A lot of people I know are struggling with depression and anxiety right now. At first, I wondered why then I realized that this is a really rough time of year. It’s cold. We don’t get much daylight and I don’t know about you, but for me, there is kind of a post-holidays blah feeling. I mean, through November and December we have the build-up to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. After that, it can feel like there isn’t much to look forward to. Any of those is a good explanation, never mind a combination of them. If you normally struggle with depression and anxiety anyway, it’s even worse.
One of the ways a lot of people comfort themselves is with food. Now if, like me, you’re a recovering binge eater and have had weight loss surgery, this is a really bad idea. Calling it a really bad idea is actually understating it. So, the question is how to avoid falling back into a binge eating pattern or how to get out of that pattern if you’re already in it.
- Therapy. I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a therapist. Yes, you can talk to your friends, family, or someone you trust but as much as they love you they are not professionals. A professional can help you work through your feelings in a healthy way. They can also help you put some good coping mechanisms in place. If you learn one thing from this post I want it to be that a good therapist is worth their weight in gold. Seriously, when mine retires I’ll be screwed.
- Wait out the craving. We all have that one food we crave when we need comfort. When the cravings hit me I ask myself one important question. When is the last time I ate? If it’s less than 2 hours ago, I probably do not need to eat. If it’s more than 2 hours ago, I find a healthier substitute for the food I’m craving.
- Distraction. If I ate less than 2 hours before the craving hits me, I find a way to distract myself. For me that is usually knitting, jewelry making, crocheting, reading, or writing. Each of those activities require my concentration and I usually forget about the craving once I get started. Writing is the most effective for me because it gives me a chance to get my feelings out of my head and onto some paper. Then I either turn it into a blog post if I think it’ll be helpful to others, keep it there in my journal to reflect on later, or I rip it out of my journal and throw it away.
- Substitution. If I do actually need to eat, I find a healthier substitute for the food I’m craving. For me, the craving is usually pizza or something deep fried. Or, if the craving is PMS induced, it’s something sweet and chocolatey. Substitutes for pizza are pretty easy these days! There’s cauliflower crust, which is a great option, or if you want something with more protein to fill you up there is meat crust. There are recipes all over the internet for both, or you can buy them premade! I buy frozen cauliflower crusts and then use my own toppings or I go for Real Good Foods frozen pizzas with a chicken crust. I’m still working on finding substitutes for my favorite fried foods. There’ll be a post later on what I figure out. And for sweets, I make sugar free versions of my favorite things. Or I have a chocolate protein shake with a little powdered peanut butter in there. *poof* Tastes like a peanut butter cup without the guilt or sore tummy after eating a package of peanut butter cups.
- Exercise. I used to think that people who told me this were full of crap. But one day a couple of weeks ago I was feeling really anxious and just could not settle myself. After my morning class was over I went to the gym and got on the elliptical for about 25 minutes. By the time I was done I felt a lot better! It gave my body something to do with that fight or flight response, I think. And I burned a couple hundred calories. That certainly didn’t suck.
These are the things that help me the most. What helps you? I’d love to hear from you either in the comments or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.