The Lifestyle Kollection.

What’s your food mood.

Watching the new Masterchef when it first started a few months ago which I have been loving by the way. Melissa was tasting a Sri Lankan curry that Dani had cooked (she won the immunity pin with the dish) and as she was eating it she recalled a memory of when she was in Sri Lanka. The food had transported her back to being in Sri Lanka, on the beach I think she said, as she recalled that fond memory while eating the food. She seemed so happy and was enjoying the dish so much but also that memory of her time in Sri Lanka.

I had wanted to write about food and mood as one of my first topics on here as it is a major form of pleasure and sometimes pain for all of us. We all spend a lot of time thinking about, cooking, shopping for, preparing, eating, avoiding, indulging and sometimes beating ourselves up over food while understanding and incorporating it into our lifestyles.

From personal experience and observation I know a little bit about how food affects mood and emotions and while I watched Masterchef that night it made me think about that and realise it even more. It also raised another topic regarding experiences and well-being which I have recently learnt about in an online course I just completed called The Science of Well-being.

Watching Melissa recall that fond memory of her holiday from years past, it also made me think about our experiences which as I have just learnt do actually provide a greater sense of pleasure and happiness for longer to individuals as opposed to things, due to the way our minds can adapt to stuff quicker. Anyway that will be another discussion altogether, back to food and our mood.

While food can take us to good memories and allow us to feel good emotions it can also bring up difficult emotions and comfort us in times of stress. I know this first hand as for may years I used food to comfort me when I was experiencing difficult emotions and would often have feelings of guilt and shame associated with eating foods that were not overly healthy, or having binge eaten or overeaten foods that I turned to in times of stress.

For years and years, I had a really bad relationship with food and was overweight as a teenager. I was raised to eat well from a young age and grew up eating my mum’s cooking which was nutritious home cooked meals and she baked all the time, we had delicious food growing up in my family.

We never had soft drink in the house, we did have cordial though, which I admit I did like a lot, but there was always a well stocked pantry and fridge of pretty nutritious, delicious food.

I don’t really know what happened to be honest, but I developed a love of food that wasn’t nutritious. Probably as a teenager in high school perhaps wanting to eat from the school canteen, getting chips and gravy down the street after school in year 12, lollies and potato chips from the service station near our house.

It definitely started while I was at high school and continued for years. It later also developed further with me eating in an unhealthy way as I would binge eat, eating excessive amounts of food in the one sitting. These binge sessions would then be followed by the feelings of guilt and shame, which were really not a very nice way to feel, but it took me a while to work it out to start being able to change my habits.

I sort of consider myself a bit of the rebel of my family being the youngest of 10 kids, I got away with a lot. I also never liked rules growing up and so would sometimes stray from them as I knew I would likely get away with it.

This kind of made me want to eat bad foods in a sense, as we never really had it in the house. We had healthy home cooked meals and baked treats, homemade condiments and all those delicious things but I remember wanting to eat tomato sauce from the supermarket rather than my mum’s tasty homemade sauce.

I started to get into eating junk food, because I think we had never really had much of it or if we did it was a treat. I remember my dad hiding lollies and Twisties in with our record player and he would bring them out at times to treat us. He was the one that would give us treats like that where as Mum baked lovely cakes and biscuits.

As mentioned earlier we never had soft drink in the house, but I went through a coke zero and red bull phase, lollies, meat pies, hot chips, potato chips, KFC were some of my favourites, but really you name it I ate it and often in excess.

Now there is nothing wrong at all with eating some of your favourite things from time to time in moderation. I do believe in that, everything in moderation, but I did not have moderation and I had an unhealthy relationship towards food.

I realised just looking back at this now that I probably ate excessively as I was not getting the proper nutrients. My mum still was feeding me good meals, but I know for a fact I was snacking a lot more as a teenager as I could just go and eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted, as in my mind I had my own rules as a teenager.

I was eating the wrong things in excess and was eating well over my daily intake and I started to put on weight. Those intense feelings of guilt and shame would set in after a session of eating the wrong foods and there were many times when I really felt out of control.

At 19 years old I was overweight so I went on a diet. I remember going to tell my mum I wanted to lose some weight and she just looked at me and said “well that will be up to you then won’t it Kathryn”, always had a way with words my mum.

I know a lot of people don’t like the word diet, but in this instance I went to see a dietitian. My mum arranged for me to have some weekly sessions with a dietitian, but believe me I have over the years tried plenty of diets and I think it was all in an attempt to understand and learn more about food, but also to lose weight and become healthier.

