Friday, December 02, 2011

Fill the Well Friday: Eat Super Foods


PHS Editor Michelle Styles Explains how eating  nutrient rich foods has helped to jump start her creativity.
In this my last column of Fill the Well Friday (Jenna Bayley Burke takes over in January!), I want to talk about that other important  part of maintaining creativity – eating the right foods. Thus far, I have mainly focussed on activities and things to do but we are what we eat. Nutrient rich food can give a flagging brain a boost.  Isn't it annoying when your mother (or in my case my grandmother) turns out to have been right about eating correctly? My maternal grandmother used to go on and on about the benefits but I didn't really want to listen as a teenager.
When you are writing away, you  can suddenly feel hungry. I used to go and eat something sugary or something containing gluten. This led me to developing a writer’s bottom but also it sapped my creativity.  If your blood sugar starts spiking and rocketing all over the shop, you end up feeling tired and lethargic. The key is stabilise your blood sugar and then learn to distinguish between thirst and actual hunger.  Or possibly  do you just need a break and a stretch and that is all the walk to the fridge is about?
When you are feeling hungry, eating nutrient dense foods such as apples, blueberries, almonds, or oranges will give your brain a boost longer than if you eat cake. Some people swear by porridge in the morning but I have  found that I am starving and unable to concentrate by 10:30 am. However if I eat fruit such as steamed apple and pear or have a blueberry, pomegranate, banana and orange smoothie, I can go from 7 am until 1 pm without feeling the need to refuel.
I also find that if I am not eating a lot of heavy starch, my mind is able to concentrate for longer periods. Heavy starch tends to put me to sleep. So I have learnt to forgo baked potatoes for lunch and reach for more complicated foods such as a tuna salad made with a vinegar and mustard dressing, or a carrot and ginger soup.  It is amazing how much more energy I have in the afternoon.

I have also discovered that mainlining coffee or tea with milk makes it far less easy for me to concentrate. Green or white tea or fruit tea which adds a hint of sweetness works better for me.

As I celebrated Thanksgiving last weekend (I may live in the UK but I’m American and certain holiday feasts are non-negotiable!),  I discovered that eating unhealthy food made me feel dull and lethargic the next morning. We had clam dip on the Thursday, even though Thanksgiving proper waited until the Friday evening when my daughter came home from university.  On Friday morning, despite not having drunk any alcohol, I felt like I was hung over and that my brain wasn’t working as quickly.  It amazed me that unhealthy food made me feel that way. Yes, I had read about it but until I actually experienced the sensation of eating unhealthy food and how I felt the next day, I didn’t really believe it.
So if you are feeling like the well is dry, you can always try looking to your diet and seeing if you can’t substitute a few of the empty calories with nutrient rich foods. If you are interested in this sort of thing, I recently found the Jack Challam books -- The Inflammation Syndrome and Stop Prediabetes Now to be really informative. Basically I wanted to discover why I felt so much better on a Protein and Produce diet with only limited amount of gluten and lactose.
I do hope you  have enjoyed this column and I really look forward to seeing what Jenna Bayley-Burke does with it in 2012. There are a lot of exciting columns coming in 2012 which are sure to jumpstart your creativity but until then, try adding some super-foods.

Michelle Styles writes warm, witty and intimate historical romance for Harlequin Historical. Her next novel, His Unsuitable Countess, will be released in August 2012. You can learn more about Michelle and her books at her website www.michellestyles.co.uk

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