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May 13, 2020

Your Positive Body Image: Nutrition, Exercise and Sleep for Mental Health

Positive body image starts with accepting where you are.

By Kassandra Hobart

How to Create Your Positive Body Image

Hint: It doesn’t start on the scale.

Positive body image starts with accepting where you are. It’s healthy to have goals to reach towards, but in order to appreciate those soon-to-be accomplishments, we must love who we are right now. If we don’t love who we are now, we aren’t going to love a 5-pound-lighter version of ourselves. It’s rooted deeper than that.

Your body image is primarily shaped by your self-talk. When you look in the mirror, what type of thoughts come to mind? Are they positive? Negative? It can be easy to fall into the spiraling negative self-talk.

The good news is, you have control over that voice in your head and can start reshaping it at any moment. Here’s a great tool to practice positive self-talk and strengthen your inner voice: Wake up in the morning and reflect on 3 things you love about your body. The trick is to come up with 3 new things each morning for the entire week. Challenge yourself to continue this exercise for 4 weeks and watch the self-talk evolve.

For many of us, a positive body image plays a significant role in contributing to our overall mental health. The right nutrition, exercise and sleep are all key factors as well.

Nutrition and Mental Health: What Can I Eat to Improve It?

Believe it or not, stress is minerally expensive on the body. Zinc, magnesium, and calcium are all utilized by the nervous system for healthy cognition. Prolonged periods of stress may deplete these minerals overtime. Adding in potent, whole-food forms of these minerals can improve your mental health, calmness, and focus.

Zinc is essential for protein structure and function, especially in the brain. It plays a vital role in glutamatergic neurons. Magnesium is important for metabolic reactions, namely the production and use of ATP (our body’s energy currency). Calcium is a signaling molecule on which many nerve processes are dependent.

Lastly, proper hydration gives our bodies the ability to maintain the right water/mineral balance.

Zinc sources: Brazil Nuts, Pecans, Pumpkin Seed, Ginger Root and Black Pepper
Magnesium sources: Mushrooms, Spinach, Kale, and most Legumes
Calcium sources: Broccoli (cooked), Yogurt, Collard Greens (cooked),Turnip Greens (cooked)

Exercise for Mental Health: How Does it Benefit?

We know exercise keeps our tissues and muscles strong, but it also impacts our mental health. Exercise increases our brain health by the secretion of neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, endorphins, and peptide hormones. These messengers and hormones help us thrive mentally and emotionally.

  • In particular, dopamine leads to the regulation of learning, working, and emotional cognition.
  • Noradrenaline balances memory and cognitive function.
  • Serotonin affects the hypothalamus control of pituitary secretions, circadian rhythm, eating habits and melatonin production (Lin & Kuo, 2013).
  • Endorphins create pain relief and reduce anxiety.

All of this is going on while you work out! Whether you choose to go for a walk, play tennis, CrossFit, or hot yoga, moving around will help your mental health the rest of the day.

WHOOP, Sleep and Mental Health

WHOOP Sleep performance metrics give great insight to mental wellness and clarity. Among other things, sleep is a proven memory aid. Research shows that sleep prior to studying makes space for new material. Additionally, sleeping after studying helps prevent forgetting the new information (Mazza, et al., 2016).

While you are asleep, your body restores and repairs the brain, which facilitates the recalibration and healthy function of biological systems. It also allows for detoxification. Using WHOOP to quantify your REM, deep sleep, light sleep and awake phases throughout the night will help gauge how well your brain is repairing. This data lets you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your sleep and how improving your sleep hygiene will ultimately benefit your recovery and mental health the next day.

You can also use the WHOOP Journal feature to see how changes to your diet and exercise regimen affect your metrics.

However you choose to track mental wellness, remember to be proud of where you are today. Accept and love your present day self. Cultivate a positive internal dialogue and watch the magic happen!

Want more guidance on living your best physical and mental self? You can work with Kassandra and a team of expert nutrition coaches over at M2 Performance Nutrition.

REFERENCES

Nutritional Therapy Association. (2019). Basics of Nutrition Student Guide. The Basics of Nutrition. Retrieved from https://nta.brightspace.com/d2l/le/content/10063/Home.

Mazza, S., Gerbier, E., Gus,n, M.-P., Kasikci, Z., Koeing, O., Toppino, T. C., & Magnin,
M. (2016). Relearn Faster and Retain Longer: Along With Practice, Sleep Makes
Perfect. Psychological Science, 1321-1330.

Shiroya, Y., & Minato, K. (2007). Beneficial effects of physical exercise on the
exocrine pancreas. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, 307-313.

Schneiderman, N., & McCabe, P. M. (1985). 2: Biobehavioral Responses to Stress. In
T. Field, N. Schneiderman, & P. M. McCabe, Stress and Coping, Volume 1 (pp.
13-64). Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc.

Harvard Health Publishing. (2018, July 13). Exercising to relax. Retrieved from
Harvard Health Publishing: hdps://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/
exercising-to-relax

Hill Rice, V. (2012). Theories of Stress and its Relationship to Health. In V. Hill Rice,
Handbook of Stress, Coping, and Health: Implications for Nursing Research, Theory,
and Practice (pp. 22-42). SAGE.

Lin, T.-W., & Kuo, Y.-M. (2013). Exercise Benefits Brain Function: The Monoamine
Connection. Brain Sciences, 3(1): 39–53.

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Kassandra Hobart

Kassandra Hobart is a nutrition coach for M2 Performance Nutrition. Currently she is studying to become a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. She works with collegiate athletes, CrossFit Games competitors, and performance-focused individuals. She has dedicated the last 6 years to optimizing sports performance through nutrition. During this time, Kassandra also competed at the CrossFit Games representing the Reebok CrossFit One Team in 2018. Now she seeks to share her experience and lessons learned with all who are interested; regardless of their athletic background, anyone can benefit from taking a closer look about how nutrition improves or inhibits their daily life.

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