Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Body Positive Holiday List


   



This post contains affiliate links. 

It's that time of year again! Where more than likely you are running around and purchasing gifts for loved ones to exchange in a family setting!  I wanted to put a little list together of some awesome body positive purchases that you could make for a loved one who is getting off the diet train, or for yourself (because you gotta treat your self too!).





Color Me Positive Coloring Book for All Ages

Great for young children, and the young at heart alike. A coloring book that actually includes people, and creatures of all sizes, and shapes!  The link is in the image.


Things No One will tell FAT girls by Jes Baker

The Militant Baker who is a beacon for body positivity and fat acceptance has written an amazing handbook for living life to the fullest and loving yourself along the way. Great for introducing people to the next step of living with their body in a loving way!

Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living











Crystal Queer Acrylic Necklace

Riotcakes makes tons of feminist, LGBTQ* products from pins, necklaces, and stickers!












Body Positive Planner Stickers

The Dapper Dolphin on Etsy has adorable body positive stickers that are designed with planners in mind! Beautiful and cute ways to keep body positive thoughts in your day!









 Women: Body-Positive Art to Inspire and Empower by Carol Rossetti

Perfect for the art aficionado and to add a little feminism to your coffee table. The link is in the image.




You Can Shove that Fad Diet Up Your Ass T-shirt

Perfect for the friend or family member that loves to curse, and amazing for making a statement! This is done by the Sarcastic Nutritionist and they also come in tank-tops and various colors.














I hope this list helps you to accomplish any last minute shopping you may need, even if it is last minute shopping for yourself! Let me know what awesome body-positive items that you have received or purchased by leaving me a comment!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

The Diet Didn't Fail, You Failed the Diet

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
TW: Language, dieting, calories, diet mentality, and disordered behavior

Holy fucking shit. How many times have you heard this bullshit before?  If your familiar with the myriad of diet programs available in this day and age, then you have probably heard it touted by some "health coach", or a dieting buddy, or maybe in the not-so-secret pro-eating disorder forums that abound the internet.

This shit makes me so fucking mad. Because I fell for this shit, hook, line, and sinker. Even though knowing factually that the majority of people who go on a diet to lose weight, almost always gain it back, as 95-97% of people who have ever intentionally lost weight will gain it back.  And yet we still continue to diet, why? Because we as a society believe that the human body is somehow completely governed by this make believe thing called "willpower".

You can see through terms such as "She has really let herself go", and the continuing presumptions that fat people are lazy, and undisciplined that we associate every aspect of weight loss with mere "willpower". So despite the statistics on diets and weight loss, most of us still genuinely believe that diets don't fail, people do. And we keep the cycle going.

We truly believe that we can somehow pull a one-over on nature, and be the few percent that loses weight and never gains it back.  We look down upon others that gain weight back, while we fastidiously keep ours down. The minute our scale goes up though, we crash from our high pedestal, because now we have failed the all-powerful diet god. We have sinned and we must atone if we are to ever become worthy in the eyes of our Lord.

We know we are fighting against the bodies natural order as we restrict ourselves from consuming foods with too many carbs, too many fats, and too many calories. We try to subsist on 1000 calories a day, and as we quell or bodies cues to eat, we feel proud that we are dominating the gross, human body to become something more "ideal".

And yeah, we lose weight. I'm not denying that virtually every diet program that exists will allow the majority of people to lose some sort of weight while they are doing them. That's just freakin' science. If you make a caloric deficit large enough, your body will lose weight. Typically, however, when you go back to eating more normally, your body will rebound, because that is how the human body was designed to operate!

But what is the cost of all that lost (and eventually regained) weight?

Our self-esteem, self-worth, and self-respect become intricately woven into whether or not we are following our diet plans, and even more so with if we are losing weight.

We disconnect from our body so much that we can no longer tell what food we do like.

We miss making memories with friends or loved ones because we don't want to be around "tempting" foods.

We avoid vacations, trips to nature, or trying new activities because we feel disgusting in our clothes, and feel shame that our bodies might be seen by others.

We isolate ourselves to the point that the only true friend we have is our diet, the scale, and food.

These are NOT worthwhile sacrifices.  These should never be worthwhile sacrifices.

You have the RIGHT to be respected (including by yourself) here and now, with your body exactly as it is.

Your body has the RIGHT to be respected by you and others for how it is right now.

You have the RIGHT to consume foods that are palatable without having to punish yourself for it later.

You have the RIGHT to eat when you are hungry.

You have the RIGHT to go on adventures, wear a bikini, and do whatever your heart desires exactly as you are right now.

Our bodies do not fail diets, diets are a rigged game that will only lead to self-loathing, an obsession with weight and food, and a half-lived life. So kick diets right in the face and out of your life, and give yourself permission to live today.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Dieting as a Distraction




The most surprising thing I've learned about myself from my intuitive eating journey is how much free time I have now that I'm not focused on dieting, and instead on my body's own voice. I was never aware of just how much time I was spending on thinking about food, what I was going to eat, when I was going to eat, and how I was going to burn it off until I decided to let go of all that. And apparently, it was a lot of fucking time.

