Tag: healthy nutrition

PTSD, Depression, and Good Nutrition

Like many veterans following our military careers, I had a difficult time integrating back into civilian life. I never felt like I fit in with people who had not lived the same life as I had been living. For many of us, the transition from being a high speed, low drag member of the armed forces to being just another dull cog in the wheel of life is an overwhelming anti-climatic end to the the lives we had truly excelled in. Going from a life fueled by adrenaline to one fueled by morning coffee, donuts and alcohol causes you to feel as if a heavy anchor has been connected to your ass, and you begin to not even care anymore. The more you quit caring, the more isolated you begin to feel, and this can be despite the fact you still have your family and friends surrounding you. Still, in your mind, they cannot relate to who and what you are now days compared to who you were when you were still in uniform. You see people professing to care about veterans and veterans issues, yet do not feel as if they give a damn about connecting with you as a veteran, and still you think you just don’t give a damn.

Chronic insomnia set in for me a few decades ago, and I suffered in silence.

Nightmares came in the middle of most nights, yet I suffered in silence.

The only one who knew about them was my dear wife Loraine who had to deal with my terrified screams during the night until my trucking co-driver began hearing me scream out too after I had retired to our trucks sleeper berth.

The details of my story are somewhat irrelevant as everyone can have different triggers for PTSD and Depression. Any time you get into details, people will tell you to just shrug that shit off, because they have been through worse than you. These statements may be true, or they may not be. The one saying this to you might be quietly suffering too, and like I was, just too damn ashamed to ever admit it to anyone, including those we have served with.

I finally let go of my pride and sought out help from my local VA where I underwent group therapy and individual Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I also allowed myself to begin a couple of prescription medications, one to help settle my constantly racing mind and to lower my state of constant hyper-vigilance.  I was diagnosed as having severe PTSD coupled with a major depressive disorder, you cannot just shake this shit off your shoe as some would like to think. Too many with this mentality become the part of the national tragedy and statistic of being one of the 22 Veterans per day on average who take their own lives.

Healthy Nutrition for a Healthy Mind!

Let’s be real now, if you are sincere about doing something beneficial for yourself, then you have to be all in.

If you believe that therapy alone should be enough to fix your mind, you are wrong.

If you believe that medications alone are going to be your cure, you are wrong.

If you believe that you can continue an otherwise unhealthy lifestyle of eating like shit, living a sedentary lifestyle of drinking and possibly doing dope too, you are wrong!

 If you go to therapy and follow that with a trip to your tavern to wash down your psychotropics, you are wasting your time and that of those trying to help you. If you want to fix your mental status then by God, you have to be proactive in your overall health and not just depend on others to be the ones who fix you. And you can do this by beginning with adopting healthy nutritional habits which will bring you great benefit overall.

Too few among us ever consider nutrition for a healthier and fitter brain despite the fact that the brain is the most important organ in the human body. If you fuel your car with bad fuel it runs like crap, the same is true of your brain.  And, the most critical nutrient you can fuel  yourself with for a healthy mind is glucose. Our brains use glucose as its primary source of fuel, more so than other tissues in the body. Glucose is the preferred source of fuel for the brain in any state except for starvation, when it is forced to burn fat for fuel.

And what is the healthiest source of glucose?

Your healthiest choice for complex carbohydrates are found in unprocessed foods that come from plants. When you eat these types of foods, your body breaks down the carbohydrates into glucose.  Bear in mind, the closer a carbohydrate is to its natural form, the better. So that means a wide variety of veggies and fruit and beans and nuts and seeds and whole grain products and skip the damn added sugars.

For optimal brain function, appetite and mood regulation the brain doesn’t just need a good supply of glucose, it requires a steady and balanced supply. Without enough glucose, the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters is hampered and that can lead to mood swings, which is why people often get very irritable when they are hungry. Conversely, rapid spikes of glucose to the brain also lead to mood swings. When we suffer from PTSD and or depression, the last thing we want or need in our lives is irritability and moods swings. Eating healthy is a major component to my mental health and wellness as my blood sugar and hormones are always in balance. This is because I am proactive in maintaining my wellness!

Foods that contain fiber, or complex carbohydrates,  stabilize blood sugar which helps to balance your mood. When your blood sugar spikes and drops, your mood is going to do the same. However, if keep your blood sugar balanced by having meals spaced fairly evenly, and eating every three to four hours, choosing unrefined carbs and balancing those meals with protein and fat which help delay the absorption of the glucose into the bloodstream, then you can more efficiently keep your blood sugar on an even keel for both mood stability and appetite control.

