Bitter Sweet, But Ultimately, a Sweet Deal!

As part of my therapy, my psychiatrist and I,​​ aside from the fundamentals of CBT/ERP therapy, have​​ been working on identifying lifestyle factors which may be​​ exacerbating my OCD and Depression,​​ by negatively impacting things,​​ such as, my general mood, energy levels, brain health, sleep cycle, etc.

I have found this holistic approach, to be quite beneficial so far. Small changes, on their own, can often seem pointless, and unlikely to have much in the way of a positive impact.​​ Yet, I have found, that these small changes, really can make a big difference, in their own right, and even more so when you add them all together.​​ I guess, in the unexpectedly wise words of a certain supermarket’s slogan, “every little helps”.​​ 

I intend to document each of the individual changes I have made,​​ here, in my Therapy Diary, over the next few weeks, starting today, and starting with diet.​​ 

According to my psychiatrist, studies have shown that there is a strong link between “good gut health” and “good brain health”. In order to promote “good gut health”, it is advised​​ to​​ eat lots of vegetables, of as many varieties as possible,​​ and foods containing, “light bacteria”, such as yogurts, unpasteurised cheeses, and any breads made with sour dough. Conversely, foods that are processed, and contain lots of excess sugar,​​ and fat, such as crisps, chocolate, sweets, biscuits etc, have been shown to negatively affect mood, and as such are to be avoided.

“But Doctor, surely we all deserve a treat in our lives?” You are probably thinking at this point, and I most certainly asked, when​​ faced with the prospect of eliminating all treats from my diet.​​ Thankfully, dark chocolate (ideally​​ containing 85-100%​​ cocoa​​ – I am currently using 70% cocoa and trying to work my way up into the recommended bracket), is allowed to remain on the menu. I say “remain”, however in my case it has been added, in place of milk chocolate.​​ 

At first, it really does seem a “bitter sweet deal”, as you forgo a lot of the little pleasures you are accustomed to;​​ however, for me, the benefits, in terms of improved mood, far outweigh the loss of such foodstuffs. The lift such treats give us​​ is​​ transient,​​ you feel good initially, however it is never long before you feel lousy. I would often feel guilty, bloated, sluggish, and to be honest, a little dirty. Having nixed them from my diet,​​ I feel significantly better in both body and mind.​​ Also, I am really enjoying the dark chocolate, and provided I eat only a small amount after dinner (between 2-4 squares at the minute), I feel none of the aforementioned negative feelings I would​​ have,​​ having eaten milk chocolate, or sweets etc. So ultimately, I guess​​ really, it’s a​​ “sweet​​ deal”, nothing bitter about it! Well, other than the dark chocolate, in taste only, that is.​​ 

Have I slipped up since making these changes? Of course I have! Did I expect I wouldn’t? Of course not! Do I expect I will slip up again? Of course I do! However,​​ knowing that studies have shown​​ that​​ such changes,​​ can,​​ improve mood, and having experienced such improvements first hand, it is something I intend to stick to, to the best of my ability.​​ After all, looking after my mental health is a priority.

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