Therapist’s Advice On Pinpointing Fad Diets

As a chubby kid all my life, I felt drawn towards fad diets that I saw on TV. I was highly impressionable and naïve back then, so I revered every person who claimed to be a weight-loss guru. They made me feel like they held the key to my problematic love for foods.

My parents already advised me against following fad diets before. They told me that those programs were created by people who wanted to be famous and get a quick buck. “Instead of going through all that trouble, you need to watch your food intake and exercise more,” they said.

Of course, since I was both naïve and stubborn, I did not listen to mom and dad. I kept buying modern food options like quinoa, black rice, vegan chicken, and whatnot. As with all the trendy stuff taking the limelight, though, such diets did nothing but damage my savings since their effects were not long-term.

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Depressed, I decided to open up about my dilemma to a therapist. She explained that I fell into the trap of fad diets due to my desire to lose weight without working out too much. “However,” she said, “We need to work hard for everything we want to achieve in life. There is no such thing as a quick and permanent fix – especially not when it comes to changing your body.”

I understood what the therapist meant. Of course, I had always known that weight loss wouldn’t happen overnight; that’s why I never bought slimming pills or teas like many others. Despite that, I hoped that a new way of dieting would do me good. But it did not. So, I had to ask my therapist, “How do you think I can avoid getting lured by fad diets that do not work?”

The therapist gave me a list of things to look for in a new diet before trying it.

Guru’s Credibility

The first thing to check is the credibility of the people who supposedly created the programs. Meaning, are they nutritionists, dieticians, or food scientists? Are they in the medical field at all?

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If someone who claims to be a guru has any of those labels, there is a high chance that the fad diet is real. They have profound knowledge about food and what it does to the body, after all. If they talk about a particular diet, extensive research must have been introduced to the public.

However, you should be wary of individuals who thought that being obese or overweight in the past made them experts at dieting. It does not work like that – and it never did. If anything, they could share tips and tricks that could have a detrimental effect on your health in the future.

Peer Review

Fad diets that are only meant to be cash grabs do not get reviewed by professionals. I know because I researched the programs I already tried and realized that the studies they presented were created mainly by them. The fact that no other expert backed up their claim could entail that they were afraid to ask for a peer review or not pass the reviews.

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Meanwhile, real diets have multiple distinguished individuals supporting them. Researchers who adopted the idea for their studies can come from nutritional experts who aimed to determine if they genuinely work.

You need to focus on the latter since they can help with your weight-loss goals.

Lack Of False Promises

When I was younger, I got hooked by grand statements that practically promised me the world. One said that I could go from size 16 to size 12 in a month; another stressed that the diet would keep me from gaining weight ever again. But the most common claim was that it was the quick fix I had been waiting for my entire life.

Quick fix, my foot. Those were false promises that desperate people like I used to tend to gobble up. The so-called gurus knew about the desperation, and they chose the most enticing words. So, if you see anyone saying something too good to be true, you better believe it’s baseless.

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No Requirement To Avoid A Certain Food Group

Dieticians and nutritionists do not recommend swearing off a specific food group because all groups provide nutrients and minerals that others don’t. You need a little bit of everything on your plate three times a day. Otherwise, you may experience nutritional insufficiency, which can lead to the development of other conditions.

I wish I had known this information in the past. No thanks to fad diets; I tried not eating meat or anything with carbohydrates, making me lethargic and grumpy. I also craved foods I was not supposed to have since I got deprived of them for a long time. It resulted in me gaining weight instead of losing any.

 

Moral Lesson: Listen to the real experts, not to so-called gurus who want your money.

Therapy For People Who Love Weight-Loss Fads

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My mother had a best friend who I grew up calling Aunt M. She was a fixture in our house when I was young. If there were a family party, she would always be there.

I remembered asking my mother why they were very close, and she said that it’s because Aunt M did not have the best relationship with her family. “She saw my parents as her parents, so we are practically like sisters now.”

Aunt M eventually became a role model in my eyes. She was a gorgeous Afro that never seemed to go out of place. Her clothing style is elegant yet practical. More importantly, she had smooth skin and a fit figure. I told myself that I would grow up like Aunt M and become as confident as her.

Troubles In Her Life

I was already in sixth grade when Aunt M got married. I thought that Peter was friendly and funny, and he cared for her the way I saw my dad care for my mom. I liked Peter more when he agreed to let me be a young bridesmaid at their wedding.

