As I mentioned in my (incredibly personal) post last week, I was recently diagnosed with depression. I am not taking any medication but it is something I may consider in the future if my symptoms worsen.
I’ve felt much better lately, which I can attribute to a couple of factors. Firstly, Em coming to visit cheered me up, and knowing that I have two more friends on their way makes me happy. Secondly, I’ve been incredibly busy in the past couple of weeks, between travelling all over the place and working on a huge writing project, and that keeps my mind focused on positive things.
To a certain extent, I know there are certain controllable factors which can be used alongside medication to ease depression. This includes things such as following a healthy diet, regularly exercising, sticking to a regular sleep pattern and attending counselling sessions, if necessary. But each of these things is only one part of an intricate puzzle to overcoming depression, and none should be viewed as a magical cure in itself – especially outside of medical treatment.
Recently, however, another blogger has claimed that eating Paleo will cure depression – among other mental disorders.
Excuse my language, but give me a fucking break. Sure, there have been a number of studies which show a positive connection between a healthy diet and reduced symptoms of depression, but to say that you can cure a mental disorder by cutting out grains and dairy is absolutely absurd and downplays the significance of these conditions.
My guess is that if someone is crediting dietary changes as the sole reason for overcoming their depression, they weren’t actually depressed. If they had a proper understanding of depression or any other health condition, they would know that it can be debilitating and not likely to be cured by jumping on the Paleo bandwagon.
While I would much prefer to smack this person in the head for using their position to spew out irresponsible advice, I will instead write about why their claim is not true.
What you put inside your body will certainly affect your health – I’m not denying that. If you eat McDonald’s 24/7, then sure, you’re going to feel like crap. I have done my research on this, and there is indeed evidence that an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals and amino acids helps to relieve depression. Furthermore, when you have depression, it is important to avoid foods that will cause your blood sugar levels to suddenly rise or fall, as this will intensify mood swings.
Interestingly enough, there is ample proof that consuming complex carbohydrates such as rice, oatmeal, bread, pasta and potatoes will boost your mood, due to the fact they stimulate the release of serotonin. So I am not entirely sure where the idea of Paleo as a cure-all comes from.
I have documented my experiences with Paleo in the past. Although following that style of eating produced a number of positive effects within my body, it also proved to be quite stressful due to its restrictive nature. From a purely emotional point of view, following the Paleo diet made me feel worse.
If it was really as simple as cutting out grains and drinking bulletproof coffee, don’t ya think depression would be a hell of a lot less prevalent than it currently is?
Do you know what would make me fucking miserable? Being in Italy and not eating pasta and gelato! Oftentimes, the absolute highlight of my day is taking myself out for a nice lunch consisting of one non-Paleo food after another. No matter what I’m feeling or going through, the devil’s foods always put a smile on my face 😉 I’ve said it before, but eating should be a pleasurable experience, and not something to feel guilty about.
But, please, tell me again how cooking my eggs in ghee will help me get out of bed on the days when I don’t want to. Tell me how following a low-carb diet is going to help me in those moments I think about throwing myself in front of a truck.
I’m about to go off on somewhat of a tangent here, but a few days ago someone on Facebook made a post along the lines of “each sequential year of your life should be the best year of your life; if it’s not, you’re doing something wrong”. (I should also point out that this guy is one of those fitness douches who incorrectly thinks they are qualified to give out life advice.)
According to him, because the past year was one of the worst years of my life, I’m a failure? Because I now have depression, I’m doing something wrong? Do people like that realise that their “inspirational” posts usually have an opposite effect to what they intend?
In actuality, I find that people who make statements like those above are the ones who are covering up how unhappy they are. They go around proclaiming each year to be “ZOMG the best year ever!!!11!1” but are usually only trying to convince themselves that is true.
If I look back at the last few years of my life, I guess you could say each year has progressively improved, but none of them have come without hardship. You want to know when my best year ever was? Probably when I was five years old and had no clue about adult life or responsibilities. As a brief summary…
- 2010: moved to the other side of Australia alone knowing no-one, started working my first full-time job and got married
- 2011: lost two of my best friends, became more stressed than I’ve ever been in my life and had no time for anything other than working and training
- 2012: moved to London with no friends and no money, changed careers but started travelling regularly
- 2013: got hit by a van and underwent three life-changing operations, changed careers again and my marriage started falling apart
- 2014: separated from my husband, entered an abusive relationship, and worked in a job I hated
- 2015: went through yet another bad break-up (I’ve since sworn off dating, don’t worry!), was diagnosed with depression due to the aforementioned break-up, but started travelling and working for myself
While I have definitely had some amazing experiences this year alone – and I am not denying that I am extremely privileged to be able to travel the way I do – it has not been sunshine and rainbows. I think what is problematic about social media and blogging is that no one wants to talk about the bad parts until they have long overcome them.
To tell people that they have to make every year better than their last is a nice idea in theory, but so impractical. There are a number of factors in that equation that are out of your control, such as serious illnesses, deaths and job redundancies. Life will not always be magical, but the important thing is to find a way to manage the downs – regardless of what some asshole thinks.
Over the years I’ve been blogging, I do try to talk about the more difficult aspects of my life to show that I am human. However, this is difficult as I don’t want to be a Debbie Downer, and there are also some aspects of my life I’d rather keep private. Ultimately, my blog is supposed to be about training and nutrition, and some people don’t need to know (nor do they care about) my personal life.
Managing depression, or any kind of other mental disorder, is about so much than eating the right foods or having the right attitude. Sufferers should not be made to feel as though they are not trying hard enough if they are not following some quack’s advice. There’s enough judgement in the world already; let’s not attack those who are already down.
What do you think?
PS. For anyone suffering with depression, I highly recommend giving this brutally honest and heartbreaking post by John Romaniello a read.