You know when they list off symptoms of depression, and one of them is “Eating too much or too little?”
I have never, ever experienced the “eating too little” part.
Sure, I’ve had loss of appetite that comes with depression—but somehow it’s only loss of appetite for things like fruits, vegetables, or whole grains. And I always make up for a lack of those by eating empty carbohydrates.
And so, I got fat fighting depression.
My come-to-Jesus moment (this being an advent calendar and all) happened during the weigh-in at a routine doctor’s check-up last week. You know how they weigh you and then you have to go sit and wait for the doctor in the little room forever? Well, that long wait gave me a lot of time to think about all the bad choices that had led to the staggering number I had just seen on the scale.
I realized that a lot of my bad choices are a direct result of depression. For example:
• I get overwhelmed by the responsibilities of daily life, so I turn to processed snack foods or takeout to feed myself and my family.
• Vegetables are just too hard to make some days.
• My mind hits a crashing point, and I find myself lying down, napping, or watching TV.
• I console myself with food. Or I reward myself with food when I’ve made it through a hard day.
• I skip the gym sometimes because it’s just too much work to find my workout clothes.
Now, let me be 100% clear here and say that I am not making excuses for my poor choices. I am simply listing reasons why I might have made those choices, so that I can then think of strategies to circumvent them in the future.
And so, lying there ruminating in my paper gown, I had that natural tendency to vow that I’d make a whole life overhaul starting right that minute. I’d get up at 5:00 a.m. and work out. And the workout wouldn’t just be my moderate 45 minutes on the elliptical—no, I’d get back to spin class and weight-lifting and special programs at the gym where you pay extra for people to yell at you. I’d stop eating processed foods! I’d plan wholesome meals with healthy ingredients, and I’d actually make all of them! No more desserts! No more bread therapy! No more, no more, no more! Stop the insanity!
Except then I stepped back (figuratively, of course—I was wearing an open-backed paper gown) and realized that a massive life overhaul wasn’t exactly realistic, because I still have to live within the confines of my everyday life.
That means I will still live in a night-owl family, and if I got up and worked out at 5 a.m. I’d have to go to bed so early I’d never see them. I still have the stresses of work and life, which means I’m still going to look for easy ways to meet all my responsibilities. I still don’t like the gym, and I’ll still be looking for any excuse I can to skip it.
And I’ll still have depression.
So there won’t be any massive life overhauls here. Instead, I have told myself that I need to take baby steps. I bought myself a Misfit fitness tracker after breaking my old one months ago, because even though I told myself those fitness trackers were actually pointless and hokey, I figure I need all the help I can get. And if getting all the dots to light up gives me a little push to work out sometimes, hey, I will take it.
I bought myself some more workout clothes, so I wouldn’t have the excuse of skipping the gym because my yoga pants are in the wash. (Oh and BTW I’m a lifelong swimmer, so I always have an exercise option that requires no clothing that needs to be laundered.) And I’ve been trying to make sure I lay out my exercise clothes the night before, so I can work out in the morning. (This is not at 5:00 in the morning, mind you, but at 8:00 after my son goes to school. I have a flexible work schedule and can roll like that.)
I’ve started tracking my calories again in the Lose It app—with the understanding that some of those calories can come from processed carb-filled foods.
And I’ve given myself permission to vegetate and take naps. Sure they don’t burn any calories, but you don’t eat when you’re sleeping, either. (Unless you have one of those rare sleep-walking disorders where you do things like eat or drive a car in your sleep.)
That is the silver-lining of being on a diet—you give yourself a break on other things. Laundry never got put away? That’s okay, you were too weak from hunger. You went to bed at 9 p.m.? Hey, it prevented you from late-night binge-eating.
(And yes, I use the term diet, and not eating plan or lifestyle change or whatever bullshit Weight Watchers wants to call it.)
I’m trying to celebrate my little victories, I worked out 5 days in a row! I ate within my Lose It calorie range 4 days in a row! I chose to eat vegetables and low-fat dip instead of Cheez-Its. (Oh, what a friend I have in Cheez-Its.)
It’s important to celebrate these victories. It’s also important not to get too down about your backslides. (Again, that’s assuming you aren’t wearing an open-backed paper gown.) Because the reality is, you have to work within the confines of your life.
I gained weight while fighting depression, and I’m going to lose weight while fighting depression.