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May 18, 2009

The Eating Diaries

How much does what you eat affect your skin, mind, energy, and mood? Four women trade in cookies and cocktails for a clear complexion and sharpened memory.

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eating foods that are good for you

Drink Positive
The recipe for a good mood? Milk, whey protein powder, and frozen strawberries.

Photo Credit: Craig Cutler

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Mood Food
I want to level out my emotions

By Jihan Thompson, 24

After months of hard work, my New Year's resolution—to exercise and eat right—had gone kaput. I had stopped packing lunches, and instead of hitting the gym, I was back to hitting snooze. Recession blues had me craving my comfort foods—a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios or Papa John's pizza for dinner. The only resolution I had managed to actually keep was kicking my soda habit. But the caffeine withdrawal left me cranky, and normal annoyances, like a delayed train on the way to work, sent me into a blind rage. It was clear my generally good mood had been derailed.

I got in touch with Susan Kleiner, Ph.D., coauthor of The Good Mood Diet, to see if I could, in fact, eat my way to happiness. I liked that Kleiner's diet wasn't overly rigid—I could have a glass of red wine after week one and indulge in a bite-size piece of chocolate or a cup of sorbet every weekend to satisfy cravings.

The biggest dietary change I'd have to make was adding whey protein to my mid-morning snack. While her book suggests homemade smoothies, Kleiner recommends a yogurt substitute for people like me, who don't have time to make them. To one cup of plain nonfat yogurt I added a packet of Splenda and half a scoop of whey protein. I was initially put off by the whey—I associated it with bodybuilders, and although my goal wasn't losing weight, the last thing I wanted to do was put it on. "You're not going to bulk up," she assured me. "You're adding the equivalent of 2 ounces of chicken—it's the best way to get protein without extra fat." Protein, an amino acid high in tryptophan, helps elevate mood-boosting serotonin in the brain and would help me chill out under pressure.

After week one, I was feeling pretty good. I channeled my newfound optimism into finally ending my monthlong gym hiatus and eased back with a 30-minute run on the treadmill. Exercise, which releases feel-good endorphins, also promotes a perky mood.

Minor setbacks weren't erupting into full-on flare-ups, either. When my boyfriend showed up an hour late for our dinner date after "losing track of time" playing basketball, the old me would have sent angry "where the hell are you?" texts every five minutes. Instead of fuming, I dialed a friend whose call I hadn't returned in days—an unexpected upside to having a rare extra hour on my hands.

By the end of week two, I was still on my nothing-can-get-me-down high. And while I'll probably return to my tired (but easy) turkey sandwiches for lunch, I'm hooked on Kleiner's high-energy snacks, because the added protein keeps me from dipping into the office's crash-and-burn chocolate stash. I'm sure my fellow commuters will appreciate the blood-sugar upgrade.



Jihan Thompson’s favorite meal plan from the Good Mood Diet by Susan Kleiner, Ph.D.

Breakfast:
1/2 whole wheat English muffin with peanut butter Banana Water

Morning Snack:
1 cup plain non-fat yogurt 1/2 scoop GNC’s Pro-Performance Whey Isolate 28 1 packet Splenda Water

Lunch:
1 cup chicken noodle soup 2 cups mixed greens with cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli 2 oz turkey 2 tbsp reduced-fat balsamic vinegar dressing Water

Afternoon Snack:
1 apple 10 almonds Water

Dinner:
1 cup whole-wheat pasta 4 oz grilled chicken breasts 2 cups vegetables: cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes Water

Evening Snack:
1 cup hot chocolate with 2% milk

NEXT PAGE >> Beauty Foods: Eating For Your Looks


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