Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Battle with Food, Depression, and Finding Balance.

I have experienced more life in the past 2 years than I have in my entire 32 years on this earth. I have learned so much about myself and how I want to spend the rest of my life walking this earth.  Below is a short list of things I have learned that are important to me and who I am today and who I want to be in the future.  I am going to take a few things from this list and elaborate on them later in this post but first I want to share these life changing lessons.

1. I am breathing and that is a reason to smile.
2. Pain is bearable and there is nothing to be scared of. Therefore...
3. I am fearless
4. I love so much deeper than the average person because I have no fear
5. My ability to recognize someone else's pain and to nurture them is INCREDIBLE
6. I will never save a space for someone in my life that brings me down. Not even for a second. 
7. Food should be used as fuel for our bodies but it is VERY important to ENJOY what you are fueling your body with. (being able to acknowledge the difference between eating for enjoyment and eating to soothe pain was huge for me) 
8. Giving to others and not expecting anything in return is THEEEEEE most rewarding thing we can do as humans
9. Being vulnerable draws in human connection ( I blogged about this one here)
10. Finding balance between work, play, loving yourself, eating, exercising, and family is #1. Without balance I fall apart, which means I must include all of the above in my every day life...NO EXCEPTIONS. 
11. Being active and sweating each day is a MAJOR part of my happiness ( I will never stop)
12. I believe life will be grand because I trust myself to make it that way. 
13. My faith in everything keeps growing stronger 
For the remainder of this post I want to share my battle with # 7 on my list.  FOOD!!!!  Believe it or not, it is one of the most important tools to help battle grief. I never knew food played such an incredible role in our emotional well being.  It affects our moods, our brains, our activity levels, how we treat others, whether we sleep well, and most importantly our feelings. In the beginning of my 2 year struggle(Jul-Sept '12) I didn't think twice about eating.  I had just had my daughter and soon lost her, so food was the last thing on my mind.  I would go through my days so preoccupied with the sadness that food was only important when my body told me I was hungry.  I wasn't overeating or under eating, I was just surviving and eating intuitively(listening to my body's hunger signals). Prior to that I was always a healthy eater but not one of those organic healthy eaters.  I liked to eat salads and low calorie meals. I would also meal replace with the things I loved, if I was in the mood for them so I wouldn't overeat. (ex: ice cream, cheese curls, gummy candy, etc.) I was also very active and always into sports.  There was never a time when I wasn't sweating my butt off at a field, court, or gym, even throughout my adult years.  When I started working out again post pregnancy/loss(Oct. '12) I got introduced to the primal (paleo) lifestyle.  I read a couple of books about it and I was hooked.  I was ready for a distraction. This way of life intrigued me because it's focus was on how processed foods could lead to depression and how we as Americans are all addicted to sugar. 

Number 1: I was a confessed sugar addict so to read stories about how sugar was poison to our bodies completely freaked me out and made me want to change. 

Number 2:  I had just experienced probably the toughest thing I will ever go through, so why not make it easier on myself and NOT take those slippery steps and risk falling into a depression. (which I had a 99% chance of doing anyway but I was determined not to) 

After seeing Micah pass I just wanted to be as healthy as possible.  I didn't want anymore heartache in my life. I wanted to take every precaution so that I could one day have healthy children and have the family I've always wanted.  Being healthy became my new passion/obsession.  

About 7 months later I had dropped all of my baby/grief weight and then some(about 40lbs). By June 2013 I was the lowest I had ever been in my entire young adult life. I was around 130 lbs and feeling AMAZING.  I was only working out 3-4x/wk and eating just the way my trainers told me to. I was counting my macros in my "lose it" app and I was fueling my body just the way the books said. My skin was clear, I was sleeping so well, I loved how my clothes were fitting, I was waking up every day excited to go to work but the only problem was I wasn't ENJOYING the food. I would eat and feel great but the process of eating lost it's enjoyment.  I didn't feel like I could go out with friends and enjoy life because, what restaurants in NJ had organic meats and vegetables? If I lived in California, that would be a whole different story.  I went there for spring break and I remember driving about 10 miles and not seeing 1 fast food place, instead every corner had an organic juice bar or restaurant.   It was awesome but that wasn't my reality.  I wanted to live and still feel like I had the freedom to eat like everyone else but I was torn because I also loved how I felt.  I wasn't depressed, I woke up every day loving myself, feeling great in my own skin for the first time in my entire life and to accomplish that feeling in one of the worst years of my life was SO REWARDING.  I had come to a cross roads with my new passion.  Did I really want to be THIS healthy and not enjoy life? Was having this perfect body more important than making memories with friends and family? Life is short and I was starting to feel like my priorities were all out of whack. (meanwhile I am still grieving through all of this) I NEEDED TO FIND BALANCE but I didn't know it at the time, my focus was just on feeling good and looking good. I felt like if I looked good and felt good then my reality would go away.  It could be as if I was never pregnant and never experienced losing my baby. I wasn't addressing the real issues. 

