It seems like when I am following the diet I know is best for me, the paleo diet, I seem to make better decisions in all areas of my life. I’m motivated to stick to my work out routine, I have more energy, and my self-esteem is higher. My depression stays manageable. My weight stays consistent.
The opposite is also true.
When I get on the merry go round of sugar, dairy, and gluten free grains and snacks I start making bad decisions in other areas of my life. It feels easier to skip the gym, get up later, have another drink and so on. I start eating more and more bad food slowly and then I can’t get my pants on comfortably and I realize I need to stop! Before I know it, my depression is back full force and it feels like I have to climb a mountain to get back on track.
I once heard someone say if you feed the good dog it gets a bigger appetite and you crave more and more good. Start feeding the bad dog instead, and the bad dog gets bigger and bigger. It feels harder to go back to the good.
Maybe this is because I have a black and white personality at times, but it’s what I know is true for me.
I’m done trying to change my core self.
I understand certain aspects of me will not change now as a 38-year-old women. I need to take what I have learned and work with it instead of trying to fight it. Fighting against who you are takes a toll and creates unnecessary anxiety. Its ok to be you!
Even if YOU are not a consistent, grey area, controlled patient person. If you are this person, you might find it easier to switch between feeding the good and the bad, balance comes naturally for you. I often think life would be easier this way, but it’s just not who I am.
They key is to understand your personality and work with yourself. Love yourself where you are and find ways to accommodate your intrinsic being to find your own place of peace and balance, whatever that may look like in your life.
What I have learned about me is that everything good starts with what I put in my body consistently. Spirituality, self-love, relationships, career – they all naturally flow when I am feeding my body consistently what it needs to thrive.
Do I love myself enough to parent myself and say no to the bad dog most of the time?
Let’s face it, feeding the good dog all the time and ignoring the roaring loud bark can be HARD. Doing good hurts at times. Sometimes the bad dog does NOT stop barking! You know if you just throw a pint of ice cream and a beer down his throat he will shut up! For a little while, until the next day when he wakes up stronger than before you fed him in the first place. Now he wants to be fed even more!
Feeding the bad or feeding the good? Both create pain. Feeding the good will not always bring immediate relief.
You will feel the pain of the good in the moment, when you really want to do that thing you know you shouldn’t. You will might have cravings, feel anxious, agitated, maybe sad you can’t have what you want. It will hurt, for a little bit.
The beauty in this type of pain is it creates momentum. You get stronger and stronger and it gets easier to resist the bad next time. Your self-confidence rises and you feel proud of yourself. You realize you have what it takes to change other areas of your life.
You start to overcome. Your goals come to fruition!
If you feed the bad, you will get immediate relief! The dog immediately stops barking, but then slowly traps you into making more bad decisions. You will feel pain later on. Slowly you might feel hopeless, trapped, frustrated. Like a failure. You might think you will never reach your goals. The bad feelings start to outnumber the moments of relief.
I have to ask myself as I struggle between the two more often than I wished.
Was it worth it?
Times of failure can be used as reflection to starve the bad dog!
Which dog are you feeding today?
Its Friday night and you’re watching your favorite Netflix show and a thought pops into your head! “Ice cream would be really good right now!”
You’re at work, its midafternoon and your start to feel like you’re going to fall asleep at your desk. “I should go to the vending machine and get a sugar coffee!”
Finally, a night out with friends, I need this! I am going to eat 2 buckets of free chips and salsa with my 3 margaritas and 45 tacos!
Ok maybe its 3 tacos but you get the point. We all having cravings. You’re not weird for having them. Our brains get all sorts of clues that it’s time to eat! Why is it we don’t crave green beans, broccoli, and chicken?
Those healthy foods just aren’t packed with the fat, sugar, and chemicals that scream at your brain to GIVE ME MORE! Food companies know what they are doing, how else would they stay in business? You crave what is most desirable to your brain, NOT your body! Your body would choose grilled chicken over breaded chicken wings drenched in sugar sauce any day. Too bad our brains make the decisions.
