Get Your Glow Back – Episode 53 – With Kimberley Wilson
I’m joined today by Kimberley Wilson, psychologist, host of the Stronger Minds podcast and author of How To Build a Healthy Brain. Kimberley‘s work looks at the role food and lifestyle plays in our mental health, including disordered eating, the gut-brain axis and our emotional relationship with food. We spoke all about how to build a healthy relationship with food for ourselves and our children, how to eat for a healthy brain and the role social media plays in mental health.
Our Emotional Relationship with Food
Our early experiences with food are the bedrock that our relationship with food is built on
Eating is habitual – why do I eat, what happens to me when I’m hungry, what are the automatic habits I have around food
Hunger is felt as discomfort which is an emotional
Disordered eating and eating disorders:
Eating disorders are the diagnosable conditions, anorexia, bulimina, BED and eating disorders not otherwise specified
Disordered eating: difficult to define as what people are told to eat can be disordered for example watching your macros can be a form of disordered eating. Do I have a strict sense of rules around what I eat, do I feel bad/guilty/worried/ashamed if I stray from them, do I feel I need to do penance if I break those rules. Rules give us a sense of safety and security but depending on the severity it can be considered disordered eating.
For some people hunger can stand in for loneliness, absence, fear, anxiety. These emotions are all felt in the gut just like hunger and that feeling of emptiness can trigger a feeling of psychological distress making normal hunger distressing and lead to a compelling need to eat constantly to avoid that feeling of discomfort
How to teach ourselves to be more flexible around food:
Food doesn’t sit in isolation, it connects to everything else in our lives: culture, society, self, family
It’s about learning to trust yourself that you don’t need rules, external validation or a guru to guide us. Food gets pulled into our desire for perfection.
Self possession: you belong to yourself and your duty is to yourself and not to others.
We need a bit of information, how to nourish ourselves but we also need to hold that gently in the context of our day to day lives
How can we know when we need help:
If you feel you can’t stray from your rules, you feel inflexible about what you eat, when you eat and how you eat.
If your friend says come to my birthday party we’re going to get pizza and your first thought is that you can’t eat pizza and not that you can’t wait to meet your friends, that is an indicator that you need some help with your relationship with food.
Nurturing a healthy relationship with food within our children:
It’s not what you say, it’s what you do
Lead by example
Work on your relationship with food before you have kids
Work on avoiding anxiety or panic around food, don’t link emotion or satisfying the parent to eating which creates a conflict for the child between respecting your body and having agency and doing something to please your parent.
Don’t take it personally when your little one doesn’t want to eat what you give them, if you are patient they will be hungry enough to eat later. Try and say: okay maybe you aren’t hungry now but you’ll try it later.
What to eat for a healthy brain:
Essential fatty acids: 2 portions of oily fish a week or supplementation
Minimise saturated fats
Be more concerned about insufficient amount of micronutrients rather than too much of other things (saturated fat, sugar etc.)
3 take aways from How To Build a Healthy Brain:
- Nutrition is really important for your brain
- Start building that brain capacity as early as possible
- Emotional health is mental health