Written By: Jeffrey, L., M.A., LMFT, Clinical Director, A is for Apple, Inc.
It’s finally time to relax and recover from a long year of hard work. For many, the holidays are a reason to celebrate relationships, exchange heartfelt gifts and eat delicious foods…lots and lots of delicious homemade foods! I can taste them now, ham, turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, and then there’s the deserts. Oh, don’t get me started on the deserts!
The problem for many comes after all the eating, when they look down at the scale and realize they are a lot less healthy than they remember. Unfortunately, those bad effects of unhealthy eating can be much bigger than just the numbers on the scale! Beyond physical problems, unhealthy eating has been shown to have dramatic effects on mental health. Research by Prince et al. has shown that obesity, along with many other health conditions, increase the risk for mental disorders like anxiety or depression. Interestingly, the researchers also found that mental disorders increase risk for diseases like the flu or infections (2007). Similar research ahs demonstrated that obesity can have very negative effects body image, self-esteem, and personal relationships (Devlin, Yanovski & Wilson, 2000). This means that the type of food you are eating, and how much you eat, can affect more than just your weight!
What’s even more troubling is that this problem is even bigger for those with developmental disabilities. Individuals with developmental disabilities have been shown to be at greater risk for obesity and physical health complications than the general public (Rubin, Rimmer, Chicoine, Braddock. & McGuire, 1998). To make things more complicated, these individuals often struggle with food allergies meaning severe dietary restrictions and strict eating schedules…And we all know how hard it can be to stick to an eating schedule around the holidays!
Fortunately, There is Hope!
Research has shown that making improvements in diet is followed by improvements in mental health (Jacka et al., 2011). By eating more vegetables, less desserts, and overall smaller portions, you can help keep both your body and mind healthy. So when you’re sitting at the table, wondering if you can eat just one more bite of that delicious pie, just remember how much that one bite might affect you!