Fortunately, there ARE ways to bust the cravings. It just takes a little planning and mindfulness.
Substitute: The next time you get hit with a sweet craving, try eating your favorite fruit. Salt and crunchy craving? Try eating unbuttered popcorn. Chocolate attack?
Swap out chocolate for dark chocolate. It’s better for you and has less sugar. When you want ice cream try a dairy free frozen fruit smoothie. You can even freeze it so it has the ice cream taste. The point is to try to pack the most nutrition into your cravings. Your body will thank you.
Distract yourself: Surely you love all sorts of things besides food. What is one thing you enjoy that has nothing to do with food? Do you like to take long bubble baths? Internet surfing, video games, reading, listening to your favorite jams? This will be specific to you. When you feel a craving hit and you know you’re not truly hungry, then force yourself to do something else you love. If when you are done, the craving is still there, allow yourself a small portion and congratulate yourself for not eating a huge bowl of ice cream.
Eat! You might be having a craving, because you are actually hungry for a satisfying, healthy meal. Your brain is saying eat the candy bar, your body really means give me a big chicken salad. What time is it? When is the last time you eat? If you are having a craving for a treat but you really need to eat healthy substantial food, eat the meal first and then see how you feel.
Eat before you go out to eat: This seems counterproductive but it works. When you are planning on going out to eat or attending a Holiday event eat a protein snack before you go. The worst thing is to show up starving and have no self-control. Try eating some hard-boiled eggs, nuts, or cottage cheese. Whatever you like that is high in protein. Protein is one of the most hunger satisfying nutrients and will help curb your appetite to make better choices.
Plan Ahead: Bring healthy snacks to work and keep them in your car. You don’t want to be left with a massive craving with no food anywhere near except the vending machine filled with candy and chips.
Visualize your goals and mediate on your motivation: Once you are clear on your motivation for wanting to lose weight, write it down. Put it on your fridge or in your pantry. Make it your screen saver on your phone or computer. Look at this goal every day. We are terribly forgetful as humans! We can feel totally ready to make a change and then a few days later we forget as the busyness of life gets to us. Make sure you can’t forget!
You are worth this! You are bigger than your cravings! Your goals matter.
Giving into cravings can sabotage all your weight loss efforts, but it doesn’t have to be this way. You can plan ahead and beat them. Next week you won’t even remember the fast food meal, the snickers bar, or the cheese fries. What you will remember is what the scale told you earlier this morning. It’s just not worth it. You will look back in a few months and you will be proud of your accomplishment, your weight loss, and your better health.
You got this!
Changing is a fact of life. We are changing all the time whether we want to or not. Some changes are forced on us and others we can be co creators with. Here are some steps you can take today to overcome challenges in your life.
Steps to Change in Wellness Coaching
1. Recognize something is not working in your life.
This may sound elementary but honestly it can be the hardest step. To fully admit your life is not working for you in some area can feel defeating. After all, it’s not like you haven’t tried all sorts of ways to fix this pesky challenge, yet it still persists.
2. Write out what is not working at the top of a page.
Get really specific on what the problem is. Don’t try to work on ALL your issues at once. Simply pick one.
Now answer these questions surrounding the issue.
Example: This is only one example. Your problem and answers could be totally different!
Problem (specific)– I have gained 30 pounds in the last 2 years.
Behaviors: I eat at restaurants 2 times a week or more. I use food as a reward for a hard day at work. I snack while I am watching TV at night. I eat dessert at almost every meal. I eat when I am stressed. I eat even though I am not truly hungry.
Consequences: I can’t fit into the clothes I once loved to wear. I am increasing my risk of chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. I am unfairly believed to be lazy because I am overweight.
What have I already done to fix this and why didn’t it work (specific)?