I'm starting to realize that I was using dieting as a crutch of sorts. Instead of dealing with my problems, or pressures of normal life, I would just distract myself with dieting. I couldn't focus on anything until I had lost the weight, or until I had had my last meal of the night. Which made it very difficult to actually have time for much else.

Studies have shown that when people are deprived of food (whether self-induced such as dieting, or involuntarily such as prison, hostage situations, wars, famine, etc.) that the amount of time dedicated to thinking about food, and planning their day around food skyrockets. And through the process of extracting myself from these behaviors, I have to admit that it is dreadfully true.

My days used to be filled with my mind figuring out the "best" foods to eat, for which meal, how to divide what I was eating throughout the day, what food combinations would be best for weight loss, dreading if I was going to have to unexpectedly go out, or be invited to dinner or lunch with friends or co-workers. Dutifully waiting 4-5 hours to eat, even if I was ravenous, just working on ignoring my hunger cues, all the while thinking about eating.

Not a great way to start your day.
So what am I doing with all this free time? Besides really working on my blog to bring you amazing content 😉. Not much. I've been super bored the last few weeks, and part of that reason I believe is due to me letting go of dieting. Because, when you go back to listening to your body for hunger cues, you realize something, that your hunger cues only show up when you're hungry. And since you have agreed to honor your hunger, you really only have to think about food, when you're hungry! When you have agreed to no longer weight yourself and put weight loss above all else, you (eventually) stop thinking about it all the time. When you wear clothes that fit you comfortably, and you focus on movement that makes you feel good, you don't think about how much weight you "need" to lose, or how many calories you "need" to burn to have a "good" day.

You start to put your focus on other things, and these things can be scary. Such as "what am I doing in my life?" "What can I do for purpose?" And sometimes they are fun things, such as trying out a new hobby, saying yes to an impromptu outing with your friends or loved ones because you don't have to watch your calorie count anymore. You get to actually live life, instead of trapping yourself in a world that revolves around food, calories, and weight. Which can be terrifying, because it is what so many of us have done for YEARS. It's comfortable, it's familiar, it's habit. Letting go of a daily fixture in our lives is hard, but just like letting go of a toxic relationship, it is totally worth it.

Even allegedly "simple" tasks, such as figuring out what you want to eat for dinner can take on a whole new aspect. Dinner was super easy when I was dieting, because with so many rules, and conscriptions in place I was so limited that I didn't have to think about it. Because weight loss was my goal, it didn't matter if I liked it or not, because I would be so hungry by dinner time that I would eat all of whatever I cooked because I wasn't getting anything else for the rest on the day. Now, I have to think about what I actually like. By honoring my body and my hunger, some days I just have to pick something that doesn't sound great but doesn't sound horrible. Which on one hand makes dinner pretty difficult some days, but on the other, it is giving me a new avenue to explore completely and wholeheartedly.  Now I can try out new vegetables for the sake of taste and exploration, not a diet. I can cook dishes that I haven't cooked in years because it had carbs and fat in them.

Somedays I do just want to revert back, and some days I do better than others with handling that feeling. But just like every other aspect of self-exploration, it can be hard.  Humans are creatures of habit, and we love the familiar, even if it hurts us.  Stepping away from those harmful habits for something better is scary.  We are in the dark for a bit, until we learn to cultivate our own light.  But please know that you are not alone out there. There are tons of us in the dark struggling to have a better relationship with our body, our minds, and food. Even if you can't see us yet if you reach out you will find that we are there.

What have you been able to do with all the free time you have after giving up dieting? Any favorite new hobbies in your life that you didn't have before? Make sure to let me know by leaving a comment!

Saturday, November 18, 2017

It's time to throw out your "someday" clothes




This post contains affiliate links. 

Someday clothes are those clothes that so many of us hold on to for that day where we will be able to fit into them again. For certain times of our lives, this makes sense. And that time is basically when you are pregnant, and you hold on to clothes that you will be able to wear after you have your baby.

The rest of the time is just a harmful practice that we put on ourselves.

I remember buying a ridiculously expensive pair of short shorts from buckle when I was probably 16 or 17.  They were just a little to small for me to fit into comfortably, but I had decided that these would be my goal shorts. The shorts that I would wear when I had finally reached my "goal" weight.

While I did wear those shorts once or twice, I never comfortably fit into them. But I kept them around for the next five years. All because of "someday".  I never reached that someday, but I did get to feel guilt overtime I opened my pants drawer. Guilt that I had yet reached an attainable size that would allow me to wear those shorts sleekly, sexily, and without shame.

