Having positive self-esteem, loving yourself, and feeling confident isn't easy. There are so many factors that affect how we feel about ourselves - personality, previous experiences, and even the representations of success and beauty that we see online or on TV. Something that a lot of people overlook when it comes to confidence and self-love is our physical health. We focus on the way we look and forget that what shows up on the outside is a reflection of what is or isn't happening on the inside.
Think about it, when you are exercising regularly, eating a nutrient-dense, whole foods diet, you probably feel better about yourself than when you eat all the junk food and then are too tired to exercise. Whether we like it our not, our mind and body are closely linked. Our minds can affect what is happening in our bodies and our bodies can change how we feel emotionally and how we show up in the world.
What is self-esteem and self-love?
Having self-esteem means that you like and accept yourself as you are right now. Self-love is a similar concept, it is defined as having regard for one's own well-being and happiness. You can also practice self-love by engaging in behaviors that promote well-being and happiness (I wrote a post about that last year, read it here). When you have both self-esteem and self-love you are more likely to feel confident about other areas of your life. This is where diet and nutrition are important. Eating a nutrient-dense diet can help your body feel better, which over time will help you feel better about your body.
Improving self-esteem and confidence
There are lots of things that can affect your confidence and how you feel about your body. Figuring out what these things are is an important first step.
Factors that can affect confidence:
- Your job - It should come as no surprise that what you do everyday can affect how you feel about yourself. If you do not feel appreciated or valued in your work, you may lose confidence in yourself, which can affect how you feel about your body. Addressing these issues (feeling underappreciated or undervalued) with your manager can help to improve the situation.
- Your hobbies - Having interests outside of work and finding things that you enjoy doing reduce stress (which is part of practicing self-love). Doing things that you are good at is also a confidence booster. If you don't have a hobby, try learning a new skill or taking a class in your community.
- Your relationships - This is similar to how your job affects you. If you feel taken for granted in your relationships, it's hard to feel confident or feel good about yourself. Try addressing these issues or seek outside help if needed.
- Your level of physical activity - Exercise helps decrease stress, but too much exercise can increase stress on the body. Being physically active (but not overly) can improve your body confidence.
- Your diet - Eating a nutritious diet is essential to good health and can also help improve how you feel about yourself. If you are eating an unbalanced diet and have erratic meal patterns you may feel less motivated and less confident.
Good nutrition as a form of self-love
The concept that food affects our mood has been researched extensively and some fascinating links between what we eat and our mental health have been found. Considering what you are eating and adjusting that to maximize how you feel about yourself can reduce anxiety, improve your mood, and help you feel better about yourself.
How does this happen? It's all about balancing what you are eating to maximize the desirable chemical reactions in your body for both maximum physical and mental benefit. For example, eating a diet that is high in carbohydrates maximizes serotonin in our brains. Serotonin is a hormone that is associated with positive and confident feelings. However, too much carbohydrate (I'm looking at you sugar) can cause big mood fluctuations leaving you feeling irritable, anxious, and tired.
There is also some research that suggests low levels of vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids can affect our mental health. Low levels of omega-3s have been found to be linked with increased risk of depression.
Foods to boost your mood
Making sure that your diet is made up of nutritious foods with a good balance of vitamins, minerals, and good fats is the best way to make sure your mood is stable and help you feel the best about yourself. By eating a balanced diet, you are showing yourself self-love, you are giving your body what it needs to function at the highest level possible.
In addition to a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, there are certain foods that have been shown to have mood-boosting qualities.
- Carbohydrates – These are broken down into glucose which is critical in supplying the brain and muscles with energy. Too little or an irregular intake of carbohydrate foods can cause you to feel tired and unable to concentrate. Eating plenty of unrefined carbohydrates like vegetables and fruits can help sustain your energy levels for longer. Carb-rich foods may also help the brain receive more serotonin.
- Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids - Recent studies have suggested that omega-3 fatty acids can help to prevent low moods and depression because they affect the neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. Make sure that you are eating at least one portion of oily fish a week such as sardines, salmon (wild only!), mackerel, or trout.
- Foods rich in vitamin D - This vitamin (which is really a hormone) is thought to increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Aim to include foods in your diet that contain vitamin D such as eggs, oily fish, and yogurt.
- Foods rich in vitamin B - Low levels of vitamin B have been noted in those suffering from depression. Foods like spinach, broccoli, meat, organ meats, dairy and eggs are great sources of B vitamins.
Foods to limit
In addition to including foods that can help your mood and maximize your overall health, you may find that decreasing your intake of certain foods can help you feel better about yourself as well. Here are some foods to consider limiting:
- Sugar - If you're not feeling good about yourself you may instinctively reach for a sugary snack to perk yourself up. This often works in the short-term, but the spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels will disrupt your mood and leave you feeling lethargic in the long run. Try to replace sugary snacks for a piece of fruit, nuts or seeds instead.
- Caffeine - Drinks like coffee and caffeinated soft drinks can cause mild dehydration, they can also lead to withdrawal headaches. Similarly to sugar, too much caffeine can disrupt your energy levels and cause mood swings. Over time this can affect your confidence. Try to reduce the amount of caffeine you consume and up your intake of caffeine free herbal teas or water.
- Alcohol - Drinking alcohol may give you a quick confidence boost, but as too much alcohol can be both a stimulant and depressant and you will likely feel irritable and anxious the following day. Avoid drinking more than one or two drinks at a time and aim for at least two alcohol free days a week - your body and mind will thank you for it!
How can nutrition coaching help?
When attempting to improve anything about your life and make changes that stick, it's important to take a holistic approach. This means looking at your entire lifestyle to consider all aspects of what could be affecting your self-esteem and how to sneak in more self-love. Diet is probably the most overlooked aspect of this process and getting help in that area can be a huge stress reducer and increase results. A nutrition coach can help you determine what you could be eating more of and what you could cut down on to get the desired results without disrupting your entire life and spending all day in the kitchen. If you want help in this area, check out my coaching options. I'd love to help you practice more self-love and be more confident!
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