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Not long after the marriage, Aunt M announced that she was pregnant – with twins, no less. I felt excited because it had been a long time since we had babies around. Even if they won’t live in my house, I figured Aunt M would come by often, so I could play with them.

When the twins arrived in Aunt M’s life, I expected her to be more radiant than ever. I honestly thought she got motherhood down to the T, considering she often babysat me and received tips from all the mothers she knew. So, I felt surprised and bothered when I overheard her telling my mother – who also happened to be a therapist – that she felt lost and ugly since she gained a lot of weight.

Having gone through childbirth, mom advised Aunt M to let her emotions out and understand that things would get better after a few months. “You’ll have to put in a lot of work, for sure, but I believe that you can cinch your body in no time,” mom said encouragingly.

Aunt M exercised for a bit, but she grew frustrated because it was not working as fast as she wanted. That’s when she found the first fad diet that required her to avoid carbohydrates.

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Now, if you have no idea about what carbohydrates do to the body, you should know that they are essential energy sources. Without them, your body will try to generate energy from fats, causing ketones to be released. Although nothing happened to the babies that Aunt M breastfed, it made her highly hypoglycemic and had her brought to the hospital.

Did that scare the woman away from fad diets? No. If anything, it made Aunt M want to go through every program out there to see what worked best. This odd kind of addiction went on until her husband begged my mother to perform an intervention on her. Peter was afraid that Aunt M was about to lose it because she was no longer getting enough nutrition in her body.

How Can You Make People Stop Embracing Fad Diets Too Much?

The first thing that mom did that hit Aunt M with facts about fad diets. She pointed out that her best friend followed everything the programs asked for, but to no avail. There were also no other experts claiming that they were helpful. It meant that the problem was not Aunt M but the diets themselves.

Did Aunt M accept that immediately? Of course not. She knew that not all of them worked, but she remained hopeful that something would in the future.

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Mom had a tough time getting Aunt M to stop even thinking about fad diets. Her goal was to help her best friend get rid of the idea that those programs could resolve her weight issues quickly and permanently. Even if I was young back then, I knew that mom was correct, so I did not understand why Aunt M refused to get it.

When A Breakthrough Happened

Therapy became fruitful one day when Aunt M revealed that she got hooked on fad diets since her confidence level tanked as she put on a lot of weight. She worried about everything – from being undesirable in her husband’s eyes to not having enough energy to keep up with her twins.

This breakthrough made it easier for my mother to help Aunt M. They worked together to boost the latter’s self-confidence. As a therapist, mom asked her to keep a journal and write everything in her mind whenever she felt insecure. As a best friend and sister for life, mom accompanied her to the gym and whatever physical activity that Aunt M wanted to try.

Aunt M’s need for therapy came to a close when she felt confident in herself again.

 

Natural Foods Your Counselor Would Most Likely Recommend

Food is the fuel that keeps our body moving up and about every day. It also gives our brain the energy to think and make decisions. Therefore, we need to be very mindful of what we eat if we want to be healthy in both body and mind.

During your next visit to your counselor, you might want to ask for natural food recommendations from them. Counselors are not just specialized in talking with you; they are also very familiar with other methods that can help improve your mental health. This includes even our daily meals.

The Relationship Of Food And Mental Health

A person’s diet is not just about physical health. Recent research suggests that diet plays an important role in a person’s mental health as well. The involvement of diet in counseling and therapy is more commonly known as nutritional psychiatry.

Eating is already connected to our mental state because of the pleasure we get from it. When we eat and get full, our body reacts by releasing dopamine for our brain. Dopamine is responsible for feelings of pleasure and euphoria. That is why most people find pleasure in overeating. The good thing is, we don’t have to overeat our way into happiness. Below are natural foods your counselor is likely to recommend to help improve your mental health.

Boost Your Mood And Help With Depression

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  • Eggs

The protein in eggs contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid involved in the creation of proteins. It is mainly used by the body to produce melatonin and serotonin. Melatonin helps maintain a good sleep cycle, while serotonin is a hormone that stabilizes our mood and happiness.

  • Whole Grains

Carbohydrates are known to promote serotonin production. But is it enough to go and get any carb out there? Your counselor would most likely suggest you getting whole grains as a carb source. Aside from its tryptophan content, whole grains give you a fuller feeling which lasts longer than simple carbohydrates. Whole grains are great against hunger pangs. Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and quinoa are examples of this food.

