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How I Eat To Manage My Anxiety

January 30, 2016
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As someone who has battled anxiety for more than 15 years, I have firsthand experience of how debilitating and life-altering it can be. I was originally diagnosed with anxiety and depression at 14. My doctor wanted to control it with Prozac, which was used to treat depression and behavior disorders, despite the fact that I didn't have behavior problems. He didn't provide any additional information or alternative treatment options. So I didn't do anything.

Years later, I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety and panic disorder at 26. Within eight months of my diagnosis, I was knee-deep in a life-threatening addiction to my anxiety meds, which at the time was the only treatment option that was provided to me.

However, after enduring multiple blackouts and alcohol abuse and surviving an accidental overdose, things had to change if I expected to live.

Today, I am drug-free and my anxiety is managed through my diet and my daily practice of yoga and meditation.

As a wellness coach working primarily with people suffering with anxiety, I always encourage my clients to assess their diet. Here’s a typical day of what eating looks like for me:

6:30 a.m.: Breakfast

I like to start my day with about 16 to 24 ounces of fresh green juice before I eat anything. It’s a great way to give my body some much needed nutrients first thing in the morning.

I typically wait about 20 minutes after I’ve finished my juice before I sit down and eat. Most mornings I enjoy fresh berries with some cage-free, organic scrambled eggs.

I exercise about four times per week in addition to doing yoga, so the fiber and protein in the morning really helps fuel my body for the day. Berries (especially blueberries) are high in phytonutrients and antioxidants and are considered to be extremely beneficial for relieving stress and anxiety and increasing brain function.

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10 a.m.: Snack

After dropping my kids off at school around 8:30, the remainder of my morning is dedicated to either talking to coaching clients, answering emails, or working on my first book.

Mostly it’s a combination of all three, so by 10 a.m. I’m ready for a quick snack. I’m all about convenience, so my daily go-to snack is a banana with almond butter and some hot tea.

Almonds contain zinc, which is an important nutrient in maintaining a balanced mood, in addition to B2, vitamin E, iron, healthy fats, and protein.

Peppermint tea (my favorite) helps aid in digestion and reduce inflammation and relaxes the mind and body.

12:15 p.m.: Lunch

I try to keep my lunch light and full of vegetables. I don’t really enjoy eating a lot of raw veggies (which is why I juice), so I always reach for something palatable. For me, it’s curly kale.

I love to blend colors, so I tend to dress my salads with bright, colorful additions. With this salad in particular, I added some quinoa, fresh yellow and red peppers, unsweetened dried cranberries, and sunflower seeds. I topped it off with my homemade vinaigrette dressing (vinegar, fresh squeezed lemon juice, extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper).

In addition to quinoa being a complete protein, it also boosts levels of serotonin in the brain. It’s naturally gluten-free and also very filling. What I like most is that it’s a seed, not a grain, so it doesn’t have the inflammatory effects of other carbs, like wheat.

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3:15 p.m.: Snack

I usually head to the gym around 1:30 p.m., except for Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I do boxing training in the evening. I pick my kids up from school right after my workout, then it’s back home to start homework and make myself a post-workout snack.

Today’s snack of choice was a blueberry protein smoothie. I blended a frozen banana, frozen blueberries, almond milk, and a scoop of vanilla vegan protein. It’s satisfying and very delicious.

6:45 p.m.: Dinner

One of the worst feelings in the world to me is to have a productive day, then overeat at dinner, and fall into a food coma. I always feel like crap the next morning.

So just like lunch, I try to keep dinner light and full of veggies. I love to experiment in the kitchen with different flavors and textures, but this night I kept it pretty simple.

I made a zucchini noodle pasta, with sautéed shallots, garlic, and the leftover red and yellow peppers from lunch, and topped it off with some pan-seared shrimp and chopped parsley.

I am not vegan, but my diet consists of mainly fresh fruits, vegetables, beans, and legumes. I eat seafood about three times monthly. I don’t eat any meat, refined sugars, or processed foods, and very few grains.

However, I do enjoy a glass (or two) of red wine a few nights a week — everything in moderation!

If you're struggling with anxiety, I strongly advise you to reassess what you are putting into your body.

There is a definite connection between the foods we eat and how we feel throughout the day, and dietary changes can make a huge difference.

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Quentin Vennie, E-RYT 200
Quentin Vennie, E-RYT 200
Contributing writer

Quentin Vennie, E-RYT 200 is a writer, speaker, wellness expert, and author of the memoir Strong in the Broken Places. He serves as the Vice President of the Yoga Alliance Foundation, and has been has been featured on some of the world's largest online platforms, including Huffington Post, Thrive Global,Entrepreneur, Fox News, and the Observer. In his role at Yoga Alliance, he is responsible for the development, implementation and tracking of Foundation programs designed to make yoga accessible to marginalized and underserved communities.