Too depressed to eat?

Recently I've had a few conversations with people I know and also happened to see some other discussions on social media about depression and appetite loss. Particularly in more active fitness enthusiasts and serious athletes, this is obviously a serious concern.


First Of All

I want to start out by emphasising that nothing in this entry is intended to come across like "well, you'll just need to eat. Why can't you just eat some of this, there's nothing hard about it" the way you might have been a little apprehensive about. Believe me, I get it. I probably get it better than anyone. When you're depressed, being told "just do it, what's so hard about it?" is the opposite of helpful. While you're at it "just try to cheer up" too, am I right? Ugh.

I know it's simple. I know there's nothing hard about it. I know it's what I need to do. I still can't do it, because my mental health is fucked. You think I don't know all of this and feel even worse about it already?

Like I said. I get it, alright? I have reason to get it.
Also with my history of Avoidant / Restrictive Food Intake Disorder, I get it better than ANYONE that "you'll just have to eat, why can't you just eat it?" is an infuriating attitude to be on the wrong end of.

That said... there might be a few things you could do, which would be better than not doing them.

Our task is to find what those things are.
And always remember... a little bit better is always worth doing if you possibly can. Even if it's still a long way from perfect, a little bit better is a lot better than a little bit worse. It's totally worth doing even if your depression might be trying to tell you otherwise.


Second Of All

I always advise that "there are no bad or unhealthy foods" in the attempt to be adequately nourished vs being under nourished. The same is true in pursuit of more optimal energy intakes on a sports nutrition basis vs falling short of an adequate energy intake. This is why I make a point of doing social media posts where I'm eating a donut, for example. Also it pisses off the pretentious food snobs out there, and that's kind of a hobby of mine.

In this case though... "optimal energy intake on a sports nutrition basis" isn't a luxury we're concerned with. We just want to get somewhere closer to a not insufficient level of energy intake and nourishment.

In this circumstance, any food is better than an absense of food. However... let's be realistic here. If I say "literally all choices are good choices, just get those calories in no matter what" and so you eat three massive bags of chips or something, you might benefit from the energy intake, but you'll likely feel like crap from too much salt, and not enough nutrients, and so on. A small bag might fit into the plan somewhere though if it does take your fancy now that I mentioned it.


So, here are some suggestions... intended to be of the "could you possibly?" variety. 


If you read any of them and kind of sigh to yourself and say "well yeah I could do that. I'm still going to be depressed though and it's still not very good" then... look, just go with the "yeah I could do that" part. It doesn't have to change everything. In fact... that's probably the attitude to have about it; "it's not going to change everything but yeah I'll do it anyway".

So... could you possibly eat 40 grams of mixed nuts per day? How about most days?

I started with the nuts because it's not even a meal. It's like, a handful and a half. Not something you have to spend any time preparing, or even sit down to eat, or clean up after. And the nutrient value is... it's up there, man. There are all manner of long term health benefits associate with regular consumption of nuts. In our case though... energy and nutrients on a daily basis is what we're interested in, and assuming you have no allergies, nuts are a great start. There's actually some evidence that the anti-oxident phytochemicals in nuts can protect against depressive symptoms. I don't want to promise too much about that, but feeling better nourished and feeling a little more positive about having practiced some self care in the form of a nutritious snack... that's better than nothing, right?

Assuming that's a possibility that you can entertain, we would have gone at least some of the way to meeting your energy, nutrient, and fibre needs.


What else would be beneficial though?

Obviously we're interested in protein, fibre, vitamins and minerals, and a not insufficient total energy intake across the course of the day.

In pursuit of this... particularly in more active people... caring about other people's pretentious ideas about what your food choices should look like is counter productive. There's nothing wrong with a big bowl of cereal if that's something you could see yourself having. There's nothing wrong with a protein shake either, and if you can consider blending a banana, some coconut, peanut butter or other high energy density options into it... that'll definitely get you closer to a suitable energy provision for the day.

I always tell my fitness enthusiast clients; "ice cream is a highly beneficial strategic choice" when we're trying to stimulate a little more appetite in pursuit of a more optimal daily intake rather than a merely adequate energy intake. Because feeling like you are force feeding youself is not a lot of fun, but we do consistently find that when you start to get those energy intakes up closer to where they need to be, the human body kind of gets the idea, sparks that appetite response, and lets you know that it could benefit from getting the same amount (or a little more), more regularly.

We do need to keep a little perspective on this, because getting into the habit of over consumption of nutrient sparse foods on a regular basis isn't in our best intersets. But when the situation is that we're active, with little appetite, and not in the habit of eating much or anything at all... however we can work on getting some more regular, more appropriate levels of energy intake is a good thing. Actual meals are more ideal, but they don't have to be fancy or pretentious. Beans on toast, eggs on toast, french toast, hummus & avocado on toast... not very fancy but all highly nourishing options with minimal effort involved. But if none of that is going to happen right now, just stick to what you can make happen until maybe you start to feel like you can do a little more.

The rest is the same as for anyone under normal circumstances, or especially under A/RFID circumstances. If there's a fruit or vegetable that you could imagine yourself enjoying, work on making that happen more regularly. A potato definitely counts, although I always suggest keeping it out of the deep fryer if you can.

Hopefully at this point, you have an idea or two of things you can start to implement.

Even if it still doesn't feel like you have "a healthy diet", and even if it doesn't make whatever other issues you're battling against go away... it's worth doing. If doing it does give you at least one thing to feel a little more positive about, that's great. But if it doesn't, it's still worth doing.

Even if you don't feel like you can quite start to make anything happen right away... just keep this filed away in the back of your mind and one day it'll feel a little more doable.


Addendum:

Listen up though because this is a unique set of circumstances. 

I am writing this with a specific set of circumstances in mind, and in fact I actually have particular individuals in mind who I know to be in these circumstances.

There will be people in other circumstances who for example have just gotten into a bad habit of skipping meals throughout the day, working through lunch, then being ravenous and over eating in the evening. Depression may also play a part in this, but in these cases the best advice is to acknowledge that you need to practice good self care, take your breaks at work, and have some suitable meals across the course of the day.

This is a different circumstance to what is being addressed in this entry and you should not interpret any of this like "this guy Dave says it's ok to skip meals and I can just make up the difference with 3 bowls of ice cream at 9pm because food is food and all food is healthy", alright?

Good self care with reasonable choices of meals and snacks across the course of the day and perhaps just a little serve of ice cream later on is a good plan for most people to aspire to.

Also to any of the creeps who always monitor my content for anything they can possibly complain about like "he's telling depressed people it's ok to eat junk! he should be telling them they need to go on this highly restrictive healthy diet with no carbs or enjoyment instead, or else it's their own fault that they're depressed" just fkn save it man I still don't care what you fucking idiots think.

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