Bleached grains and refined sugar contribute to blood sugar spikes and drops because for all practical purposes much of the digestion has already occurred during their manufacturing.  When you eat this garbage, all that is left for your body to do is the final breakdown where the glucose is too rapidly absorbed and your blood sugar spikes quickly. When this occurs in your body, you will find  yourself once off on that roller coaster pattern with the blood sugar, your mood will soon follow into the dark abyss.

As we have written quite extensively about here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness, healthy nutrition also helps to balance inflammation, which is also linked to depression. Our wondrous brains are such active organs, there is glucose and a lot of oxygen flowing within. Our brains are a hard working tissue and just like any other tissue in the body, the brain can be potentially inflamed. Inflammation in the body in itself is actually a good thing as it is what helps our body to defend itself from injury and illness, but we also need to keep this inflammation in a healthy  balance . This becomes almost impossible when you factor in western diets lean heavily towards foods that are pro-inflammatory. To create a balance, you can shift towards more anti-inflammatory foods, such as omega 3-rich fish three times a week, flax seed, sour cherries and berries, apples, pear, pomegranate, use extra-virgin olive oil for salads and cooking and anti-inflammatory spices such as ginger, rosemary, turmeric, oregano, curry, cinnamon,  and eat probiotics, which are found in yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut, as well as supplements.

Again, this requires you to be proactive about your health and mental wellbeing!

You are the one who puts the foods you consume into your body, no one else is feeding you.

Healthy nutrition is that which is rich in wholesome, natural and varied foods combined with regular exercise and good rest that leads to a fitter body and mind. It’s all about enjoying life more fully with a clear and energized mind.

A Parting Thought

 Often, well intentioned family and friends will try and coax a loved one in having a slice of birthday cake, or other sweet treat on special occasions. 

If this would be you, please stop it.

It is not that your loved one or friend is being anti-social, it could be that momentary enjoyment that comes from that sugary concoction might be all it takes to ruin the rest of their day.

You First

The Irony

Most of us have had the feeling at one time or another that we have lost control of our lives, that we are going through the motions with no reward. It can seem like someone else wrote the script because after all, we couldn’t have done this to ourselves now, could we? Unfortunately, the answer is almost always , yes, we did

How Did This Happen?

Little by little we give authority over our lives away. We give it to family, friends and employers by just going along with their wishes and never advocating for ourselves. Pretty soon we have no peace, no joy and no hope. It’s imperative that we regain a sense of control by speaking up for ourselves and acting on what we say. Restoration of hope and self-esteem are within our reach and recovery is entirely in our hands. If we act like a victim, we will be a victim. If we act like a victor, we will be victorious.

What Do You Want?

When we have allowed ourselves to fall into a state of misery within any situation it’s usually because we have not clarified to ourselves, or others, what we want or need. Once we know what we want, we can create a plan of action to get it. Is it more income? Well, look for another job, a different one or an extra one. If you are in a dead-end job with no hope of advancement or a raise, start looking around for something better. In the meantime use your down time to work another part-time job. The idea is to do something. Doing nothing will not change your income. It has been said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect different results.

If you want to be healthier by losing body fat and getting fit, quit eating sugar and ask your doctor what exercise would be good for you. Again, wishing for health and doing the same things that got you fat and soft will not change your life. Action is required. There are so many empty calories in sugar that it’s very difficult to sustain a healthy weight if you continue to eat it. Go to the Calorie Counter to determine your caloric needs.

You Are A Person Too

When we have lived our lives in service to others, we tend to forget that we have rights. If you still intend to take care of other people, you must take care of yourself first, otherwise you will not be mentally or physically fit to care for someone else. If you have no intention of caregiving, then put your needs first simply to give them top priority. Life is full and busy and whatever is put on the top of your to-do list is what will get done. Make sure that it’s you. Don’t allow others to control your time, energy or money. You are your best project. You decide how these precious commodities will be managed to best improve your life.

Realize Your Value

Everyone has unique characteristics that need to be nourished and cared for in order to flourish and thrive. You are not like anyone else. You are your own best advocate. Speak up for control of your schedule. When we have nothing else to work with we still have time. Make certain that you use it to your best advantage. Family and others will try to interfere with your plans quite often because they are not managing their lives well and it’s easier to control you than to dig in and make the changes necessary to be complete in themselves. Self-advocacy is hard work. Many are not willing to put in the work but when you do, the reward is a full life with less stress. Speak up.

