There is a connection between the confidence to make positive health decisions and wellbeing. When we feel confident we eat well, our physical and mental wellbeing improves and we are better able to tackle life’s daily challenges. Not surprisingly, when we eat well, mood and mental wellbeing improves, which can do wonders for our self-confidence.
It’s important to have the knowledge and skills to make positive health decisions. When you feel in control of your health, you are more likely to have the confidence to make good choices. Finding credible and reliable advice, especially online, can be difficult. Enjoying a wide range of nutritious foods from all five food groups is an essential part of health and wellbeing but sometimes it’s not easy to make the right choices.
Jean Hailes dietitian Anna Waldron says that the easiest way to make sure you are eating the best food for your health is to, “plan your meals ahead of time and ensure you have some key ingredients in the cupboard and fridge ready to use to prepare a quick healthy meal”. Arming yourself with the skills to find and interpret health information is another way to make good choices. For example, food labels can sometimes be misleading. Food claims such as ‘lite’ or ‘light’ don’t always mean that the product is low in energy, and when a product claims to be 93% fat-free, it means it actually contains 7% fat.
The strongest food cravings often occur at our weakest points emotionally. When we feel overwhelmed or unable to solve a problem, many of us reach for comfort food. Emotional eating is a way to suppress or soothe negative emotions such as stress, anger, fear, boredom, sadness and loneliness. We may respond to our negative emotions by ‘over’ or ‘under’ eating. Examining your food habits can provide insight into how you are travelling emotionally and can identify whether changes or help may be needed. While emotional eating may help in the short term, it can also lead to a sense of guilt and frustration. The good news is that once emotional eating is identified, it can then be managed. Having the confidence to tackle the bigger problems leading to ‘over’ or ‘under’ eating may lead to healthy or ‘intuitive’ eating, where we eat in response to our body’s physical, not emotional, needs.
Tips for Confidence in Healthy Eating
- Choose more fresh foods- limit processed foods
- Learn to understand food labels to identify healthier options
- Plan meals for the next few days and get organised with your shopping.
- Try not to shop when hungry
- Always eat breakfast and regular meals throughout the day
Dr. Mandy Deeks, Psychologist and Head of Translation, Education and Communication at Jean Hailes, defines self-confidence as, “having the belief in yourself that you can accomplish things and can make the right choices for your health. Having confidence in who you are helps you to be healthier.” The relationship between exercise and physical health is well known but leading an active lifestyle and exercising regularly also helps to support good mental health, strong emotional wellbeing and confidence.
Regular exercise is linked to reduced depressive symptoms, reduced symptoms of stress and anxiety, as well as improved mood and improved self-confidence. In a recent study assessing psychological health and exercise, young women who did not regularly exercise had higher levels of anxiety and/or depression than those who did. Exercise sparks the production of endorphins, creating a positive feeling in the body. Exercise can also increase the release of the mood elevating chemicals: serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These positive feelings and elevated mood can contribute to the way we feel about ourselves and, in turn, our levels of self-confidence.
Exercise has also been shown to have a positive impact on self-confidence and the way we see our bodies. Regular exercise can improve body image; when we put our bodies to work through regular exercise, strength and fitness improves and we gain confidence in what our bodies can do. Furthermore, regular exercise boosts our energy levels, helping us to be more alert and resilient. This can translate into self-confidence. Making the decision to start exercising regularly is not always easy. Sometimes, the first step is the hardest.
Associate Professor of Exercise Physiology at Victoria University and accredited exercise physiologist Nigel Stepto says there is clear evidence that doing some activity is better than doing none at all. “If you’re currently doing no physical activity or exercise, start by walking 5-10 minutes a day and gradually increase this by 1-2 minutes a week,” he says. Making exercise a regular part of your routine is an important step in staying motivated. “The key to sustaining regular physical activity is doing things you enjoy,” says Nigel. “This might be walking the dog, gardening, running around with the kids or swimming.”
We often start our exercise regime with the best of intentions but give up after a few weeks. This can have a negative effect on your levels of self-confidence. In order to stay motivated, don’t bite off more than you can chew. Set small goals and reward yourself for completing them. By rewarding your progress and tracking improvement, your confidence in yourself and your regime will build. It’s also important not to be too hard on yourself. If you miss a lunchtime walk, don’t worry about it. Just get back on track tomorrow.
Making healthy choices
The key is having the confidence to make the best choices for your health. With small, incremental changes in diet and exercise levels, we will start to see a change in our mood and will begin to gain the confidence needed to make the best choices.
This column is supplied by Jean Hailes for Women’s Health – a national, not-for-profit organisation focusing on clinical care, innovative research and practical educational opportunities for health professionals and women. www.jeanhailes.org.au