Mental health is an increasingly frequent topic of conversation, especially during the current pandemic. Tips and tricks on how to take care of your emotional wellbeing abound in articles and on social media, advocating for more mental health awareness as well as a widespread commitment to self-care. But the conversation, while important, often takes a dualistic approach, separating mind and body — focusing more on the former. In reality, taking care of your mind requires a holistic approach, as mental struggles often manifest not only emotionally, but physically. Luckily, psychologist Kimberley Wilson is providing important resources on how to use nutrition, exercise and more to take care of your brain.
Based in London, Wilson is a chartered psychologist with a degree in nutrition who has been passionate about food and mental health since she was young. While you may recognize her as a finalist from the 2013 season of “The Great British Bake-Off,” Wilson is now a leading voice on mental wellness and psychology in the UK.
Dissatisfied with traditional approaches to mental health care, she came up with her own philosophy, which she refers to as “Whole Body Mental Health.” Wilson’s philosophy integrates nutrition and other lifestyle factors into her psychotherapy practice.
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BRAIN FOOD || Y'all know I'm always looking for any excuse to talk about brain health, so I'm very grateful to @neomorganics for giving me the opportunity this morning to turn a likkle smoothie demo into an impromptu neuro-nutrition seminar as part of their #NEOMFeelGoodLive virtual festival.🤓 I went through some key principles to consider to help nudge your meal choices into a more brain-healthy direction including stocking up on fibre and including deeply coloured polyphenol-rich berries and vegetables.🍓 Thank you for joining this morning and for all of your fab questions. I hope it's inspired you to remember the needs of your brain whenever you're thinking about your overall health.🧠❤️🙏🏿
Through her recently published book, podcast, book club and social media presence, Wilson educates the public about mental health and its varied implications on our wellbeing. She is particularly passionate about providing well-researched information in an accessible way to her social media audience, as she recognizes both the benefits and drawbacks of internet culture.
“People in remote parts of the world now have access to information in a way that is completely unprecedented, and can participate in social life in ways they never could before,” Wilson said in a recent interview.
“At the same time, the internet has enabled the spread of nonsense and misinformation in a way that feels convincing. It makes me angry because we have a responsibility to each other. You can’t just say things and not understand that your words have meaning, and that people who believe you, and who trust you, may act on them. And that action could have serious consequences for their health.”
Wilson’s Instagram account is a must-have resource for those seeking to learn more about her Whole Body Mental Health philosophy from a thorough, reputable source. Wilson posts a balance of quick encouragement, colorful pictures of brain-supporting meals and in-depth videos explaining certain aspects of health and psychology. In many of her post captions, she includes citations of scientific studies that back up the information she shares.
On Instagram, Wilson makes complex and important mental health information accessible and easy to understand. I especially appreciate some of her longer videos that explain the science of our brains while also giving actionable suggestions.
In one particularly helpful series of videos, Wilson describes how serotonin works in the brain and how the body synthesizes food within the serotonin production process. With simple diagrams, Wilson shows how you can provide your body with neurotransmitter support, not only with medication and supplements, but through the food we eat.
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In response to your questions, in this video I give an overview of the role of food and nutrients in serotonin synthesis. #foodandpsych #functionalmentalhealth #functionalpsychology #lifestylepsychology #totalwellbeing #depression #functionalmedicine #wholebodymentalhealth #mentalhealth #brainhealth #research #science #wellness #wellbeing #psychology #health #healthy #nutrition #serotonin #strongermindspodcast #preventativemedicine #thinkspo #nutritionalneuroscience #nutritionalpsychiatry #nutritionalpsychology #HowToBuildaHealthyBrain
Wilson’s focus on food and nutrition is what makes her approach to mental health unique. In a general sense, many are aware that eating well helps improve physical and mental health. However, Wilson goes further, giving more details on how nutrition directly impacts the brain, and she helps her followers implement good nutrition into their own lives.
I love Wilson’s comprehensive but flexible approach to nutrition. Aware of the effects that dieting can have on mental health and disordered eating patterns, Wilson encourages healthy eating habits that are easy to incorporate into daily life.
Instead of focusing on avoiding unhealthy foods, she encourages adding in more nourishing foods. Her Instagram feed is a testament to the variety of foods that are good for your brain; it features dishes ranging from onion squash risotto to blueberry lemon drizzle cake.
