Food is a common drug of choice when coping with anxiety, while exercise is one of the most effective forms of antidepressants. When we think of addiction we almost always think of the abuse of substances like drugs and alcohol. Did you know that many foods activate the same parts of the brain that recreational drugs do?
I have always had a complicated relationship with food. I can say, with no shame, that I have struggled with eating disorders for a long time, there were times when I didn't even know it. I strive for balance with food, but there are times when I slip up. What helps is my understanding of nutrition from my re-education of healthy habits and patterns.
This is not about vanity, it has everything to do with mental health. It’s about awareness on a serious issue and I’ve personally been on both ends of the spectrum. On one hand, I would binge eat and make myself sick if I ate something bad and never exercised. On the other hand, I would excessively workout and watch everything that I ate. I felt completely out of control when I would wake up in the mornings uncomfortable in my own skin.
This behaviour highlights what an extremist I am. What I was eating and drinking had a direct impact on my mental health. In fact, I feel better when I look better and what I put into my body directly affects both how I look and feel.
It’s not always as it seems
I met someone recently who said, “ I feel so bad about myself looking at your Instagram. You look so healthy and put together.” That really spoke to me about how social media can portray anyone to be the happiest, healthiest versions of themselves, when deep down that same person may be suffering.
The girl who is constantly pushing herself in the gym could have major body issues and could hate herself. The person who posts photos of food could feel guilty after one bite or could be obsessing over everything that they put into their mouth.
This all came up for me again when I went away recently with friends for an epic little adventure, but I really went off track and by the end of the four days I was out of routine and I felt completely depleted. Upon returning home, I didn’t feel like my usual self, but I did recognize the feeling. Luckily, I have the tools to flush it out of my system. It is important to indulge from time to time and then get back on track.
The Mighty Comeback
Unfortunately for so many years I felt trapped with my depression and in a body and mindset that I didn’t know how to change. I am back in my routine that keeps me on track, both physically and mentally fit. A routine that took me years to master, here’s what works for me:
My Routine for flushing it out and resetting
Food as Fuel
Emotional Support System is HUGE for me
I know that I don't need to obsess over what happened and just let it go and flush it all out. I would not take anything back, I think it’s important to try everything and enjoy your life especially for me, being a massive foodie.
The Honest Why
The reason why I am writing this is because I saw and felt the effects of consuming unhealthy food and binge drinking. It's all fun, in the moment, but the aftermath can feel devastating.
Some people don't realize the negative effects that unhealthy food can have on not only their body, but their mental wellbeing. I'm not a doctor or a therapist, but I know how it feels to suffer from depression, and I've tried everything from pills to diets. What I can truly speak about is what has helped me. Having a healthy daily routine of working out, cooking healthy nutrient dense whole foods, limiting my sugar, watching my alcohol intake and indulging from time to time.
I always wished I had someone who understood what I was going through that could have supported me. I always felt guilty if I mentioned it, I was told that I looked great, that it was in my head or that I had nothing to be upset about. I was made to feel as if I was insensitive and self involved. I always knew that I was lucky and that things could be worse, but I never shook that feeling until I studied the science behind food. I have an amazing support system of friends and family, but I never felt comfortable opening up about this particular subject and when I did the reaction was always the same.
I felt misunderstood and alone. Now I know that I was never alone; many people have been opening up to me about these same issues with the intention to heal. I’ve felt that common pressure to look “the part” and to stay quiet about what was really going on inside me.
Remember when I said that food is the most overused anxiety drug, and exercise is the most effective of antidepressants? Well at the core of it, what that really means is what you put into your body and how you treat your body will affect how you feel both mentally and physically. It’s really a reminder to listen to what’s going on inside and not to mask it or ignore it.
I feel it is important to be authentic and open in our triumphs and struggles. Each person's journey can help to motivate, illuminate, give perspective for each of us in our lives. It's nice to be able to share whatever truths we have with each other, gaining the realization that we aren't alone in our paths helps me feel connected in OUR community.
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