However, when I started seeing the dietitian I ended up losing 16kg. She taught me about the nutritional value of some foods and we both decided that I would give up butter and cheese for a while as they were high in fat. It started me on the path to learn about the value of the foods we eat from a nutrition perspective.

When I started to lose the weight as a teenager is when I also started to exercise regularly joining my first gym, the Bendigo YMCA (me, doing the village people moves as I write this!). I have been going to gyms ever since, absolutely love them.

I probably started back on the road of unhealthy eating again when I was at Uni for a few years in Geelong. Not that I learnt too much, but it was great fun, and back on the junk food phase again, which continued after my mum passed away as I was back emotionally eating.

I moved to London for three years after my mum had passed and I actually started to eat reasonably well again. I had always grown up eating quite a lot of veggies and when I lived in London I pretty much lived off a plate of veggies and gravy for dinner every night. They were cheap, hot and comforting and for the amount of partying I did I think all those veggies and dancing created a nice balance, I was pretty fit.

I used to live in a house with 10 flatmates, yes you read it right, that was minimum 10 if you excluded friends, dossers and whoever really! I remember everyone having a laugh at me always eating veggies but some of my house mates ended up doing it too! Not quite as often, but a few of them got into it. A cooked chook, gravy, bread and salad was often a favorite meal shared in the house on a Sunday as well. Another good food memory, not quite as exotic as Melissa’s but I am getting those good vibes now remembering it. I definitely have to discuss our experiences and Well-being in another post. The house was always exercising though, we were still committed to the gym, which I was always very impressed by.

I ended up putting the weight back on eventually over the years, when I moved back to Australia. I think I thought at some point that because I exercised I could eat whatever I wanted and my commitment to dancing sessions was not quite the same after returning from London, so not all that extra exercise.

One of the fitness trainers at one of the gyms I was a member at for many years told me that to lose weight is about 80% food and 20% exercise. I should have actually realised that and did but because I exercised for years I just thought I could eat what I wanted, but that was not the case.

I have been committed to exercise since joining my first YMCA and actually love it so much not just for the physical but also mental benefits. I am really looking forward to getting back in the gym. It’s been great though how everyone has adapted to new exercise routines and being out in nature during the past few months I know I have been out walking each day and really enjoyed it.

My favourite things are to get in the gym for a good weights session, and I have just started some online yoga which I am keen to get into much more and I love the rowing machine a lot. Absolutely one of my favourite exercises to do is sit on the Concept2 rower and row.

In 2006 I started working at Unimelb in admin. The Department I worked in had lots of staff and students and so there was always lots of morning teas, and functions where there was lots of food and catering. I worked in an office with a few other girls where all the leftover food would be brought to after the meetings or functions and we would send out an email to all the staff to come and finish it off.

It would literally sit in my office and I would stare at it all day, pizzas, juice, muffins, cakes, biscuits and sausage rolls. Think of all the catering foods possible and I can tell you it would have been there at one point or another.

At the end of the day if the food was not eaten I would feel bad that I didn’t want to waste it and throw it out so I would eat it. Those bad feelings during and afterwards were back and this is definitely when I put all the weight back on.

I also went to see other nutritionists to help me learn more about food and do something about this for good. It had taken commitment and work to lose the weight and so it was very frustrating and disheartening to know that I had put it all back on and was not able to control myself around food. I had such a bad relationship with food I really needed help.

I went and took a test where they check the segments of your body and it determines the amount of muscle and fat you have in the different parts of the body. Mine came back with a high body fat percentage. I was pretty shocked but I really shouldn’t have been, but I think I was also in denial about my weight for a long time because I exercised. It was what I needed to hear as I remember deciding then and there that I would change and do something about this for good.

I became a qualified personal trainer and also studied a diploma of nutrition and dietetics for personal trainers through FIA Fitnation to teach myself more about it. I absolutely loved it, fantastic courses and instructors for anyone out there interested in doing a course. It was not just one of the quick courses it took a couple of years to complete. I have never really practiced as a trainer but did the course to learn about these topics to teach myself and I am really glad I did.

Part of the course included learning about nutrition for athletes preparing for different types of events and what they would eat for competition and we had to create meal plans depending on their different types of events.

I remember reading that food was the fuel source for the body and as we looked at how food fuels the athletes for competition to sustain them was when things started to change. I was totally blown away by that and it started to change how I saw food. I probably should have already known this as well, but I actually didn’t see it like that until then or this was when the penny dropped. We were learning about how the athletes would eat to prepare for their training, their event and their recovery and this was when it completely started to alter my mindset towards it.