  • Pineapple

It might look very intimidating to prepare, but push yourself into exploring the many benefits of the pineapple. Known for the serotonin boost it gives, this sweet tropical fruit isn’t just there to refresh our taste buds. It’s also loaded with lots of vitamins and nutrients. Filled with vitamin C, pineapples help collagen formation, strengthen our immune system, and absorb iron. It is also a fantastic source of bromelain, good for osteoarthritis, cardiovascular diseases, among other diseases.

Keep Anxiety At Bay

  • Berries

If you are having trouble with anxiety and keeping your stress levels low, your counselor may recommend that you include berries in your diet. A lowered total antioxidant state is somewhat being correlated with anxiety. Packed with antioxidants and vitamin C, these little fruits help combat stress. The antioxidants found in berries are also helpful in reducing the risks of heart diseases and certain cancers.

  • Turmeric

A relative of ginger, turmeric, is usually found in its ground, powdered form. This bright yellow powder can be used as a spice in cooking, or you can create turmeric tea by dissolving it directly in hot water. Turmeric contains Curcumin, a bioactive compound that possesses anti-inflammatory qualities. Curcumin is also linked to producing serotonin and dopamine levels. Hence, it is highly suggested by counselors in controlling anxiety and depression. 

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  • Chamomile Tea

Last on this list is the well-known tea for calming and relaxation. Chamomile, an herb with a daisy-like flower, is an Asian plant famous for its calm-inducing properties. It contains apigenin, an antioxidant that promotes sleepiness and helps against insomnia. If you are experiencing anxiety attacks in the middle of the day, try brewing a cup of chamomile tea. It also helps with upset stomach and inflammation; it’s good to have this around the house or in your office. Also, chamomile contains no caffeine at all. So if you are trying to avoid, or reduce, caffeine intake, chamomile tea is highly recommended as an alternative.

Stay Focused

If you are having trouble focusing at school or work, there are certain foods your counselor can suggest to help you keep a sharp mind. Fatty fish are booming with omega-3 fatty acids. Mostly looked up for its benefit to heart health, omega-3 is also found to be very helpful in studying and keeping focus. The brain uses Omega-3 in creating nerve cells and maintaining normal brain function, which is related to learning and memory. Fatty fish includes salmon, sardine, and cod. Having two to three meals a week of fatty fish can keep a healthy brain in the long run.

  • Leafy Greens

It is no secret that eating leafy greens is a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. What some might not know is that leafy greens also contain flavonoids. Flavonoids are plant metabolites that are thought to promote good memory, learning, and cognitive function. Leafy greens that contain the most amount of flavonoids are kale, parsley, and lettuce. Aside from mental boosts, flavonoids are also linked to protecting against certain cancers due to their antioxidant activity.

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  • Avocados

Last on this series of natural foods for mental health are avocados. These contain higher amounts of potassium than bananas. And they also help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels. But one particular component found in avocados is also beneficial for mental focus, and that is lutein. Lutein is a very important compound used by our brains, and multiple studies have linked a lutein-rich brain to good memory, learning, language, and executive functions. Although still in its preliminary studies, grabbing an avocado while on your study break still is a great alternative to processed snacks.

You might think that the food you eat would not impact your mental health. However, if you note what each food item can do for you and your body, you’ll know that food benefits us in many different ways. You’ll also know which foods to avoid to keep healthy. Please note the food items and their functions that we discussed, stay away from food that’s not good for you, and stay healthy!

How To Develop A Healthy Mind With Natural Food And Counseling

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There are no shortcuts to having a healthy mind. It will take consistent effort and well-thought-out decisions on your part to achieve this. But before anything, you have to understand first what your brain is and what it needs.

We often forget the brain is a part of our body. It’s as much an organ like any other that we have inside us. Naturally, the state of our mental well-being will depend on our lifestyle and habits. What we eat affects how our mind functions, as it affects our heart or lungs. What we do to alleviate stress on the brain will have its consequences as well.

Think about how you take care of your kidneys. Doctors will tell you to avoid alcohol and soda and to drink plenty of water instead. Similarly, there are also types of food better suited to help with your mental health. Remember what others tell you when you carry a heavy bag daily. Didn’t they suggest that you lessen the load to ease the stress off your back?

It’s the same when it comes to our minds. If we want to become healthy, we need to eat the right food and do the right things. There’s no silver bullet to solve our mental health problems instantly. However, there are choices we can make to move towards this goal.

