Mental Health and Nutrition
As a grade school student, I used to compare my pack lunch with my classmates. They had gummy bears, M&Ms, Nutella sandwich and a fruit juice. If I’m lucky, I would have M&Ms, too. But on most days, I had an apple, rice, vegetables and a bottle of water. Just why I had vegetables and not Nutella I had never understood in those early days. All I knew was, I often wished I got the same stuff for lunch as my classmates did.Mental Health Nutrition Pittsburgh
Years later, I can only thank that my parents didn’t feed me too much sugar.
I have only started to understand why when I came of age and realized how too much sugar is toxic to the body and to one’s behavior. And now that I’m a therapist, I am totally against feeding people too much of it as it’s one of the biggest culprits of several behavioral problems seen in people, especially children. I’ve seen this myself in one of my youngest clients. Mental Health Nutrition Pittsburgh
Colby, he’s 10. He goes to a school for kids with special needs. He has autism. Similar to most kids with autism, he can be unpredictable at times. But it was during lunch breaks that he acted out and became a bit of a problem. This happened almost regularly. The teachers, his parents, they couldn’t explain how he’s particularly distracted and hyper during lunch and not at other times. A young boy sitting next to him wailed all of sudden as Colby squeezed all of his fruit juice onto the boy’s lunch box because Colby didn’t want anyone sitting close to him. He showed hostility and irritability. Sometimes, even throwing his food to other kids.Mental Health Nutrition Pittsburgh
I observed him closely. What could have triggered such reckless behavior?
I sought for traces of what could have happened before he went into wild tantrums. Nothing significant except when I caught what his lunch box was composed of. He had gummies, a pack of fruit juice and a sandwich. I inspected the sandwich. Peanut butter and jelly with white bread. I was dismayed.
To a child without a pre-existing condition like him, the effect of sugar may not be as instant as it was for him. Other kids would simply get into a hyper mode. But because of his autism coupled with large intake of sugary food, he was charged easily and his behavioral reaction manifested into violence.
I did an experiment. I told his parents to change what he normally ate for lunch. He started eating whole grain sandwiches, some fruits and water. Some may think packed fruit juices are good because they are made with fruits. Unless you haven’t heard of artificial flavoring and sweeteners, you should know that these packed fruit juices are loaded with sugar and other unnatural ingredients. Why feed your children with them?
As Colby stayed away from sweets, some improvements were seen. He became more comfortable being surrounded by other kids while having lunch. He stopped throwing food to other kids. Just like me, he and his classmates compared what they got for lunch. When they found out they’ve got the same fruit, they enjoyed eating the fruit more.
Sugar is as addictive, if not more than, as cocaine. It’s highly toxic and present in most processed food. The food that went through a machine are not the ones our body needs especially for children whose mental and physical attributes are just developing.
What our body needs are those grown from the earth. However, even those we believe are natural may not be ideal for our health if they’re a GMO or genetically modified organism. If you compare your lunch box today to your grandparents’, no doubt they’ve had more nutritious food than what we’re having today. As they say, the apple you’re eating today is less nutritious than the apple your grandparents had.
“But, Sara, what am I going to feed myself and family if some apples are not safe for them to eat?”
These days, more and more people are seeing the growing problem of sugar and GMOs. It is in most food you can find in the grocery store. But as more people are becoming aware of the problem, so are the stores that sell organic food. They are a bit more expensive, that is true. They, however, are not as expensive as hospital bills and medication; this is preventive health care.Mental Health Nutrition Pittsburgh
- If you’ve been eating sugary stuff bought from the grocery store, stop immediately and switch to healthier options such as cooking something for them and adding a fruit instead. Stop drinking processed fruit juices from the grocery store.
- Consider making your own fresh fruit and vegetable juices at home. They are concentrated nutrition that is easily digestible. Plus, they taste incredible!
- As you switch to healthier options, you may still be inclined to buying non-organic food because the organic ones are more expensive and less available. It should be okay for as long as you put away the sugary stuff that are really just non-food. You can always soak your non-organic produce with water and apple cider vinegar to help remove any pesticide or waxy residue.
- Slowly, as you find cheaper organic alternatives, get that into the diet of your family including yourself as a parent so that your children understand that it is what the family eats so it is what he should also eat.
- If growing your own edible plants is something you can do, then better do so. This way, you can be sure what your family is eating are authentically organic.
- Finally, if adults can develop health and psychological problems due to having too much sugar in their diet and poor nutrition in general, imagine how the same will affect children whose body and mind are still developing. They’re not yet at the right age to choose what is right for them. Then you as adult should choose the “right” food that is beneficial to their development physically, spiritually and mentally. Mental Health Nutrition Pittsburgh
If you or a family member is struggling with their mental health, schedule a free consultation today to get connected with Pittsburgh’s best therapists!
About Makin WellnessFounded in 2017 , Makin Wellness is Pittsburgh’s premier therapy and coaching centers located in Downtown , Pittsburgh and New Kensington, PA. The company’s mission is to help people heal and become happy again. Makin Wellness specializes in depression, anxiety, addiction and relationship counseling . Mental Health Nutrition Pittsburgh
Sara Makin, M.S.Ed, LPC, NCC