I have posted recently about how I have been feeling increasingly stressed, overwhelmed and anxious (I wrote about this topic in the most detail in this post). Things got so unbearable for me that I have actually been to a couple of sessions with a counselor to try to deal with these feelings, which were physiological in addition to being psychological.
The middle of last week, I also started a very-low carb diet. For about 8 days now, I have had no sugar or white flour whatsoever, no fruit, and actually very little whole grains either. (I won't eat like this forever, but I'm in the introductory phase of this eating plan, and it requires eliminating these foods for a while. I will eventually reintroduce whole grains and fruit, at least.)
Prior to starting this diet, my eating habits were not great but not terrible. One of the worst habits I had developed was eating candy or other sweets at my desk during the day as a way to cope with my stress. When you work in an office, these types of foods are all too readily available, and it's often a nice break to get away from your desk for a walk to the coffee shop downstairs to buy a caffe mocha and a scone or muffin.
About three or four days into this eating plan, I noticed that most of the physical symptoms of anxiety that I had previously described-- the tight feeling in my chest, racing heart, heartburn/indigestion, and feelings of impending doom--were gone. Poof. Just like that. This realization came to me in the middle of a day when I was very busy at work (and thus would normally and rationally expect to feel stressed) and also simultaneously was dealing with a major problem in my personal life (something that, were I to choose to write about it, would need a post of its own to explain).
As I have continued to eat this way, not much has changed in my life--in fact, I think an argument could be made that a few areas have gotten worse, like work, where I have been even busier lately than usual--and yet my (physical) feelings of anxiety and stress seem to be gone! Yes, I do believe that therapy can be helpful, but I will honestly say that I don't think that much can be accomplished in two sessions. And I think that is especially true in this instance, where I know that I spent the first session with the counselor just laying out the problem and the second session talking mostly about a fight I'd had with my husband earlier that day. There really is not any other logical explanation in my mind for the change except the drastic change in my eating habits.
This realization about the potential link between my diet and my moods led me to do a goo.gle search on the topic, and guess what? I guess I'm just an uninformed bonehead on this subject, because apparently others are well aware of this. Check this out (I found this quote here). I have bolded the symptoms I was experiencing.
Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.
Do I still sometimes feel overwhelmed? Yes. Do I still sometimes having racing thoughts, or feel tearful? Yes. But I believe I am doing a better job of managing these psychological symptoms without the physiological symptoms that previously accompanied them. (Oh, and as an added benefit, I have lost a few pounds already, too.)
Meanwhile, I continue to work on the other things in my life that I think have been contributing to my stress. My job search continues, MM and I are working our marriage, I have actually exercised twice this week, and I am procrastinating less at work (partly of necessity, as I have been extra busy). I am making a conscious effort to spend time with friends I haven't seen for a while and to take time for myself when I can.
Knowing this makes me want to never eat sugar again, regardless of how much I love a good piece of chocolate cake (or brownie, or fudge, or quality dark chocolate, or. . . you get the idea). I am just so glad to be feeling more normal again!