Of course, I started questioning all of this right around Micah's 1st  birthday(July 13, 2013). Talk about bad timing, I was on the verge of spiraling out of control. The upcoming emotions I was about to feel along with the pizza, cake, and ice cream I was about to eat was the deadliest combination. I had signed up to do a mud run on Micah's birthday so of course the plan was to devour food afterwards and splurge because it was such a HUGE day filled with so many different emotions. I had been so cool and steady for the past 7 months, that I was bound to break.  I wasn't completely addressing the grief.  I was keeping myself distracted with staying on track with my health and fitness goals.  Once I allowed the sugar and processed foods back into my life all hell broke loose. I finally let go of my goals and the sadness poured itself back into my life. I then became addicted to sugar again and it was worse than ever because my body had been without it for sooooooo long.  I found myself crying every single day.  I had such highs and lows. My goals were SHOT, I was coming to terms with the fact that I DID have a baby and she is no longer here, I am no longer with Bill (my best friend), my body was starting to change, WHAT THE HECK was I supposed to do with all of those feelings during the summer time with NOTHING to distract me?   The food absolutely caused this and made my grief that much worse.  Depression had set in.

My body was freaking out.  My hormones were out of control. I was craving sugar like you wouldn't believe.  I couldn't stop thinking about food. It was uncontrollable.  I eventually lost my menstrual cycle because of my stress levels. I just LOST IT ALL. Everything I had worked for was gone.  I thought I was this strong girl who could overcome anything because of how I handled my first year post loss but I felt so defeated, embarrassed, ashamed, and just DEPRESSED.  Boom!!! There I said it.  My goal was to never be depressed and now I was the epitome of a depressed women who lost her child.  I felt weak.  January '14 rolls around and life just wasn't getting any better.  I had put on 15 lbs, back to my pre-pregnancy weight which was unacceptable, winter had set in and we were having snow day after snow day and I was just feeling like I couldn't do it anymore.  I broke down and decided to get a little help with an anti-depressant.  I was now on the birth control pill(to help get my period back) and an anti-depressant.  Who was I? I have never been someone to take medicine so for me this was a big deal.  I stayed on both meds for about 8 months.  In those 8 months I started to eat better, I started dating someone, I had never stopped working out but I did start to look at working out as a punishment, so that become another mental struggle.  Throughout those 8 months I was determined to find a way to get my PERFECT body back. I was so fixated on how I felt when I was at my lowest back in June '13.  I was so happy but yet I wasn't living.  I then began to search for balance.  I researched as much as I could and tweaked my macros (carbs, fats, and proteins) a million different ways trying to find the best way to lose weight, FEEL GOOD, enjoy the food, and keep it off.   I did drop a few pounds but then I went through another tough break up in Jul '14 which in turn caused another cycle of SUMMER DEPRESSION.  

FYI... I now look forward to winter because I freaking dread my summers.  Again...WHO AM I?  I never thought I'd ever say I dread summer.  Another indicator that I am still in a deep depression. 

Fast forward to October 2014.  I am back to work, I began blogging again, I have sat down and processed everything I've been through. I am dealing with my grief every day,  I am no longer focusing on my body or food because I now see that was a coping mechanism.  My new focus is on finding BALANCE.  Once I stopped the obsession with comparing myself to that body I had a year ago I began living again. I stopped taking all meds this past October and I finally got my menstrual cycle back after not having it for a year and 3 months...Yay for me! I just finished reading a book called "Intuitive Eating" which has SAVED my life.  I highly recommend it for anyone who has ever set a weight loss goal.  It's MIND BLOWING how much that book has completely changed my mindset.  I will never diet again and I will eat whatever I want whenever I want and I already HAVE the body of my dreams.  The size of that body does not matter one bit because I am blessed with a functioning body.  AMEN!!!!! 

How I eat/live now: 
1. I still meal prep because that is what makes me happy
2. If an opportunity arises to go out to eat I jump at the chance unless I am trying to save money
3. I still try and JERF(just eat real food) 3 out of my 5 meals in a day
4. I do NOT count macros or calories
5. I listen to my body's hunger signals
6. I still try to balance my carbs pre and post workout because I know how to fuel my body now
7. I workout to feel good and I only do workouts that I WANT to do
8. I no longer do cheat meals, re feed days, or splurges. If I am craving something I eat it but it doesn't mean I eat TONS of it.  Moderation is key. Even if that means eating processed food every day, I will do it in moderation as long as I still feel okay after eating it. 
9. I pay attention to my feelings and acknowledge them.  I no longer soothe them with distractions.  
10. I am a balancing act and I love it. 

Your food choices affect your EVERY DAY life. You have a choice to feel good.  Life is too short to be miserable every single day.  Appreciate what your body can do instead of making exercise  a punishment to look a certain way. DO NOT eat past satiation just to soothe something that deserves YOUR attention immediately. Address those feelings because you are worthy of happiness.   Fuel your body with REAL FOOD and you will feel good.   I have found BALANCE and I know it will be work for the rest of my life but my happiness is worth it. 

I heart BALANCE!

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