugary or had a glass of wine. It’s also no coincidence that the nightmares started after I’d been pushing things excessively for three days.
I knew I had to act, but I didn’t want to fall into the same tragic pattern.
January is a difficult month for everyone, heck Jan 16th is formally recognised as ‘Blue Monday.’ So rationally thinking it probably isn’t the best time to deprive yourself of every treat imaginable! Plus, think about the shock to the system. The reason I’m a demon on day three is because my brain is craving all the bad things that were previously on the menu. Try and think of the brain like a small child, you can’t feed it chocolate and sweets non stop for ten days, and then cut them off cold turkey. Can you imagine the tantrum? Moderation is a better bet in my opinion.//
So this is what I’ve been trying:
Alcohol – I can have one glass of wine three nights a week (as opposed to every night)! But one glass means ONE. Those mini bottles are really good for rationing.
Caffeine – One small cup, around 10am and I only make half a cup. The plan is to then
reduce this to once every other day.
Sugar & bad food – Simple. I don’t buy it. This isn’t the area I struggle with tbh, I’m not really a chocolate or crisp person. However, if i did I would take a similar approach as to alcohol. Nothing excessive, keep it to the odd bar of chocolate.
I’ve also found that having a schedule or plan makes the likelihood of staying on track stronger. Rather than relying on will power in the spur of the moment. For example, I make a note that I can have a drink once during the weekend and on two separate week nights. So for me this is; Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays. The days are set and cannot be changed.
It’s important to support the body and brain during this long, dark month and nutrition is a solid way to do this.
Hot water and lemon – people trying to lose weight bang on about this and I didn’t take it seriously for ages. But it’s very effective for general wellbeing too. Think about it, your body has been in shut down mode overnight for eight hours (six if you’re me). If you were awake and didn’t have a drink, you’d be gasping! Dehydration is a common cause of fatigue and fatigue lowers the mood.
I could go into all of the science shit, but all you need to know is;
* It’ll hydrate you quickly
* It’ll help to flush any toxins out of your system.
Fish – I crowbar salmon into every post I can (not literally… YET)! Fish like salmon, trout and mackerel are packed full of Omega three oils, which help the production of serotonin. They don’t call it brain food for nothing! It really doesn’t have to be boring either. I love to make spicy salmon stir frys, or cooking it with garlic and lemon.
Almonds – Easy to consume. Just have a packet in your bag or on your desk. They’re full of Zinc, which helps to maintain a balanced mood. Not as exciting as an afternoon chocolate fix, but they will give you more energy without the sugar crash.
If you want something sweet then add goji berries.
For those of you who are five days into a strict detox, I wish you all the best of luck.
But don’t be too hard on yourself if you have a slip up, it doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it I means you’re human!
I talk about the importance of food in my book.. When the doctor mentioned nutrition, my initial reaction was “give me the f**king drugs!” But it turns out she was onto something.. http://www.jkp.com/uk/social-anxiety-self-help-guide-34466.html