Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Healthy Eating With Mental Illnesses Part 1 & 2

Part One
       After trying every diet that I could find, and failing, I decided that dieting didn't work for me. First, and most importantly, I always experienced negative psychological side effects from dieting. If I cut calories, I was miserable. That isn't a great state to be in when I am trying to stay out of deep depressions or to keep myself from having panic attacks. 

       When I followed any of the diet plans out there, they all had me cut out one of the three macronutrients (fats, proteins or carbohydrates), depending on which diet it was. If I cut out fat, I became highly agitated as if my brain was on overload (I would later find out why). If I cut out all protein, I felt as if my muscles were being weakened from my workouts. If I cut out all carbs, I was lethargic and unable garner the resolve required to workout. 

       The only thing that I could find that all the books had in common was that they all said to stay away from sugar. My psychiatrist had told me I should cut out sugar as well. If you are interested in a few of the reasons he mentioned, you can read this short article out of Psychology Today. It sums up what he said very nicely. (Psychology Today Sugar Article) 

       Reducing sugar presented a real problem for me because I love it. I tried a million different times in a million different ways to cut out sugar. Then it hit me; fruit is sweet and healthy. I drastically reduce my sugar cravings by eating fruit. That is where I started. I have learned a great deal over the past four years that I have since implemented, but this is where it all started for me. 

       When I cut out refined sugars, my life started changing dramatically. Anytime I have a sugar craving I eat fruit. I have found other things that have revolutionized how I feel and perform, and I will share more about those in later posts, but it all started here. 

       In case you are worried about eating too much fruit, check out this video from I think you will find it amazing, and it will free you up to eat as much fruit as you need to kick sugar to the curb!

Part Two
       Dieting and calorie counting caused me an enormous amount of anxiety and depression, two things I have never needed help with. The last time I left a mental facility I was horribly out of shape, I weighed 314 pounds, and my body image was horrible. Of course, that awful body image just added to my anxiety and depression. For my own mental, as well as physical, well-being I knew I had to do something. 

       At first, I wasn't able to exercise much. My weight, and the swelling in my feet from all the medications I was having to take made walking for more than five minutes nearly impossible. So, I walked as much as I could. However, in the beginning, what I ate was what had the greatest impact. I found out that the foods people eat greatly affect how they feel, which the video at the end of this post, from Dr. Greger, will demonstrate. The reason I eat healthier now is because the better I feel, and the more energy I have, the more I am able to run/exercise. The more I am able to exercise, the better I feel and the more energy I have. It is a beautiful cycle. It is finally that simple for me. 

       After I drastically reduced my refined sugars consumption, I stopped all dieting, and I completely stopped counting calories. Over the years, I had tried a multitude of diets. I wanted to find a way of eating that helped me mentally and physically. In the past, I tried: Raw Foods Diet, Atkins Diet, Pritikin Diet, Paleo Diet, South Beach Diet, The Mediterranean Diet, etc. If dieting worked, then we would all be skinny, vibrant and healthy. However, that is not the case. 

       The American Medical Association released its latest report which indicates that 68% of Americans are overweight or obese. Marketdata released its report showing that roughly $60 billion is being spent each year on diet and weight loss products in the U.S. alone. Colorado University conducted a nationwide survey and found that a little over one-third of all women and one-quarter of all men in the United States are on a diet. The sad fact is, The University of California did a one year follow up with people who had reported that they were going on a diet, and they found that nearly seventy percent regained more weight than when they had started. 

       Obviously, there are major problems with the foods that we eat, and the diets that we are told will solve all of our woes. The biggest problem I found with going on a diet is that the implication is that at some point I will be going off the diet. When I would go off of whatever diet it was, then the weight always came back. 

       Significantly cutting calories never works long term either, because our bodies perceive a famine. When that happens our leptin hormone, levels go crazy. Everything we eat is maximized, and fat is stored at every opportunity. Not to mention, most people are not going to starve themselves for the rest of their lives. That is one of the reasons why, when I would go off of a diet, I would immediately gain the weight back. My body was simply self-regulating and trying to save me from the famine that it perceived I had just been in. Add to all of that, the simple fact was, when I was cutting calories or on some diet,  I was miserable. I work hard every day not to be miserable; I don't need to add to my workload. 

       After my last discharge, I knew I had to do something immediately. I heard someone on a documentary say that people needed to stop worrying about taking things out of their meals, and start adding things in. What that meant for me was to stop worrying about everything I ate and didn't eat. All I had to do was add as much of the good stuff in as possible and eventually the bad stuff would be crowded out. NO restrictions. I simply needed to fill up as much as possible on the fruits and vegetables that I love. When I did that, then I could eat whatever else I wanted. 

       The results were astonishing. I couldn't believe it. I wasn't obsessed with food anymore. I wasn't counting calories. I wasn't denying myself anything. I immediately started feeling better. I started losing an enormous amount of weight. My body image started improving. Because of all that, now I rarely crave the unhealthy stuff. When I do, though, I eat something healthy first and then eat it. No big deal. I don't deprive myself. I never allow myself to go hungry. I simply stick to the healthy foods I enjoy most and eat them as often as possible. The following lists of fruits and vegetables are exhaustive. I used them to remind myself of the things that I truly love. I had forgotten many of the things on them. 

       I wrote a list of the vegetables and fruits that I knew I would eat. For the first month or so, I took it with me to the grocery store. I knew if I didn't, I'd forget half of what was on it while I was there. I get overwhelmed in grocery stores. Now, I remember without having to think about it. I will say that I found it easier in the beginning to buy things that I didn't have to cook. I needed something I could grab and eat on my way to devour fast food or eat ice-cream. 

       Again, when I first started, I simply ate a few healthy things before I indulged in the unhealthy stuff. I could still eat what I wanted, but I ate healthy foods, that I loved, first. That way I got to eat the junk, but I ate less of it.  That was my next step. I have done a few other things, but I did those strictly to improve my running performance. If you are interested, I will be posting about eating to improve performance in the near future. Below is the video by Dr. Gregger. 
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As always, I wish you wonderful mental health and great successes with eating healthy meals. If you, or someone you love, is severely depressed or anxious, please click the link to the right and you will be directed to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. It is a great resource and is staffed by wonderful people. Feel free to send your questions or comments to:
This video is wonderful. The ending is a little funny and perhaps distracting; it was for me. Don't forget the message. If you need to go back a watch it again to let the message sink in, like I did, then please do.