I tried skipping breakfast all month to lesson my calories. I ended up eating more later in the day. I started walking on the treadmill 3 times a week for 30 minutes but didn’t change my eating habits. I tried a low-calorie diet but kept forgetting to track my calories and eventually stopped.
How do I feel about this weight gain?
I feel shameful and worry the gaining won’t stop. I feel defeated, like a failure. I feel sad that I don’t feel sexy anymore. I feel grossed out when I look in the mirror.
How do I feel about the process of changing it?
I feel fearful. I have tried things in the past and nothing seems to work. I fear I don’t have the self-discipline I need to change. I worry I will gain it back anyway. I feel confused and overwhlmed about the right diet for me. I feel sad at the thought of giving up the foods I love to eat.
What would my life look like if I lost the 30 pounds?
I would get back into the Jeans I use to love to wear. I would feel proud of myself for lowering my risk of disease. I would have more energy. I would feel more in control of the food I eat. I would feel sexy. I would feel confident again.
3. Look over everything you just wrote and ask yourself if this problem is really worth changing at this time in your life.
Do the benefits really seem worth the work of change? Sometimes, it’s not. We have a lot to deal with and in the end some things are best to tackle at a less stressful time. If you do feel like the benefits outweigh the consequences, fantastic you are ready to start!
4.Now it’s time to make a plan. A plan is just a goal thought out. Its best to write it!
Change is all about self-discovery. You learn things about yourself with every change you make and one victory will lead to new beliefs that you can overcome more challenges in your life. Change is not linear and perfect. The failures can help you assess what does and doesn’t work for you. The key is to not give up.
You may try 94 times but when it works the 95th time you will be glad you kept going.
What causes depression anyway?
I have suffered with major depression for my entire life. Even as a 5-year-old kid I remember thinking about the feeling of major heaviness on my chest and wondering what it was. I am still managing it to this day at 38 years old. I take supplements like 5-HTP for serotonin levels and have to follow a low sugar diet and wheat free lifestyle to manage my symptoms. Some days are awesome, and some mornings I feel like I got hit by a truck when nothing bad has occurred externally.
First hand I can tell you depression SUCKS. I describe it as being locked in a glass cage as life happens around you. You can see everything happening, but you can’t get your mind and spirit out to enjoy the fun! It’s also a very heavy painful feeling in my chest even though I am still participating in all the activities of life. It almost feels as if a cloud of darkness is sitting over my soul.
Depression runs in my family. My mom was severely depressed for as long as I can remember growing up and also suffered from agoraphobia and hoarding. Her mother was hospitalized multiple times when they use to shock your brain for depression. Clearly there is a genetic component.
It gets confusing when you also have a traumatic childhood and PTSD like I do. It gets even more confusing when you go on special diets to heal other issues and your symptoms improve. If depression was all genetic, or all from a bad childhood, then why do the foods I eat effect it so much?
I believe depression is caused by multiple factors all coming together in a not so awesome way. New studies are finding depression is linked with silent inflammation in the body. A number of things cause silent inflammation. Stress being the biggie! Not only emotional stress but environmental stress. Unknown food intolerances put a lot of stress on the body. Dairy, frankenwheat (that’s what I call todays wheat), refined sugar are the top offenders. Refined sugar is a double whammy not only because of inflammation but also how it effects your blood sugar. Refined sugar pulls minerals from your body to digest itself, and a lack of minerals can cause depression. It really is the worst thing you can eat if you suffer from depression.
Too much stress attacking you and soon your cortisol is out of control and serotonin and dopamine are not able to keep up with the body’s demands for it. Your sleeping becomes erratic, your appetite is either out of control or gone out the window, you have low energy and sex sounds boring. You lose excitement and may even feel extreme emotional pain. This is clinical depression. If it is severe do not feel embarrassed about going to your doctor for pharmaceutical help. I spent years highly against these meds from everything I was reading in the natural health world, until I became close to suicidal a few years back and went and got Prozac. It did help me through a rough patch, but I discontinued them due to side effects once I was able to manage my stress better though diet and supplements.
