Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Emotional Eating and My Personal Zoloft.

No, I haven't started taking anti-depressants ... yet. 

But this is about coping - poorly. 

Last week was, all summed up, rather a bad week for my mood. And my food. You know those anti-depressant commercials with the tragic dark lighting and the people that just don't feel like doing any of the things they used to like to do? That was me. 

I don't think I've written about this before, but I'm very much a sad/stress eater. Most of the time, I eat nutritious things in happy moderation. 

However, when I get anxious or depressed, the foods I gravitate towards are never very healthy. Even if they were, the quantity is far far beyond what my 5'4" frame needs (or wants). Sometimes it gets mad at me. 

Half-gallon of ice cream? 2 days. 

An entire box of cereal? 1 day. It's happened. More than once. 

Trail mix? Trader Joe why do you make this so delicious?

That batch of cookies I was planning to mostly give away? I may have to bake again. 

Most of a bag of chocolate chips poured into a peanut butter jar and devoured with a spoon? Yes. Please. 
(I think my love of this combination comes from my mother, but she's far better with moderation.)


Sometimes my body and I have a conversation that goes like this:

me: "Gosh this pharmacology is hard. Why do all these drugs sound the same? Mycophenolate mofetil sounds kind of like Matthew McConaughey. I'd so much rather be watching How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Maybe I need a break. I think another bowl of cereal would be really good right now."

my body: "You're joking right? I'm still super full from the bowl of cereal you just finished."

me: "Yeah but if I eat more maybe I won't feel so worried about all of this."

my body: "Does that make any sense?"

me: "Clearly yes. Food = brain fuel = studying better = less anxious about Boards/finals/etc."

my body: "Yes but I'm not hungry! Neither is your brain. And let's be honest, you just want to spend another 5 minutes NOT studying."

me: "Right. Still. One more bowl of cereal. Maybe this time it'll work and I'll feel better."

my body: "When you can't sleep on your stomach you're going to wish you listened to me."  


This all happens in a matter of seconds though, and food just...vanishes. 

My brain and body are all on the same team, we all want what's best for overall well-being, and happiness. Emotional eating has never actually made me feel better, and sometimes when I overdo it, it really does hurt. 

So this past week, I felt very overwhelmed with finals starting in 2 weeks, Boards in under 6 weeks, and the paralyzing feeling that I haven't studied enough the past 2 years and I'm going to actually not pass. This kind of anxious thinking of course won't help me do well...what would help me do well is focus and studying, but that's not always my anxiety style. 

Suffice it to say, I ate a lot last week. I also didn't exercise. In theory I was resting after the half-marathon, but actually I think I was just being a slacker. There's rest days and then there's 8 days without cardio because you keep telling yourself you don't really feel like it and you'll do it tomorrow (and you just ate your weight in trail mix so obviously you're too full to run). 

So now we have this equation:


= sadness. 
And there we go. My week in a nutshell. 


And now this is the part of the post where we go from gloomy stormy girl:

To happy summer sunshine girl:

Because this morning,

(after a 20 minute search for my keys - which were under my backpack, in the middle of my room - 
and an enormous battle with our back porch gate, which has something sharp on the latch, ouch...) 

...I got myself out for a run. 3 miles, starting easy again, but the transformation of my mood is ENORMOUS. 

I'm not the first person to realize this, but I mean, this change is dramatic. I think I'm so used to the steady stream of exercise endorphins that over a week off actually has me going through withdrawal. Exercise = my anti-depressant. 

It shouldn't surprise me. I exercise for physical health sure, but the primary reason I started getting regular exercise was to manage stress and for how I well it makes me feel - mentally. I guess I just forgot for a few days. 

And when stress is better managed, studying is far more productive, my body stops feeling like it's at war with my brain and things become all right again. 

So today has been a better day. I'm sure I will stress eat again sometime, and take a few days off from exercise, but this week I've been reminded how reliant my brain and body are on each other, and how it takes a lot to make me whole. 

All right, time to take my improved mood back to work. Mycophenolate mofetil? I still have no idea what you do.