I am happy (and surprised) to report that over the past two months, my 5 minutes of daily tap dancing has turned into 30-45 minutes! I have to begrudgingly admit that exercise really does help with depression. Gone is the girl who balked at taking a 15 minute walk. (The dog is much happier now too.)
Unfortunately, it’s not all cupcakes and roses. Even though I have more energy and am not as depressed, exercise is proving counterproductive towards another one of my personal goals – to maintain my current weight. I gave my weight and all that goes with it to God a long time ago, but I’ve noticed that as I’ve gotten older, it is harder and harder to not gain weight, and I really think I should be able to button my pants without having to buy an entirely new wardrobe every year. Ironically, I was doing fine this year UNTIL I started exercising. Since I became a “weird tap dancing mother,” as my 7 year old now says, I’ve actually gained weight!! It’s only a few pounds, but still. It’s most definitely related to the exercise, and I need to figure out how to nip it in the bud before I bust out of my clothes.
As much as I try to convince myself that the few pounds I’ve gained is muscle weight, I know that’s just not true. I’m not in the gym lifting weights, bulking up, over here. I’m tap dancing in my garage! I think it’s more likely that my weight gain is related to all the extra desserts and food I’ve been eating. Apparently, just because you work out, you can’t just eat whatever you want whenever you want to eat it.
Whatever. This entire topic is making me hungry.
Anyway, a second fly in the ointment is that, while my depression has lifted a great deal the last couple months, it isn’t completely gone. I really need to look at the other tips my therapist gave me.
Of course, DIET was the number two area she said to focus on! Basically, she said that if you constantly eat crappy food, like nachos and fast food, you can’t expect to not feel like crap.
I found it especially ironic that she used nachos and fast food as examples, because I eat one or both of those pretty much every day. I know I don’t always make the healthiest food choices, but I have convinced myself there’s no point in trying to be “healthy” because who can figure out what that even means anyway.
But the truth is, even though virtually every food can be considered bad for you by some expert or guru, that’s not a reason to completely give up trying to figure out what is healthy for YOU. I already know the diet that works best for me. A couple years ago, I went on a diet called FODMAP and figured out that I do not tolerate fructans or lactose well. After 6 weeks on FODMAP though, I felt so self-deprived, I haven’t been able to bring myself to consistently avoid my trigger foods since.
Maybe I just need a better acronym than FODMAP to motivate myself. (FODMAP stands for a bunch of really hard to pronounce compounds and substances that only a nutritionist or doctor has any chance of understanding. I dare you to look it up.)
How about I try to use the SELFY acronym from my last blog post to come up with a way to improve my diet?! That might work!
S is for SIMPLE – The complexity of the FODMAP diet was definitely one of its major hurdles. Even after I realized I only needed to avoid half of what it restricts, it was still incredibly difficult to figure out if foods had the banned substances. For example, anything with honey has fructans in it, and honey is used way more that I realized… it’s in a lot of breads, it’s used frequently as an alternative to sugar, etc. To make my diet improvements SIMPLE, I will JUST try to avoid lactose and hold off on avoiding fructans for now.
E is for EVERY DAY – The way lactose is described in FODMAP, it’s only to be avoided when in foods like milk, soft cheeses and ice cream. Hard cheeses are fine, and so is dark chocolate. Even a small piece of milk chocolate, say, the size of a fun bar, is allowed. I think I can manage this every day. I know I can at least work with it as a daily goal. I’m sure I will occasionally cheat, as I have with the exercise, but I just can’t quit taking things one day at a time or I know I won’t be successful.
L is for LITTLE – When I first looked at this one, I wasn’t sure how I could apply this concept of “starting small” to eating. “5 minutes a day” just fit so perfectly with exercise, but the same idea doesn’t translate over to diet. I can’t just eat for “5 minutes a day”! I finally decided I will start LITTLE by only cutting out super obvious things that I know have lactose in them, like ice cream, milk chocolate and ranch dressing. I won’t obsess over knowing all the ingredients in everything. Phew! That Payday bar I ate while writing this isn’t off limits after all, even though it has “nonfat milk” as one of the minor ingredients.
F is for FUN – This really doesn’t feel fun at all. I like chocolate. I like ice cream. Ranch dressing is what makes me able to make a “healthy” choice of a salad at a fast food restaurant. Nothing can really change that it won’t be much fun to give these delicious foods up, but I can take actions to add in fun where it wasn’t there before… I just paid $7.99 and downloaded the Monash University FODMAP app on my phone! Anything that involves an app on your phone is automatically fun, right!? I also just decided that dark chocolate, which is totally allowed, will be something I keep stocked in the pantry from now on. Dark chocolate always brings the fun.
Y is for YOU DO YOU – It was super easy for me to figure out how this one applies. “Me doing me” means that I WILL CONTINUE TO EAT NACHOS, GOSH DARN IT!! Nachos are part of who I am. You cannot take them away from me, okay? I make my nachos with corn tortilla chips, cheddar cheese, salsa and avocados. All of these things are healthy by my book. The nachos stay.
The next tip from the therapist on managing depression is to make sure that you get enough SLEEP. Ugh! Seriously? How do these people know exactly what I need (but don’t really want) to hear? I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, why is it so hard to get 8 hours of sleep a night? I know that is what my husband thinks. I can hear his brain screaming at me to JUST GO TO BED as he dozes off every night at a reasonable time. Maybe once I am on the track with a healthier eating plan, the sleep thing will be easier too. Kind of like how once I started exercising, my diet automatically improved as well? Oh wait… that didn’t happen. Oh well, one thing at a time. I’ll cover the dreaded sleep topic in the next blog post. Until then, thanks for reading and good luck with your own diet goals!