Food and Mood. Google it…it’s a crazy hot topic. And a super complex one. There is the impact that food has on your nervous system, your immune system and your microbiota…which can affect mood…but then there is also how your mood affects your food choices. And how that, in turn, makes you feel.
Lindsey Smith, AKA The Food Mood Girl, has been unravelling the own connection between food and mood in her life from a very young age. Her work as a speaker and health coach has led her to some beautiful insights that she now shares in her brand new cookbook, Eat Your Feelings.
What is your earliest food memory?
When I was around 4 years old, my parents and grandparents often took me to the penny candy store. One day after pre-school, my mom was late picking me up because she got caught up at work. At such a young age, I was upset because I wondered where my mom was and if she was okay. She ended up being about 25 minutes late picking me up and I was the last kid left.
As soon as she arrived and I saw her, I burst into tears partly because I was so happy to see her and partly because I was upset, thinking she forgot about me. With tears rolling down my face, my mom pulled up to the penny candy store and said I could pick out some of my favorite treats. Quickly my tears faded, and I felt so excited to get a paper bag full of my favorites.
Even though I was young, I really think this memory set the tone for how I thought about food for so long. I looked at it as a way to make me happy.
What was your path to becoming the ‘food mood girl’?
I like to think I’ve been the “food mood girl” ever since I was in 5th grade. After many anxiety attacks and a hospitalization, I started digging deeper. I wanted to know why I was feeling the way I was feeling and what I could do to feel better. At age 12, I started going to therapy and started changing my diet. These two things put me in touch with my feelings and also helped me see how foods were impacting me. Of course, at the time, I was young and very focused on getting better.
As I started to heal and got older, I wanted to use my pain points and share my insights to help others. By 9th grade, I was teaching stress management workshops to my peers.So while the official “food mood girl” brand was started in 2010, I think I’ve been the “food mood girl” since as early as age 12!
What do you think is the most powerful first step people can take in restoring a healthful relationship with food?
Feel their feelings. So often, we use food to try to give us a pleasurable escape from how we are really feeling. Instead of feeling our feelings, we mask them or bypass them all together and often use food as our scapegoat. I think one of the best things we can do to transform our relationship with food is to first and foremost give ourselves permission to feel. Sure, the entire pint of chocolate ice cream seems like a great fix to your recent break-up, but it may not feel so great to your body later on. Instead, feel your feelings of broken-heartedness, cry to your friends, and allow yourself to grieve the loss of someone you loved.
As someone who speaks about this topic, what has surprised you in people’s response to it?
I think my biggest surprise is when people think there is a blanket answer for everything. I wish there was! I could sit here and tell you the health benefits of a certain fruit or vegetable and why you should eat particular things, but every body is so different and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Additionally, I think people think that certain foods will “fix” other things in their life. I always say that it doesn’t matter how much kale you eat. If you hate your job or you’re in a bad relationship, the kale is not going to fix it. You have to address the feelings first.
What’s your go-to good mood food?
Greens! I make sure to have them at mostly every meal.