By Alyssa Cypher
Lindsey Smith (aka The Food Mood Girl) is a Pittsburgh-based author, health coach, and speaker. Recently, Lindsey published a new book, titled “Eat Your Feelings: The Food-Mood Girl’s Guide to Transforming Your Emotional Eating.” In her new book, Lindsey provides background knowledge, healthy tips, and easy-to-follow recipes to help her readers understand their food cravings and consider their mood in what they eat.
Lindsey’s book asks us to dig deep into our cravings to learn more about our health and wellness, writing, “Instead of looking at food as a sustaining and pleasurable experience, we now use our innate emotional eating skills to escape from stress, sadness, or any sort of negative feeling.” This topic does bring up a lot of questions about emotional eating: Why do we crave that sugary donut or greasy hamburger when we’re feeling sad, and why does giving into this craving make us feel worse afterwards? How can we fight these cravings and instead pine for healthy food?
Instead of commanding us to fight against our cravings and emotional eating, Lindsey suggests figuring out what we can learn about ourselves from our cravings. Recipes like “Cookie Dough Contraband,” “Emoji Chocolate,” and “Pizza Scones” are great ways to satisfy cravings while eating food that is healthy and sustaining for our bodies (plus, mood-boosting cookie dough)!
Q&A with the Author
Since Lindsey is a fellow Pittsburgher, I connected with her to talk about her new book and her journey to becoming The Food Mood Girl:
What exactly is the food-mood connection, and why is it so important to consider what we eat when thinking about our mental health?
“I believe that our food choices can directly impact our moods, just as our moods can impact the type of foods we crave or choose to eat. There is inherently an emotional connection we have to food. My take is that understanding how foods impact you can help you feel better not only physically, but mentally as well.
For example, if you are sad, your body naturally wants to be happy. You may find yourself going for carbs and sugar (e.g. pizza and cookies) because your body really wants the quick serotonin fix those foods can give you. However, the boost is only temporary and often leads to a crash pretty quickly. Incorporating mood-boosting foods, such as quinoa and nuts, can help your body naturally produce serotonin without the crash.”
What inspired you to make the food-mood connection the focus of your new book, Eat Your Feelings?
“I was hospitalized for anxiety as a preteen, and it was then that my personal food-mood journey started. I started working with a holistic health coach who helped me understand how the food I was eating was impacting the way I felt.
The food-mood connection has been a such a part of my life, and it’s often changed and evolved. I wanted to be able to provide a guidebook of things people can use to help uncover about their own food-mood relationship, as well as recipes (including emotional favorites) using foods that actually help improve your mood.”
What is your favorite mood-boosting recipe to make when you’re feeling sluggish or down (like many of us are feeling right now)?
“My favorite recipe of the moment (since they change often) is the ‘Tasty Taco Salad.’ For one, tacos just make me happy. And secondly, the walnut and mushroom mix to make up the “meat” in the taco is both filling and incredibly mood-boosting. Walnuts alone can help promote brain function, which can help alleviate sadness and give you a boost of energy.
At the core of my philosophy though, I believe we are all bio-individual and need to figure out what feels good for our bodies. Also, food alone cannot cure the blues. You can eat as much kale as humanly possible, but that won’t necessarily cure a broken heart or make you a better person. That’s why it’s important to use food to help you feel better, while also looking into other tools such as therapy or meditation to help as well.”
Time for a Test Run!
I thought I’d give some of the recipes a test run, because what better way to check-out a new cookbook than to make some of the recipes. I ran down to my local market to buy some fresh ingredients for my first food-mood culinary adventure – the “Tasty Taco Salad” (and Lindsey’s current favorite recipe). I try to limit my red meat consumption to twice a week, so the “meat” blend of roasted walnuts and mushrooms in this recipe caught my eye. I built a hard-shell taco with the “meat,” greens, tomatoes, and sauce – and it was delicious! The “meat” was well seasoned and was a convincing substitute for ground beef (with added benefits for brain health).
[Left Image: Blending the No Jitters Java at Home; Center Image: About to Eat My Tasty Tacos (Featuring Birdie Salt and Pepper Shakers); Right Image: Cookie Dough Contraband in the Office!]
The next day, I decided to test out the “No Jitters Java” during my morning commute. This coffee drink includes a number of added ingredients to help boost energy without the caffeine crash – coconut oil, cacao powder, maple syrup, and reishi mushroom powder. I blended it up and took it to go. The coffee had a hint of sweetness with chocolate undertones – very tasty. I’ve made it a habit to at least put some coconut oil in my coffee from now on.
Finally, I wanted to share some of the mood-boosting love with my fellow coworkers in the NAMI Keystone PA office. I made the “Cookie Dough Contraband” recipe for our staff lunch. The cookies were a hit! Our Chief Operating Officer, Debbie Ference, exclaimed, “I like these better than cookie dough!” Other staff members remarked how they could easily see these cookie dough bites satisfying a sugar craving (without any of the refined sugar).
Eat Your Feelings accomplishes a hefty feat – making healthy cooking and eating accessible. The recipes are simple and easy to follow, so you don’t have to be a culinary wonder to cook a healthy meal. Plus, you have fun while doing it! The overall message of Eat Your Feelings focuses on the importance of eating for ourselves, our bodies, and our minds – rather than stressing over a particular diet or punishing ourselves for giving into a craving. As Lindsey wrote, “I’m a food-mood-etarian. I eat what makes me feel good and makes me happy.”