It is Sunday after Thanksgiving and hopefully if you had company they are on their way home and have not wrecked not just your home, but your sanity as well. With it being the weekend following a major US holiday, many folks are stepping onto their bathroom scales this morning and instantly going into a depression when they see a rise in that pesky number. The melancholy can get even deeper when you have gone as far as to completely undress, evacuate your bladder and bowels, and yet still that damn number has risen. You have done everything you can do to be lighter, maybe even wondering if the number would drop if you should even go as far as cutting your hair before stepping onto the scale. Now is the time that remorse steps in and replaces that “to hell with it” attitude of throwing caution to the wind and chowing down on multile desserts on Thanksgiving Day. By god you were going to enjoy yourself, right?
If you are the type who gains weight easy and finds food to be the driving force behind your blues, there are areas where you can and should be proactive instead of reactive. Be proactive by minding your dietary habits by not eating sugar or other trigger foods and incorporating an exercise regimen into your routine. Eat whole healthy foods instead of processed garbage and or fast foods, and ensure you are taking care of all of your nutritional needs. Eat so that you get all of your vitamin and mineral requirements in the right proportions and spaced evenly through out the day to fuel your spirits in order to avoid your diet related mood swings and depression. Key points to remember are:
1. Take control of your appetite instead of letting it control you. This is not impossible if you make the choice to try. If you are a carb craver, then be proactive about it and work with instead of against your cravings. Ensure that every meal contains at least some complex carbohydrates, foods that are high in fiber which will allow a even absorption instead of a dump as you get from refined sugar. Complex carbs are needed as a healthy fuel for our bodies. You should have whole grain foods, beans, vegetables, nuts and potatoes to name a few. In addition, plan a complex carbohydrate rich snack once or twice during the day if it helps you to curb your cravings. Even better is to include protein to these snacks which will help you even further in curbing the cravings.
2. Depression and excessive consumption of sugar and caffiene do not mix. Even though a candy bar and a cup of coffee will give you a very brief emotional pick me up when you are depressed, so will cocaine. Leave that stuff alone, they all can and will destroy you. If you are fighting depression and know that you are sensitive to sugar, avoid all foods containing sugar including desserts, sugar coated cereals, candy, sugar sweetened drinks, and any other sugary snack foods. Read labels on every thing you consume, it only takes a couple seconds. You can manage that, right? Many foods you never suspect will contain added sugar, including bagels, canned and boxed fruit juices, frozen breakfast foods, and yogurt. Eliminate coffee and other caffienated drinks, or at least greatly reduce them to one or two per day. Bear in mind, it is going to take you about two to three weeks before your mind clears and you notice an improvement in your mood after quitting sugar and caffiene. You can do this if you wrap your mind around the fact it will help your depression and you make the choice to do so and then follow through with your descision. Do not let others influence what you know to be right for yourself, ever.
3. Eat more fish. At least three times per week, eat fish or other seafood instead of red meat or chicken. If you think you tire of seafood easily, then get creative in the use of seasonings and cooking methods. Sear in olive oil, bake, broil, poach or even bbq. There are to many varieties of sea food and different manners of preparation to use boredom as an excuse to not consume sea foods and or fish. Fish are too great a source of vitamins, minerals and omega 3 fatty acids to be ignored.
4.Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation if you feel you must.
5. Pay attention to the amount of vitamins B6, B12, and Folic acid you consume. If you are falling short in these vitamins, then get proactive and correct the situation. Include folic acid rich foods into your meal plans. You can once again get creative and fix a spinach omelette for breakfast, and later in the day have steamed collard greens and mashed potatoes or a good salad using romaine lettuce with your lunch or dinner. To maximize your intake of folic acid and B Vitamins, purchace freash vegetables, refrigerate immediately, and use within two days of purchace. Avoid over cooking dark green leafy foods, and always heat them in minimal amounts of water. Add that cooking water to your soups and or stews. Finally, make sure you are eating Vitamin B12 rich foods such as red meat, chicken, fish and milk.
6. Keep a log of what you consume, track every damn bite and nibble. Then review this log periodically, especially if you are struglling with your moods and weight. Check for changes in your eating patterns in order that you can take corrective action. Are you dieting, frequently skipping breakfast, induldging in snacks during the day and evening, eating more sweets than healthy foods. Are you sabotaging yourself with bad dietary habits?Is it possible you have any intolerance to certain foods, allergies or aversions? Any of this can alter brain chemistry and thereby contribute to your depression or mood swings.
Incorporate regular exercise into your life!
Like it or not, but people who exercise regular will always feel better physically and mentally than the couch potatoes of the world. Have you ever heard anyone say that exercise brought them depression? Not if they are serious about it will you hear this. Fact, vigorous exercise has been proven effective in reducing and even curing depression in the young and old, men and women, people with mild to severe depression, recovering alcoholics, people battling life threatening conditions such as cncer and prople recovering from eating disorders. Exercise combined with a nutritious diet will work wonders on your mood.
When you get regular exercise, your body releases chemicals including epinephrine and norepinephrine, which boost your level of alertness. By going out for a good run or having good strength training session, your level of serotonin begins to rise which boosts your mood in a manner similar to that of Prozak. Is not a natural method better than taking a chemical altering drug? I believe so. Exercise destresses the body by lowering blood levels of stress hormones such as cortisol which places you in a fight or flight mode. Elevated cortisol is associated with depression and weight gain. Regular exercise induces weight loss and improves your hormone levels and thus your mood.
When expanding on the amount of exercise you perform, the progressive overload, as your body becomse accustomed, will help you to react less intensely to stress which will also help you in building a better coping mechanism for depression. The rise in body temperature during exericise also provides a tranquilizing effect, you will feel good, kind of like how you feel when soaking in a hot tub of water. Making time for exercise will give your mind a break from the drudgery of life, an escape from work, or an unhappy relationship. It gives you a time out from life’s worries and unhappy emotions.
Taking it up a notch.
If you get serious about running, or even strength training, at some point you will experience a runners high. Runners high if you do not know, is a feelng of euphoria following or during any intense exercise. This euphoria is induced by a release of endorphins which are the body’s natural morphine like chemicals that help increase your tolerance to pain, and generate feelings of euphoria and satisfaction. Exercise raises your blood levels of endorphins by up to ten fold.
Vigorous exercise is a great anti-depressant. Some people want to categorize the mood effects from exercise as biochemical or psychological, but the reality is it is proably more a combination of the two. Regular intense exercise has been found to be more effective in treating depression tha any psychotherapy or drugs. The level, intensity or even type of exercise does not matter so much as ong as something is physical is incorporated into your life. Walking, running, swimming and weight training will alleviate depression and improve your mood, especially when combined with a healthy diet with no sugar. But know this, exercise is only good for your depression and mood if you stick to it. If you do not, you can expect for your mental state to once again decline within 48 hours.
This article is not intended in any way to keep you from seeking professional help. If your condition is bad enough that you have resorted to professional help, then please, by all means, discuss your diet and exericse habits with your care giver.