The Obstacle Meter – 24: Depression

24: Depression

I have been pretty depressed over the past month.

Depression just plain sucks.  Unlike some of the other obstacles to healthy eating, depression is out of our control (for the most part) and more difficult to manage.  Depression feels like things will never change, like we are permanently stuck in our current situation or frame of mind and that there is no way out.  Things we used to enjoy are no longer enjoyable.  It is not a fun state of being.

Food is one of the simple pleasures of life that helps us feel better, at least in the short-term.  When so many other things are going wrong in your life, food should be an outlet to give you pleasure, even if only for a brief moment.  It is something that we have control over and can help make us feel good.  This, however, is a dangerous game as you can imagine how easy it is to go to the proverbial well too often and eat more than we should in an attempt to make ourselves feel better.  What was supposed to be a relief is now just another cause of pain and with it weight gain and feelings of guilt and shame to further compact your depression.

I am not a therapist and by no means even qualified to give advice on how to deal with depression other than my own experience with it and trying to be an empathetic human.  I suffered depression during my PhD program: none of my experiments were working, I injured my shoulder doing repetitive lab work and as a result could not work out (i.e., lift weights), worked every day from 7am to 9pm, lost the support of my mentor, was no longer being financially supported by my program, was in danger of failing and not getting a degree after 4.5 years of dedication to what I at one time loved, and was living 1700 miles from my girlfriend.  Needless to say, I was in a very dark place.

It is naive for me to sit here and say that eating healthy food is going to cure your depression but when so many things in your life seem to be spiraling out of control, food is something that you can take control of.  Meal planning is a great way to take control of your food decisions and help you feel like there is one less thing that you have to manage during your day. In the spur of the moment when you are tired and do not have the energy to deal with yet another thing, you can fall back on your meal plan.

Not only does meal planning allow you to gain a sense of control over something in your life but you will be able eat healthy and limit the amount of weight gain, guilt, and shame that you may have with food.  You should have more energy and sleep better if you are eating better as well. And do not worry, you can still eat tasty foods and your favorite snacks, we just need to learn how to manage and monitor how much of them we eat or drink.  And finally, research shows that people going through depression can still effectively lose weight on a weight loss program.  You don’t have to wait until you are feeling better to start a weight loss program.

To learn more about how to effectively meal plan, please check out Obstacle 05: Meal Planning.  And hang in there, things will get better with time.  We have no other option but to believe so.