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EATS || BLUEBERRY & LEMON DRIZZLE CAKE Sometimes you just need a piece of cake, a cup of tea and a quiet corner. This one is from the @waitroseandpartners website. I just made a couple of adjustments for my tastes: 1. Added 1tsp vanilla to the butter and sugar for a bit more depth. Always add your flavouring elements at this stage as you will get better distribution of flavour. 2. I warmed the sugar and lemon for the drizzle to dissolve the sugar because I didn’t want as crunchy a top. 3. I brushed the top of the cake with the merest hint of a drizzle of limoncello because…we are young and we deserve to live a little. Wishing you a good start to your weekend. Be kind to each other. It’s tough enough out there as it is.💕 . . P.s. More science coming your way tomorrow (probably)🙏🏿
According to Wilson, food is not only meant to feed the body, but it is also meant to be enjoyed and even indulged sometimes. Thus, she encourages her followers to commit to cooking both nutritious and tasty food.
Wilson applies this flexible approach to all aspects of self-care. Rather than being perfect, she believes that developing healthy habits and implementing them most of the time is enough for maintaining great health.
Delivering on her commitment to accessibility, Wilson has free resources on her website that will help you implement a self-care routine into your life. In one of these worksheets, she includes a list of various healthy habits, breaking them down into different categories like “sleep,” “food,” “emotions” and “relationships.”
With nearly 50 tasks to check off the list, it may seem daunting at first, but Wilson’s instructions are simple — just accomplish three things per day, each in a different category. With tasks ranging from “ate a handful of raw nuts” to “sang a power ballad in the shower,” cultivating a brain-healthy lifestyle is not only achievable, but enjoyable.
In addition to everyday nutrition and lifestyle suggestions, Wilson also provides great resources on more specialized topics. In the realm of chronic health, she delivers insights on the gut-brain axis and how irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can relate to mental health. If you or a loved one has had trouble treating both digestive and mental health issues, then I especially recommend that you check out Wilson’s work.
As a Black wellness educator, Wilson also has unique insights into how racism and oppression impact BIPOC folks’ mental health, and she advocates for positive change.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, she discussed racial weathering and health disparities on her Instagram, educating followers on how racial oppression creates chronic health issues for BIPOC individuals and communities.
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RESEARCH || RACIAL WEATHERING You may remember from school geography lessons that weathering describes the slow process of erosion caused by environmental conditions. Although it’s been known in the scientific literature for years, the Coronavirus pandemic has highlighted for the public, the disparities in health risks and outcomes for Black and other minority individuals. Health is complex, and factors such as poverty, access to healthcare and education, adequate housing etc. all play a role. As does the repeated psychological and emotional stress of facing racism. Racial Weathering/The Weathering Hypothesis was coined by researcher Arline T. Geronimus to account for the premature health deterioration of Black people at all levels of socioeconomic status (i.e. independent of wealth) in the US. “Not only do Blacks experience poor health at 𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐫 𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐬 than do Whites, but this deterioration in health accumulates, producing ever-greater racial inequality in health with age through middle adulthood.” African Americans have the shortest life expectancy of all ethnic groups in the US. Weathering relates to the concept of 𝘈𝘭𝘭𝘰𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘤 𝘓𝘰𝘢𝘥 or the ‘wear and tear’ on the body and brain caused by repeated exposure to stress. In response to stress the body produces stress mediators such as adrenaline and cortisol. In the short term these chemicals are functional and, when the threat is gone, the body can return to baseline. However, in the long term they contribute to a state of chronic systemic inflammation, a harmful elevated immune response associated with a range of illnesses inc. cancer, heart disease, T2 diabetes and dementia as well as low birth weight babies. So, as well the direct threats to life from racist assaults, the repeated experience of racial discrimination, marginalisation and denigration slowly erodes Black health from the inside too. 𝐑𝐞𝐟𝐬 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1470581/ https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15008552/
She also advocates for having tough conversations and moral courage surrounding antiracist work, making her a great mental health practitioner to follow for those seeking to learn about and improve BIPOC mental health.
Whether you are managing a busy schedule or trying to stay positive during a pandemic, taking care of your headspace can be challenging. Although it can seem like your brain is disconnected from your body, nourishing them both will help your overall health in the long run.
By using Kimberley Wilson’s resources and following her encouraging and insightful posts on social media, you will be well on your way to maintaining a healthy brain and body, no matter what life brings.