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Go Natural For Your Brain

Just like with our other organs, we also need to eat clean to have a healthy mind. Avoid processed food and opt for healthier alternatives. Eating good food will improve your overall health overall and will also affect how you feel.

Natural foods include vegetables, fruits, seeds, herbs, seafood, meat, and whole grains. They have properties capable of regulating mood, curbing depression, and aiding in nutrient absorption. In addition, some of these foods can also regulate energy levels and encourage increased brain activity.

On the other hand, processed foods and sugar can cause inflammation within your body and brain. This can then contribute to mood disorders and hyperactivity. Studies have also shown that a terrible diet can exacerbate depression and may cause unusual energy fluctuations.

A diet consisting of processed and junk food is bound to mess with your stomach too. When you experience the stress caused by your unbalanced diet, it subdues the bacteria in your gut. Gut bacteria produce serotonin or mood stabilizers in our bodies. Processed foods, flour, and sugar can also cause cravings, making you consume them even more.

You don’t need to go on a crazy and limited diet. Start by being more mindful of what you eat and even when you eat. Then, try to focus on how you feel when you eat healthy foods. You can change your diet little by little, like going for an apple instead of a candy bar. If you feel unsure, remember that you can never go wrong with the healthier option.

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Counseling For A Lighter Mind

Caring for your mental wellbeing is a multi-step process. Along with being mindful of what you eat, you should also pay attention to the mental weight you bear. After all, bananas and oranges alone can’t save you from thoughts you’re drowning in.

Your struggles are a big part of your life, but they don’t define you. However, since we often associate resilience and independence with strength, we tend to just power through our internal struggles. Sometimes we resort to ignoring the problem. Other times, we busy ourselves with distractions and other commitments. These will do nothing but worsen how you feel.

It’s okay to ask for help. It might be obvious, yet some people choose not to get help because they think they’ll look weak. But they couldn’t be further from the truth.

Seeking a counselor is a sign of strength. When you decide to resolve your struggles, you commit to helping yourself. And counselors are there to guide you through your process of healing.

No matter the nature of your mental health challenges, they will be there with you the entire way. They’ve trained to help people face different obstacles, and they’ll aid you just like they’ve done with others. With their advice, you’ll be able to resolve your problems and take a step closer to a calmer mind.

The journey won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Just think of finally shedding all the baggage you carry after properly coming to terms with it. And imagine the peace of mind it will bring you. Seeing a counselor will be a step in the right direction towards a healthy mind.

To Wrap Up

The way to a healthy mind isn’t a one-step process. Like most other things, it involves identifying where you lack and what you need to improve on. There’s also no single track that would tell you exactly how to solve your problems. However, there are two things you can do to ensure you’re going the right way.

The first is to eat right. The brain is an organ, and you should treat it as such. Stray from processed foods and opt instead for healthier alternatives. Go with natural options that can help you both physically and mentally. It also wouldn’t hurt that those can regulate your mood and help maintain your energy levels.

For the second, see a counselor. Some struggles and challenges weigh us down so much it starts to affect our daily lives. When you find yourself constantly worrying, go to a counselor. Ask for help when things become heavy and overwhelming. Go to counseling when you’re confused and frustrated.

We should treat our mental welfare with the same respect and seriousness we treat our physical wellbeing. And we should be just as concerned about our minds as we are about our hearts. Our mental health should not be secondary to anything. After all, how can we live contently if our brain is not in the right place?

Take care of your mental health. Because really, what’s a fit body if your mind is unhealthy? They should go hand in hand, and we shouldn’t treat them as unrelated entities.

Frequently Asked Questions About St. John’s Wort And Depression

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I got diagnosed with depression after dealing with one miscarriage after another in a span of two years. The first time it happened, I consoled myself by thinking that perhaps that baby was not meant for us; that’s why it was taken away before it could see the world. The second time it happened, I was still somewhat fine, considering I worked like a lunatic back then and did not know I was pregnant until I experienced spotting.

After that, I took some time off work in hopes of having another baby. Two months later, the pregnancy test came back positive, and my husband and I were thrilled. However, when I went for my monthly checkup on what’s supposed to be my fifth month, the doctor said that she could no longer hear a heartbeat. I had to get a C-section on the same day to take my unborn child out of me.

