Don’t Eat Yourself into Depression
Low self-esteem and poor eating habits often go hand in hand. It’s a vicious cycle — you feel a bit down in the dumps, so you reach for a bag of chips or a bar of chocolate or any of the number of so-called “comfort foods” that you hope will alleviate your crummy feelings and give you at least some sort of a mood boost. Processed foods and simple carbohydrates, like the refined sugars found in candy bars, are substances that many people choose when they’re feeling a bit blue. It’s true — some of these foods will help improve the way you feel, but keep in mind that this is a short-term benefit that will inevitably cause you to feel worse, not better, in the long run. The temporary boost in blood glucose levels will improve your mood for around 20 minutes, but when your glucose levels drop, you’re most likely going to feel worse that you did before — and those feelings will likely persist long after you’ve digested that candy bar.
Body Image and Depression
If you engage in consistent patterns of unhealthy eating, you’re only eating your way down the road to depression. A poor body image is strongly correlated with low self-esteem, and low self-esteem can lead to feelings of depression. If you find yourself gaining weight or suffering from low energy, you’re unfortunately increasing your chances of experiencing many of the common symptoms of depression. In addition to a lowered mood, reduced feelings of self-worth, a lack of interest in your favorite activities and people, frequent tearfulness, irritability and grumpiness, you might find yourself thinking defeatist thoughts, such as “What difference does it make what I eat? I’m always going to look/feel bad.” Your actions and emotions follow your thought patterns — if you think you’re worthless and that your food choices don’t matter, you’re going to act and treat yourself that way, too. But whether you realize it or not, you hold the keys to your own happiness in your hands.
You Have a Choice
Whether you realize it or not, you choose to think the thoughts that lead you to make unhealthy food choices. Somewhere along the line, you decided that you just weren’t worth it. When you are filled with self-love and appreciation, you nurture your body with healthy, nutritious foods. If you’re being honest with yourself, an apple or a stick of celery probably isn’t your first choice when it comes to comfort food. But making healthy choices will provide your body with the right nutrients and the energy it needs to function at an optimal level and feel less depressed. And making healthy choices when it comes to thought patterns can help improve your self-esteem and therefore also help circumvent feelings of depression.
Making Healthier Choices
In addition to making healthier food choices, start to make healthier lifestyle choices. When you feel depressed, don’t sit on the couch watching mindless television — call a supportive friend, read a book you’ve been putting off, exercise or go for a walk in nature. Don’t base your self-worth on the world around you — bad things are always going to happen, you can’t control what goes on in the world, and chances are high that people won’t always approve of you. The key is to decide that what others think and what happens in the world doesn’t really matter — what matters is what you think of yourself and how you find meaning in your life. Find ways to fill your life with meaning — whatever that might mean to you. Develop a purpose and work towards fulfilling your personal goals. If you can accomplish this, you’ll find that you’ll treat yourself more kindly, you’ll start making better lifestyle and food choices, and you’ll be able to ward off feelings of depression before they get the better of you.