Depression and Food

She finally died. Or maybe he. (How does one differentiate sex in spiders?) Either way we had communed (in my mind, at spiderleast) nightly for several months—I in my shower and she (if not he) perched expectantly upon her fragile web, constructed at the top of a tall, narrow, opaque trailer window.

I had wondered how long she might live (not too) and whether she would remain in that spot for the duration (she did), and would I be sad when she died? (I am.)

“She” may very well have been “he” as the little tell-tale cluster of homogeneous dots erupting in multitudinous baby arachnids never appeared. But this morning, the dusty dilapidated web, with its drained exoskeletons shrouded in silk, and then deeper, in the corner, her gnarled remains—from that dreary mélange suddenly and unhesitatingly appeared a miniature iteration of my friend. He (?) was of the same shape and color, only smaller (well, actually, these leggy little invertebrates pretty much all look the same to me).

Who, now, is this? I wondered. Is he moving in, and what will he do about the body?

Having a dead body in the shower is depressing.depression

Ah, depression. Now that’s a great reason to eat. I mean, really, you feel like shit, are fused with the belief that nothing is ever gonna change, and then you tell yourself, “I don’t care!”

Depression and its accompanying thoughts make a perfect recipe for blowing off all your values—why not skip the gym and social engagements and set up camp on the couch with a Bewitched marathon and a pint of Cherry Garcia (for starters)? In fact, from the “I don’t care,” mode, it’s possible to eat yourself into sugar-induced oblivion within just a couple of episodes!

As darkly pleasant as that may sound, unfortunately you now have two problems—the one that was upsetting you in the first place and then the post-binge complications (you know, gas, bloating, water retention, sugar crash, more cravings). Now you really have something to be depressed about!

Mind you, I don’t mean to make light of depression—I went through five straight years of the treatment-resistant variety myself and wouldn’t wish it on Al Qaeda leadership even. However, it was during that depressed period that I got clean with food. Utilizing a variety of tools and strategies, I quit binging on bread, cheese, and chocolate and began eating fruit for breakfast, huge salads for lunch, and bean and veggie soups for supper in spite of that very lengthy major depressive episode.

Of course, there were plenty of unsavory moments during which I would tell myself, “Fuck it! I don’t care and neither does anybody else!” and variations on that theme, but over the course of a couple of years, I learned to arrest that thought train in its tracks. I began disconnecting a bit from it. I started to look at the thought instead of through it. From that vantage, I could begin to fight back.

“Well, I might not care right now, but I’ll definitely care tomorrow morning when I step on the scale. I wonder how else I can deal with these uncomfortable feelings without eating?” It was in this manner—bit by bit, day by day, one situation at a time—that I gradually uncoupled depression and strong emotions from the automatic desire to eat.

When you’re in the thick of a strong desire to eat your sadness or anger away, it can seem like the awfulness will last forever. But remember this: cravings and urges to eat will pass whether you eat or not (and so will the sadness or anger).

The Take-home

1. Practice noticing your thoughts. Pay attention to what you tell yourself before eating SAD food.
2. Try this experiment: Sometime in the next couple of days, when that next craving hits, note the time of day and then choose to continue about your day without satisfying that urge. Later, ask yourself how long that craving actually lasted.

For more, check out my Crash Your Diet website. Happy eating!

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