Diet is an important piece when you are prone to depression. For someone who has experienced a lot of trauma throughout their childhood, it is even more important they get serious about feeding their body a low inflammatory diet to manage symptoms for all sorts of diseases depression included.
Figuring out what hidden food intolerances you have through a blood test or elimination diet should be your first step after you have removed wheat, dairy, and sugar for a few weeks.
Supplements I have found helpful for my depression are 5-HTP for my serotonin levels and Mucuna for my dopamine. Everyone has different levels of brain chemicals that could be contributing to symptoms. You might need to experiment a little. Sometimes when I take Mucna I become very anxious and this tells me I actually need more serotonin supplements and less dopamine.
Regular exercise sounds exhausting when you are depressed but it is proven to help once you start! You don’t need to learn a big workout program and start powerlifting although that’s fantastic if you do! Just start with something easy like power walking 30 minutes a few days a week or a yoga class and go from there. The key is to not stress yourself out even more with a fancy workout program your mind isn’t ready for. Baby steps turn into leaps and before you know it you are working out regularly and starting to feel better.
You are not alone and depression is more common today than ever.
Realizing you need to address all these aspects of your life to heal might feel overwhelming. You might want to hire someone who has been through it and can support you through the changes.
Fake Fat Sucks
You step on the scale with anticipation.
It’s your weekly weigh in day. You have been following your calorie plan all week.
Gasp! You see a 2-pound weight GAIN. You think “WTH! I give up! …and go eat a donut”.
Not so fast! You might have actually lost 1 pound of real fat and gained 2 pounds of fake fat.
What the heck is fake fat?
It looks real, you can see it on your body and on the scale. It’s not fat though, its inflammation. Think back over your diet for the week. Were you eating dairy, corn, fake sugars, or wheat? Even when you calorie restrict, these foods are known to cause a silent intolerant reaction. Silent meaning you don’t break out in hives itch and feel horrible when you ingest them immediately like an allergic reaction. The reactions you are having are subtle and can take up to 24 hours to show up.
You might find you look “pudgy”.
Your stomach is a bit bloated.
Your face and legs are puffy.
Your rings are harder to get on in the morning.
You are waking up with a slightly stuffy nose or a headache in the morning.
You have a hard time getting to sleep at night.
You struggle with mild anxiety.
These are all very subtle signs that you are eating something your body is intolerant to. The top offenders are wheat, dairy, sugar, fake sugars, corn, and eggs. In all reality though you can be intolerant to anything. Its up to you to figure out what you have been eating a lot of lately that might be the offender.
When you eat these foods, your body will hold on to more water and create inflammation to help “heal” the offended area. Many of us have a leaky gut from these food intolerances.
Large undigested particles will pass into your bloodstream instead of getting digested, and you will feel uncomfortable as a result and see a weight increase on the scale. The weight gain is not the worst of it. Long-term exposure to foods you are intolerant to can increase your chance of intestinal illness and autoimmune conditions. This was a big part of how I ended up getting sick with Interstitial Cystitis.
To figure out if you are having problems with foods the cheapest way is to do an elimination diet. Eat only meats, fish, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and rice for a week and then introduce the offending food to note any reactions. I happen to be intolerant to white rice and you might find even on the “safe” diet you are still having issues. You have to be your own detective.
Once you figure it out and abstain from the offending foods you will be blessed with water weight loss, more energy, better sleep, less headaches and colds, and less blaoting. Your anticipation to step on the scale after all your hard work will be rewarded and your health will thank you!
Melissa is a Wellness Coach who writes about health, emotional healing, and wellness from a vulnerable place after overcoming her own challenges and healing Interstitial Cystitis. She is passionate about helping people realize their ability to make changes and move forward from difficult situations in their lives.
If you have any poetry you would like to submit do so to the email below.