Knowledge Is Power

Whatever your situation, get the facts that are relevant. Since you are on the internet, google the thing that is bothering you and get some ideas about your rights and what can be done to rectify your situation. There is a great deal of legal information and practical ideas available on the internet. Research deeply and cross-reference to make sure that the information that you have is correct. Once you are satisfied that you have the knowledge that you need, begin to implement those ideas. It can be as simple as standing your ground for the time to work out or as complex as knowing your legal rights in a delicate situation. Whatever is holding you back or keeping you awake at night, study and become pro-active rather than reactive in this situation. You take control when you become pro-active. Reactive people just roll with the tide. Proactive people control the tide.

Implement

Put your knowledge into action. If it’s as simple as learning how to say “No.” then begin to say “No.” If it’s a major life change such as a new job or the end of an abusive relationship, do it. All the knowledge in the world won’t do you any good if you don’t use it. If there are people who will help you, get them on board. If not, take a deep breath and do it anyway.

Focus

Make sure that you make the necessary contacts an/or take the necessary actions to get what you need. Don’t waste your energy with things and people who won’t have a positive input into your plan. You have wasted enough time already with uncooperative people and dysfunctional situations.

Clarify

Speak up for exactly what you want. Don’t settle for less. This is a task to improve your life, not settle. You have already done that. If settling for less than what you need has not satisfied you before why do you think it will now? Know what you want and go for it.

Don’t Quit

Never give up on your quest for contentment. It will be hard. You will want to quit. Don’t Quit. There is an old saying that “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Squeak loudly.

Stick To Your “Diet”

BRAVO!

So, you have decided to get get healthy! Good for you, now let’s look at what it may take to make that lofty ideal become a reality. I could not possibly count or remember the times that I made that decision only to crash and burn. Don’t let that happen to you. David’s Way has been the only program that has sustained me at an ever increasing rate of health and stamina. I’m 62 and work a full time job and a part time job and spend countless hours blogging. I work out hard and regularly. I care for a special needs family member and pets. Health is everything. I have also been told that I deny my age in many ways and I know that I am not typical. You can achieve these results but only if you are diligent in your program.

The Difference

Decide on a strong motivation. Before beginning David’s Way, my primary motivation was to look good. While that is still very important to me, my health is my strongest motivation. That works well together because when we are strong and healthy we look good. It’s impossible to look great for a long time if we are unhealthy. Health exudes confidence which causes us to make more and more positive changes and we look better and better. I challenge you to define your motivation to stick to your program. While mine is health and looking like an athlete, yours may be different. Whatever it is, it should be the most important thing in the world to you. If you can have a strong motivation, you are much more likely to be successful on an ongoing basis. I have decided that I want to be at 14% body fat and be clearly defined in my torso. My body fat is a little higher at about 18% but I am getting new definition all the time. I will not rest until I can see the outline of every muscle in my body.

Get Real

Set realistic goals. We would all like to wave a magic wand over our heads and POOF! skinny. Well, that’s not going to happen. I have been working David’s Way for about a year and a half and I am the strongest and sleekest that I have ever been but believe me, it did not happen quickly. Our bodies have to have time to make positive changes. Start working your program without borders or deadlines. Commit and do it until you see results and do it again. That’s how it works. When we want to lose weight and get in shape fast. we set ourselves up for failure.

Set Yourself Up to Succeed

If you have foods or drinks that you can’t seem to resist for Heaven’s sake, don’t have them in the house. Don’t say they are “for the kids” or some other family member. If they are not good for you, they are not good for them. Just say “NO!”

Avoid “All or Nothing” Thinking

So often when we are trying to stick to a program and we slip and eat something , or a lot of something, that we shouldn’t have, we ditch the whole idea. That will cause you to fail every time. When you lose control, merely regain it. Immediately decide what you need to do for the rest of that day and do it. Make sure to get adequate protein to quell hunger and move on. If you wait for the perfect day to stay “on track”, you may never get on track again.

Speaking of Protein

Always have healthy, high protein snacks available at home, on the road and at work. The protein will quell your hunger enough to help you fight off cravings for simple carbs and empty calories. This is especially important if you are in a situation where you can’t eat a full meal on time. The high protein snacks will get you through the fast with energy to spare. Almonds, jerky, hard-boiled eggs cheese and Greek yogurt are great, portable, high protein snacks.

Work Out and Manage Your Food Simultaneously

Good habits reinforce each other. When we manage our food and work out together, we see faster results than if we do either alone. Sometimes people think that if they work out, then they can eat whatever they want. That is simply not true. David always says that you can’t outrun a bad diet. I know avid athletes that are hard core to the point of needing to budget for medical care for injuries and they still have a pot belly because they think they can eat and drink anything. Wrong. We need balance. Our bodies seek a state of homeostasis, or balance. Do your part to help your body find this balance and your body will yield benefits beyond your wildest dreams.