Bel and Israel Smith know the connection between the mind and the body better than anyone. In 2010, after the birth of a son, Israel developed postnatal depression. Bel scoured the internet for a cause and found a great number of research studies and articles about the connection between food and mental health.
Israel was initially surprised when his wife made a key connection between his depression and diet. “She was doing some research and found a link between sensitivity to gluten and mental illnesses. Since I was trying to find other ways to treat my depression, aside from taking anti-depressants, I experimented with a change in diet,” Israel said.
Along with a few other lifestyle changes, he adjusted his eating and was surprised at the positive results. He had more energy for daily tasks. His mental fog started to lift and the sadness and hopelessness he felt during his depression began to dissipate.
Israel was inspired to forego his old food habits permanently.
Based on what she discovered in her research, Bel changed how the whole family ate.
“It really was fascinating,” said Bel, who prepared the family’s meals. “After a month, I was seeing big improvements in Israel’s mood, and we also noticed unexpected positive changes in our daughter’s mood and behavior.”
Their daughter’s moodiness and anxiety waned, and her demeanor grew much more calm. The family had discovered something important about the connection between food and mental health. And this inspired Bel to continue studying and gain further qualifications in the field of nutrition.
Through their journey, they realized food isn’t just a marginal factor in how we feel — it’s The Root Cause.
Taking their message to the schools
Soon, what started as a healthy school lunch for Israel’s daughter, Indrani, turned into a full-fledged educational program for children. Initially, the other kids teased her for the food she brought to school. So Bel and Israel approached the teacher to discuss the teasing and bullying Indrani was experiencing. But once the teacher noticed what Indrani was eating, she realized children should eat more non-processed, gluten-free foods.
As it turns out, Indrani’s teacher thought her lunchbox was one of the best in the class. She invited Bel in to deliver a short presentation to Indrani’s classmates about healthy food. Bel had just received her health coaching qualification and wanted to make this fun and appealing to kids, so she developed a workshop format called The Mad Food Science Program. The couple launched the program for the first time at their daughter’s school.
“Basically, it’s a 90-minute workshop aimed at primary school children. Through a mix of experiments and conversations, children discover how food fuels their body and can impact their mood and concentration. They learn to take responsibility for what they eat, and take good care of their one body for life, ” said Israel.
In the past three years, Israel and Bel have taken their Mad Food Science Program to more than 100 schools throughout Australia. The workshop has reached well over 25,000 people. And parents report their children are more enthusiastic about eating fruits and vegetables when they come home. Not only that, they’re constantly reading nutrition labels and avoiding packaged food, Bel said.
The success of the Mad Food Science Program led to Bel giving evidence before the Australian Senate about the obesity epidemic in the country. Parents, they told the government, are feeding their children too much packaged, processed food. Not because they have bad intentions, but because they simply aren’t aware of what’s in those foods. And most don’t understand how to read food labels.
Cutting through the noise
Most parents don’t have Freedom over their time. They face job stress, Money Stress and family stress. They don’t have time to research and improve their own knowledge about food — despite wanting to make healthier choices.
“In this environment, large corporations with big marketing budgets typically win out and can get their messages across more easily. With so many parents in a time crunch, it’s no wonder they’re feeding their children packaged food. It’s become the norm,” Israel said.
Bel and Israel started The Root Cause as an online resource center where parents can find quick, reliable information on healthy food choices for children. This helped them raise awareness about The Mad Food Science Program as they travelled throughout Australia. Perhaps most importantly, much of the information on the site is free to access.
The blog features tried-and-true recipes — from desserts to lunches — that busy parents can make when they’re in a bind. Initiatives like the 5-Minute Healthy Lunchbox System, help parents save time when packing lunches while also prioritizing healthy, preservative-free food. The site features activities parents can try with their children to get them interested in eating more fruits and vegetables.
By keeping the message fun and simple, The Root Cause is working with parents to create a generation of children who choose real food first, every single day.
“We want our kids to grow up in a healthy world, free from obesity and chronic illness,” Bel said. “By educating parents and children to make better choices, we hope to improve the landscape of children’s health in this country. Getting our young people to eat more real food is the first step.”
The views and opinions expressed are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of MindShift.money.
image credit: Bigstock/Valeria_Aksakova
Sam Bojarski is a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in national publications, as well as local newspapers and magazines in his hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. A dedicated news junkie, he’s always on the lookout for how current events shape the financial aspects of our lives.