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Everyone knows, at least on some level, that diet matters a whole lot. But beyond weight management, many people aren’t too clear on how diet can affect your life. Beyond maintaining a healthy weight, why does what you eat really matter? What are the real implications of what we consume?
It’s all too common for people to adopt the subconscious position that they can thrive in pretty much all aspects of their lives, while eating anything (or, conversely, eating as little as possible). Yet diet and nutrition have a major impact on every aspect of your health, personality, and day-to-day ability to function.
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If you’re eating “well,” you will simply be a better version of yourself across the board. Conversely, if you’re chained to negative dietary beliefs, or overly-restrictive fad regimens, you can expect the opposite. Your mood will plummet, your mental focus and clarity will vanish, and your health will come apart at the seams.
Ready to learn more? Here are some ways that your diet can affect your life:
How Diet Can Affect Your Life
1. By impacting your fertility
If you’re trying to get pregnant, but it’s just not happening and you’re not sure why, consider what you eat. Dietary patterns can play a major role in fertility, and a fertility diet plan can make all the difference.
When women eat at a consistent caloric deficit, for a prolonged period of time, it is common for them to stop having their periods. This signals that their hormones have entered a completely unbalanced state. Men’s hormones also suffer from a diet that is too restrictive in calories. Female fitness models and competitors, along with serious athletes such as gymnasts, very frequently experience this phenomenon.
However, diet fads (and even some leading fitness and government bodies!) frequently advocate cutting calories in order to get “beach-body ready.” Specifically, cutting calories to a degree seen in lab experiments to cause starvation symptoms. This is just plain unhealthy.
Eating too few calories is not the only unhealthy dietary pattern that can negatively affect your fertility, though. The types of nutrients you consume also play a big role in your ability to conceive. Popular diets such as the ketogenic diet can cause the same negative hormonal cascade. The same is true for low-fat diets and ultra-low protein forms of a vegan diet.
So just say no to dramatic diets. Instead, stick to eating as much as you need, of balanced, nutritious, whole foods, in order to be as healthy and fertile as possible. And always remember: if the way you eat makes you feel bad consistently, that’s a sign that something is wrong!
2. By dictating your stress levels
Stress isn’t just a psychological phenomenon; it’s strongly rooted in the biochemistry of the human body. When you feel “stressed,” or when you do things that overtax your body or your central nervous system, your body releases a cascade of “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline. The same thing happens when you restrict calories too much, such that you’re not fueling yourself properly.
When these stress hormones are chronically elevated, the consequences are dire, ranging from a decrease in the size of different brain regions, strong anxiety and depressive symptoms, reduced immune function, poorer sleep, and more.
The way you eat has a dramatic effect on how much your body pumps out those stress hormones on a consistent basis. If you eat too little, or if you eat a diet too low in carbs, you can typically expect that you will fall into the trap of chronically elevated stress-hormone levels.
Other factors which contribute to your stress hormone levels include intake of stimulant drugs such as caffeine and nicotine — which cause dramatic spikes in stress hormones. That’s why you become “jittery” and anxious after a strong double espresso.
By eating enough food, often enough, and by eating the kinds of foods that make you feel relaxed balanced, you reduce your stress hormone output. And suddenly life seems far more manageable than it was just a moment before – because, with your body properly fueled, it is more manageable!
3. By directly affecting your energy levels throughout the day
It shouldn’t be a radical idea, but your body actually needs food to fuel its systems and provide consistent, stable energy throughout the day.
With the recent popularity of diet trends such as intermittent fasting, many people have become convinced that they can function optimally throughout the day while eating nothing, or very little, until dinner time.
This couldn’t be further from the truth.
When you don’t eat, your body releases large quantities of stress hormones. It does this to forcefully boost your blood sugar levels, by wasting your bodily tissue.
While the idea is that you’ll only burn fat, researchers have found that this this “wasting” effect applies to muscle and organ tissue as well as fat stores.
If you’ve been fasting routinely, for an extended period of time, you might be amazed how energetic and clearheaded you feel all day long once you start eating regular meals. Or even once you start eating every 2-3 hours, depending on your hunger. Not to mention, you’ll say goodbye to those “energy dips” you used to have while fasting!
4. By determining how fit you’re able to get
You can’t separate fitness from nutrition. While the phrase “you can’t out-train a bad diet” usually applies to weight-loss efforts, it’s also true for overall fitness. And by this, I mean both cardiovascular fitness AND building lean muscle.
When you exercise, you’re stressing different parts of your body. The goal is for them to repair and become “stronger” and better as a result.
But for this to occur, you need to give your body high-quality fuel, both in terms of total caloric and macronutrient intake, as well as micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals.
If you do strenuous exercise but aren’t consuming enough calories and nutrients, then you’re only harming your body. Furthermore, your subpar food choices are likely to trigger other negative health outcomes. Like what? Well, like a weakened immune system, depressed mood, brain fog, muscular atrophy, strong hunger pangs day and night, for starters.
Bottom line: Healthy consumption of a balanced, varied diet is the key to maintaining good health and good day-to-day function. So be sure to include plenty of fruits and veggies, lean proteins, and calcium and vitamins as well as minerals and healthy fats in your daily diet. If you need ideas for foods that are kid-approved and easy to make as well as healthy, check out my other posts under the “healthy eating” tag!