Fruit. Vegetables. Meat. Protein. Dairy. Iron. Carbohydrates. Breads. Cereals. Rice. Pasta. Vitamin E. Vitamin C. Vitamin D. Vitamin B. Fats. Sugar. Cholesterol.
Hormones. Blood Sugar levels. Chocolate. Shortbread…
How we eat makes a big difference to how we feel. It affects how much energy we have. It affects how efficiently our system processes what we do eat and how easily it will break down and prevent or minimise constipation. For some it can affect them at a more vital level – for those with diabetes it is even more important to monitor food intake, as for those with particular allergies.
Recent studies indicated that people with depression have a high (anything up to a one in two) risk of developing diabetes. That is an enormously scarily high statistic. You might ask, “Why? Why this on top of everything else?”
A large part of the answer is thought to be tied up in lifestyle issues. They actually think that for most people this is preventable! Risk factors for development of type 2 diabetes include lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle (ie sitting around a lot and inactive), obesity especially if your weight distribution is more around your stomach than your hips and thighs, eating unhealthily is a major cause of type 2 diabetes – too much fat, too many simple carbohydrates and not enough fibre in particular; also high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, high cortisol (stress hormone) levels, smoking, family history, gestational diabetes and aging (over age 45 becomes higher risk).
A lot of these risk factors overlap with issues that occur regularly in people with depression. It is common for people with depression to have little physical exercise and very sedentary lifestyles, poor diet and become overweight due to a combination of this and at times side effects of medications – and the lovely little belly that the medication leaves is usually a tummy rather than hips and thighs. Stress level hormone levels may be high due to anxiety levels; depression, like diabetes often has genetic links, many of the high levels can be secondary to diet and lack of exercise and statistics indicate that a high proportion of people with depression also smoke. Oh – and yes, we might say that we’re 39 for a while, but everybody ages.
The good news is that the majority of the factors identified as risks are preventable. They are also helpful ways to improve the prognosis of the course of our mental health.
Look for ways to become more active. Start small and build up a little at a time. Sooner or later you will feel like you are exercising. In the meantime, you will be stretching out those muscles and getting them ready for a challenge. One of the biggest weight loss programmes in the world was started by a woman who started out by walking around her clothesline.
Research what needs to go into a balanced diet. Plan what you will eat ahead of time and stick to it. I find this really hard, but it really is worth it. I have more energy when I do and it helps keep a lot of other things more balanced. Try cutting up your veggies when you get them and storing them ready to use – that way you don’t have as much to do to prepare food when you have to cook. Same with your meat and everything else. It takes longer to store – but half the time (at least for me) a large part of the battle in getting the energy together to get something healthy and wholesome to eat is in overcoming that ‘I don’t feel like all the preparation’ feeling. At worst keep a couple of pre-cooked healthy meals stored in the freezer for when you don’t feel like cooking.
Talk to your doctor about a Quit smoking programme. It is possible. People do it all the time.
See someone about some anxiety management strategies. If you already see a case worker, therapist or doctor ask them for advice about what to do or where to go. Look around for local programmes through community health resources. If you get stuck and are not sure where to start, check out the mindfulness and CBT pages on this site or post me a comment and let me know. If you’re in Australia, ask your GP to write you a referral under “Better Health” to see a psychologist or clinical psychologist.
Just to start off, this week I had a really simple meal of a piece of steak about the size of the palm of my hand. I had a couple of mushrooms that I chopped up and cooked with it in the pan. I then steamed in the microwave generous serves of broccoli, cauliflower, both green beans and yellow ones and some snow peas that I grew in my garden. It was filling, plain and simple.
Why not share something healthy that you cook/prepare or plan to cook/prepare after reading this in the comments. Maybe we can collect some recipes and ideas?