The doctor tried to console me by saying that stillborn babies were common worldwide, but she was too late as I already started to beat myself up over it. But even when I slightly moved on from it, I continued to experience bouts of depression, causing me to look for a non-drug way to handle it.

That’s when I heard about St. John’s wort.

Does St. John’s wort help with depression? 

Yes, St. John’s wort helps fight depression. Many experts have compared it to Prozac, a well-known antidepressant, and found that their effects are no different from each other. Despite that, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes it as a dietary supplement, so you must ask your doctor if you can consume St. John’s wort before buying it.

How much St. John’s wort should I take for depression? 

The official standard dosage of St. John’s wort that adults should take for depression is 300 milligrams. Some specialists may recommend taking it thrice a day after the first few weeks of the diagnosis. Then, things may ease up once the herb takes effect, and the patients may only need to take it once every day.

How long does St. John’s wort take to work for depression? 

While St. John’s wort has been useful for many individuals as an antidepressant, it is difficult to determine a specific number of days that you need to take it before the herb works for depression. Some claimed only to require two weeks; others had to consume St. John’s wort for months. 

Despite the lack of concrete information on this matter, no one should take too much St. John’s wort every day, hoping that it will speed up its effectiveness. Doing so may worsen your depressive symptoms.

Which is better for depression, St. John’s wort or 5-HTP? 

St. John’s wort and 5-HTP are two dietary supplements that have often been connected to depression over the years. Between the two of them, though, the former is more suitable to combat depression than the latter. The reason is that St. John’s wort is very much like the antidepressants that psychiatrists prescribe to their patients, although it is naturally found in the environment. The 5-HTP is only known to increase a person’s serotonin level, not improve other symptoms of depression.

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What does St. John’s wort do to the brain? 

St. John’s wort is a well-known natural antidepressant; it works similarly to synthetic antidepressants. Meaning, it helps the brain produce more serotonin, the feel-good hormone that is insufficiently found in depressed people. However, taking more St. John’s wort than you need may cause you to shiver, feel anxious, or develop heart-related problems.

Does St. John’s wort make you gain weight? 

Many people want to believe that it cannot make you put on extra pounds, considering it is a natural herb. Others think that it can help with weight loss, even though experts strongly suggest that the herb is not intended for that. In truth, there is not enough research to support the idea that St. John’s wort makes you gain – or lose – weight up to this day.

Should I take St. John’s wort in the morning or night? 

It will be best if you take St. John’s wort in the morning – that is the safest time to do it. The reason is that it is challenging to assess how much of the herb is too much for your body, so you may have trouble falling asleep sometimes. In that case, you should perhaps use St. John’s wort to your advantage and allow it to help you stay awake during the day.   

Who should not take St. John’s wort? 

St. John’s wort is a reasonably harmless antidepressant, being a natural herb and all. However, it can interact harshly with blood thinners and cancer medications, so you should avoid taking St. John’s wort in any form if you need the drugs mentioned above. Furthermore, it is ill-advised to consume St. John’s wort if you are still taking another antidepressant because the effects of both may be too much for your body, and you may be unable to sleep.

What is the best natural antidepressant? 

St. John’s wort is the best natural antidepressant available in the market. It has been recognized as an effective antidepressant by many people for decades, although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still considers it a dietary supplement. And while anyone can drink it as tea or take it in pill form, you should not consume St. John’s wort if you take cancer drugs or blood thinners.

What foods to avoid when taking St. John’s wort? 

Although St. John’s wort is an all-natural antidepressant, there is a relatively wide variety of foods that you cannot eat while consuming the herb in any form. The list includes:

  • Banana
  • Beer
  • Chicken liver
  • Chocolate

The common denominator among these foods is tyramine, a natural substance that may cause a hypertensive crisis once it interacts with St. John’s wort.

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Does St John’s wort make you sleepy? 

Yes, there have been studies claiming that St. John’s wort can help depressed individuals get rid of insomnia. However, you may get the opposite result if you take too much of the herbal extract. Hence, it will help if you keep your consumption to a minimum at all times.

Does St. John’s wort give you energy?

Technically, no, St. John’s wort does not give you energy. Instead, as a natural antidepressant, it can uplift your spirits. Hence, it may feel like you are getting an energy boost.

Final Thoughts

The jury is still out for St. John’s wort as I’m waiting for my psychiatrist to tell me if I can take it. In the meantime, I focus on myself and my marriage, still hoping that I’d be able to carry my next pregnancy to full term.