Mood and Food

foodToday’s post was inspired by Disorderly Chickadee’s blog. She has been in an unstable (irritable) mood but her post is about how proud she is of the fact that she has been losing weight. For some reason, several people we have been working with have also been feeling irritable and agitated, and using some of that energy to lose weight…It sparked me to think about how often diet and mood interact.

Here are some of my observations –

  1. Successful dieting seems to require a fair amount of energy. Often a successful diet begins when someone is in an energized state (whether irritable or optimistic may not matter). After a period of thinking about diet, wanting to lose weight, perhaps even obsessing about Positive Start to Dietingit, many people discover that one day they are able to really do something about it – and what seems to make that possible is having a bit more energy. For that reason, I encourage those who are interested in getting started to do a bit more physical activity – particularly things that might be inspiring – as a way to get started (even though increasing physical activity by itself is not likely to lead to much weight loss). This approach, which is an example of “tacking” (getting your energy up before making a change, even if it means you don’t right away tackle the problem), is illustrated by the drawing at right. It is in contrast to the often unsuccessful strategy of – “damn I have to lose weight… I guess I will just have to stop eating all the stuff that I enjoy in life…”
  2. Once you are up and running with a diet it can return energy to you. Especially if your diet gets you into a state of ketosis. There are some diets that do that particularly well (phase one of The South Beach Diet or the Atkins Diet). But most diets do it to some extent. In fact, we have had a few folks who shifted briefly into hypomania due to ketosis from a diet.
  3. Eating has an anti-anxiety effect, especially eating high carbohydrate food. I think of carbs as having somewhat similar effects to a benzodiazepine like Valium. They reduce anxiety, make you feel briefly better, but they tend to take away energy. And, like Valium, they become a bit addictive. If you don’t make the transition to positive energy and a focus on a bright new future, starting a diet feels a lot like going “cold turkey” from Valium. It is easy to feel deprived and for your mood to go south… and then a diet becomes impossible.

I would love to hear about your experiences. Email me at

Disclosure: This page may contain affiliate links to products or services. We may earn from your qualifying purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews and recommendations. We do our best to provide fair and balanced recommendations.