As I worked at Unimelb for around 11 years I was a member of the gym there for about 6, great gym probably one of my favourites I have ever been a member of. I remember at that time saying to myself that I was going to lose all the weight and if I keep making changes a little bit everyday I would just keep going and get fitter and healthier. I did not put any time frames or pressure on myself and that is also when things started to change. My commitment to the gym and exercise was never in question but I had to commit to eating healthier foods.

I also started to became more aware of how foods would make me feel. Of course I had been aware of this for a while with those feelings of guilt and shame but I started to take more notice. The choices I was making, when eating the food and my feelings during and afterwards.

We all go through phases with food, good and bad but it was also interesting to start to realise how the food would make me feel. In my nutrition course I also learned that eating more nutritious foods obviously fills you up more as they are packed full of nutrients which is pretty obvious really, but that made more sense to me once I saw food as fuel.

I decided to take more notice of what foods were telling me through my emotions did they make me feel good or bad. Did certain foods bloat me, make me feel heavy, light, energetic, sad, angry, happy, content and healthy. Having an awareness and understanding of this allowed me to make better choices or at least think a bit more about food as fuel and what worked for me.

After I had my first panic attack was also another time that I turned on a light switch and wanted to eat more nutritious meals. I committed to eating far healthier foods and cooking and eating lots of veggies and fruits. Not that I didn’t before but even more as I was managing and healing from a mental illness and have been for the past 3 and a half years. I didn’t even know anything was wrong with me I just felt a bit flat and run down before my first panic attack. It was pretty scary.

I made the commitment then to become much healthier as I was also training a lot in the gym and had gotten quite fit as I had my own personal trainer. I don’t think I was supporting myself with the most nutritious foods for the amount of exercise I was doing. I had to stop work and exercise for a while as I could not physically or mentally deal with it, my brain and body was under major stress. I do know for a fact though that eating well and getting back into exercise has definitely helped me recover and something I still work on everyday.

I also used to often eat out a lot, most weekends for years, as I am big fan of the cafe scene. Now though I actually like cooking. I’m not a great cook, but I do enjoy it and I like to learn more about cooking nutritious meals. In the last few years the Centr app has been an amazing resource for me to learn about and cook easy nutritious meals and snacks, highly recommend it. I actually think it is probably one of, if not the best fitness and lifestyle app out there.

I started drinking more smoothies and fresh juice mainly veggie with a little bit of fruit to sweeten it and I am a fan of beetroot in my juice as well. Beetroot gives the juice a nice flavour and colour although sometimes it can taste like a garden if you don’t wash off the dirt! I tasted fresh beetroot juice for the first time in Montego Bay, Jamaica made by Rastafarians. The juice was so delicious and something I would never have even tried had it not been for that cooking and dining experience with the local Rastas.

The food in Jamaica to this day is some of the best I have ever had. Many fond food memories from Jamaica, and foods I had never tried and have not really had some of since. The jerk chicken without a doubt the best ever, nothing has even come close to that. There I go with that topic again experiences and good memories associated with food. I know I will not be the only one that has many incredible fine food experiences as part of their holiday’s. More of that another time.

I always add lemon or lime to my fresh juice as well as I love the acidity, thanks to one of my brothers for that tip. Working in my sister in laws cafe, he would be on the juicer from time to time creating us some great mixes! This was a great way for me to get lots of nutrients. I do like to eat veggies as mentioned but now sometimes I also like to drink them preferably not tasting like a garden if I can help it.

Don’t get me wrong I certainly indulge at times as well and definately have over the past few months. Enjoying many hot cross buns well beyond Easter, hot chips, potatoes in any form are my weakness. Bread probably would be too. I eat a few slices everyday and always will I love it. I am not really a sweet tooth but I do enjoy dark chocolate, chocolate cake and hot chocolate cocoa and a few sweet treats when in that food mood.

I prefer savoury though so have definitely enjoyed some nice cheeses and other tasty produce supporting some local deli’s and new stores I have discovered in my iso outings and a few more carbs of late. The best thing is I never feel guilt or shame eating anything anymore as I do things in moderation and have control. I really enjoy eating foods that are treats for me as well as I don’t eat those things all the time.

I am certainly not on here telling anyone what they should and should not eat, everyone is different and everyone enjoys different things and it is completely up to you the foods that you enjoy to cook and eat. For me I just found it fascinating to observe how food impacted me and my mood, emotions and my well-being. It has been an ongoing learning experience for years and such an important part of our lifestyle I thought it was something worth discussing.

I would be very interested to find out more from someone who understands it much more as I think it is information that would be great to know. I think I will get in touch with a food, mood expert for some more information, so will keep you posted……..

Food is the fuel Source of the Body