Are you eating your way into the pit of OCD? Is it possible that something as simple as the food on your plate can be contributing to those horrible feelings of anxiety? That’s what I’m on a journey to discover with my 4-week trial diet to find the best anti-inflammatory foods for OCD.
I’m still on a roll with my kale, avocados, nuts, beans, and vegetables. I ate five different kinds of nuts and seeds today — flax seed, chia seed, poppyseed, peanuts, and almonds. Three kinds of beans — fava, soy, and pinto — and 8 kinds of fruits and vegetables — cantaloupe, banana, butternut squash, zucchini, tomato, kale avocado, and dates.
By day 9 I started getting so tired of the restrictions of my diet that I had a hard time getting enough calories. I was just so. tired. of. eating.
It takes way longer to chew kale and beans and nuts than a nice refined bowl of cereal or pasta. And I’ve been having some pain in one of my lower molars, which makes it annoying to have so many unrefined foods to chew. So on day 9 I didn’t even make it to 1,300 calories.
More of the same. Chia pudding with fruit and soy milk, egg white omelet, seeds, beans, nuts.
I did get a little creative and made some crackers out of ground flax seed and pulverized lentils. They were ok but needed some improvement before calling them one of my go-to foods for OCD.
As far as OCD foods, the only new anti-inflammatory item on the menu was a better flax cracker recipe. Instead of using blended cooked lentils, I crushed raw lentils into flour and mixed it with ground flax and egg white to make a cracker dough. It was very dense but it made me feel full.
Despite the upward emotional arc of last week, today I felt a bit anxious.
At the beginning of my day, I had a strong intrusive thought relating to harm, which was an entirely new theme for me (my OCD themes have always been religious or existential). I felt a rush of anxiety when the unwanted thought entered my mind, but I used the same principles and techniques that help me with scrupulosity, and the whole episode was over in less than 5 minutes. It allowed me to avoid getting stuck with the thought, and I plodded on through the rest of my day, completely functional but with somewhat of a chip on my shoulder.
In the afternoon I had several coaching sessions, and after talking to you guys, I felt completely fine again.
This OCD thing is kind of neat. When I get outside my own head by helping others, it disappears and I feel happy again.
Dear husband wanted to go out to eat, so I obliged. I watched him eating something similar to a pizza (the Lebanese version) while I ate a salad and a baked potato. I wasn’t sure if potato should be on the list of foods for OCD, since it’s really starchy and full of carbs, but I didn’t have a lot of menu options.
The waiter brought me my potato 3 minutes after ordering, and it was only half-baked (or shall I say, half-microwaved?) so even my indulgence in a potato wasn’t anywhere near as tasty as I was expecting.
When dear husband suggested ice cream afterwards, how could I say no…I mean, 11 days of nuts and vegetables? Come on.
I did, however, make sure to only get sorbet, since dairy tends to have inflammatory effects. I hoped avoiding dairy would be a wink at the highly refined sugar I was slurping down.
A few hours later, I got irritated at dear husband and I did the huffy-puffy-wife thing (ya’ll know what I’m talking about?) When he asked me why I was getting upset over nothing, I blamed the ice cream.
“The sugar went to my brain,” I said sheepishly.
For some reason, he didn’t believe me.
Day 12 was much better, and I got back on the wagon with my foods for OCD. I whipped up a batch of zacusca, that tasty vegetable spread I learned from my husband’s European relatives, and ate it with flax crackers. I had a few apples and some wonderful flat white peaches that I’ve never found in a US supermarket. (One perk of living abroad! Even though I can’t buy vegetarian meat or tofu, I can get some pretty nice produce!)
Unfortunately, despite eating extensively, I didn’t make it past 1,300 calories for the entire day.
Carrots are high in betacarotene and vitamin A, both of which are believed to fight inflammation. On day 13 I ate a plate of carrot sticks with a creamy dip made from cashews (healthy fat!).
And, more of the same. Seeds, nuts, kale, avocado, eggs, beans, fruits, vegetables.
I didn’t experience anxiety today.
Today I added two new foods for OCD: chocolate and soy flour.
Chocolate is believed to be very helpful against inflammation and may even boost circulation in the brain, but the problem is that it is almost always paired with refined sugar, which causes inflammation.
I decided to aim at a middle ground position by making hot chocolate from soy milk, cocoa powder, and a small amount of honey (it wasn’t really sweet at all, but having some chocolate again was great)!
Another really important item for our list of foods for OCD is soy. Researchers have found that soy markedly decreases inflammation in the body. Soy can sometimes be controversial, but I think it’s helpful to remember that the main soy products that Americans consume are highly processed and often involve a lot of sodium and sugar. For example, Silk Vanilla soy milk has more sugar than Sprite soda (Silk: 9 grams of sugar per 240 ml versus 7.9 grams of sugar in the same amount of Sprite).
Again: SUGAR = INFLAMMATION.
It might not be soy that’s a problem, but the kinds of things we pair up with the soy to make it tasty and palatable.
As for me, I took unflavored, dry roasted soybeans, blended them into flour, and added it to my flax crackers. I also ate 1/4 cup of the roasted beans as a snack. It was tasty, but I think I overdid it because I ended up with a bit of a stomachache. (Legumes, legumes…)
Emotionally, day 14 was interesting because I did have some rough patches, but not because of OCD. I was struggling with some real-life situations that anybody — OCD or non-OCD — would find emotionally taxing. I was able to stand back, assess the situation, label my emotions, and pray through the experience.
I think anybody in my situation would struggle to find their happy face, but I felt good about the fact that A) I didn’t freak out, B) I didn’t lose control, C) I didn’t even cry, and D) I didn’t get stuck ruminating about it. I recognized it as unfortunate, I felt the feelings, and I kept going with my day.
For someone with a history of depression and OCD, it’s good progress. It’s progress you can make, too.
Foods for OCD: The Reality
An intense anti-inflammatory diet for OCD is actually pretty tough. I’m not sure if I can keep it up long term. I’ve lost half a kilo (2.2 pounds) over the last two weeks, despite cramming myself as full as possible. (And you’ll remember my comment from the first post in this series when I said I do NOT want to lose weight).
I imagine this might be somewhat easier if I wasn’t vegetarian. Fatty fish would probably be a helpful source of calories, protein, and fat. But being a vegetarian in a country where I can’t easily obtain simple things like tofu destines me to a bare-bones OCD diet.
Let me give you a few averages from week 2, because I’m just nerdy like that. 😉 I’m cutting out day 11 with the baked potatoes and sorbet because that “outlier” day would skew the data. (Hey, everyone deserves a throwaway day now and then, right?)
Here’s the data:
Average caloric intake daily: 1,439 calories
Average carbs: 160 grams, or 43% of dietary intake
Average fats: 66 grams, 39% of dietary intake
Average protein: 68 grams, 18% of dietary intake
I just bought a big chunk of fresh ginger, which is supposedly a superfood for reducing inflammation. I haven’t yet gotten the courage (or creativity?) to start chomping away on it! Check back next week, and I may have an update on that. 🙂
What I’m discovering is that I do feel calmer in general. The thoughts and emotions are still there, but I can deal with them. I can handle them. A lot of this is due to repeated practice over the years of OCD techniques that help me to stay in control (rather than letting my brain run away from me) but I’m feeling pretty good on this diet, mentally speaking.
Physically speaking, no. 🙂 I’m hungry and tired of vegetables!
How have you found diet to impact your OCD? What foods for OCD would you recommend?