Oddly enough, what finally got me to throw them out was the book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. This book teaches the now-famous KonMari method for organizing. It's number one rule for throwing things out were the questions "Do I need it?" and "Does it bring me joy?". The first thing they recommend that you start on is (shockingly) clothes.  So I took all my clothes out of the closet, drawers, bags, boxes, and from under the bed and threw them all on the floor. And I went through them one, by one. Holding each item, and asking myself those two questions.

When I got to those shorts, I realized...finally...that they did NOT bring me joy. They brought me shame, embrassament, and a self-hatred against myself for not being a certain size. So I finally threw them in a bag, and dropped them off at GoodWill.

I have been thinking about clothes again lately, because my body is changing with my transition to intuitive eating (which is perfectly normal, natural, and not something to fear or be ashamed of).  So some of my pants are becoming a little snug, and I'm thinking about going and buying more pants but of the a bigger size so that I fit more comfortably in them. I used to have a bigger pair of pants but I threw them away during my last diet in the hopes that throwing them out would somehow prevent me from gaining weight and having to go buy more clothes. Of course, my closet is a perpetual nightmare of shit, so I might have some in there somewhere. I'll just have to take the time and actually go through my closet.

But, I digress. As I have pointed out before, Numbers Are Stupid. That fact is not just limited to the number on the scale, but the numbers on my clothes are stupid too. If you have ever purchased female centered clothes, you will know that the number sizes are based on freakin' blood magic and bullshit. I can easily wear a size 6 in Walmart brands, a 12 in Target brands, and then in 8 from mall stores. Despite knowing this for years, I have always shamed myself for having to wear "bigger" sizes. And I want to and need to move on from that. The size of my pants (or shirts, bras, whatever) have nothing to do with what kind of person I am, or what I can offer to the world, or other people. The size of my clothes only has an influence on my comfort throughout my day, and my ability to move my body.

I want to be comfortable in my clothes, be able to move how I want in my clothes, and most importantly they need to be able to be washed at home in a conventional washer and dryer.

So fuck whatever the tag on my clothes say. As long as I feel comfortable, sexy, and able to actually move my body then I will wear whatever damn well gives me those things.

Does this change your opinion on your "someday" clothes? How do you think they effect your life? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Challenging My Food Fears

Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

My intuitive/mindful eating journey has been full of ups and downs. Some days I feel like I did fantastically, and I don't feel hungry all the time, and when I do feel hungry I eat, and I eat foods I like and foods that make me feel good.

I have gotten to a point where I can get a medium custard concrete from Sonic, and not feel the overwhelming need to finish all of it, because who knows when I will have it again? Now, I can eat as much or as little as I need at that point, and for the past 3 Sonic trips, I have been able to put leftovers in the freezer for later. This is a huge point for me. I haven't been able to do that in probably...like 15 years at least.

But lately, I have been hungry all the time, and it doesn't seem to matter what I eat, I always feel a little ache of hunger. And nothing has sounded good enough to eat. A few things have stayed my hunger for a bit, like Taco Bell, or some gouda cheese. But I have been feeling hungry a lot more than often.  So I decided to explore where this is coming from and why.

Well, one of the things that pop up into my mind when I am hungry is "man, I wish I had some peanut butter". Peanut butter has been a "forbidden food" for me for about two years now. Because whenever I did buy peanut butter, I would inevitably eat the whole jar in maybe three days. Sometimes less, sometimes more, and I would feel so fucking awful. It tasted SO good, and I just couldn't feel like I could stop. Even if my stomach hurt, or if afterward I just felt like a greasy balloon floating around my apartment, I would keep going until the jar was empty.  The fact that I treated it as a "forbidden" food is probably a HUGE reason why I would eat it in this manner. Because in my mind I didn't know when I would ever be "allowed" to have this again. I even remember thinking to myself that I would probably have to give up peanut butter forever if I didn't want to gain weight as I got older. So of course if I had it, I would have to eat all of it and enjoy it all NOW because I never would again.


I've been thinking about peanut butter lately. It's creamy goodness, and how I could just really go for a tortilla with peanut butter right about now. And I decided that it is time to push myself out of my comfort zone and to move forward with my intuitive eating journey.  I decided that I was gonna go out and buy myself a jar of peanut butter. Preferably the really fancy one at Albertsons that was on clearance.

Just even considering this thought would cause my anxiety to spike. I keep going back to all those times where I would polish off half a jar of peanut butter in a sitting. How awful I would feel, and I would think of all the times that I told myself that I just couldn't be trusted around peanut butter. I had no willpower when it came to it, that it was just too good. How it would make me gain weight, and my pants are already feeling awfully snug.  How I would "have" to start going back to the gym again to burn off those calories. How I wouldn't be able to stop thinking about the jar of peanut butter in the house until it was gone.

But, I remembered that the first step in returning back to our innate intuitive eating skills is to give yourself permission to eat anything, whenever you want it. If I am hungry and I want peanut butter, then I have permission to eat peanut butter. Just the concept of giving myself permission to eat something whenever I want helps to quell my anxiety (just a little bit) because it takes away the power of the "I will never have it again!" panic that my taste buds and mind have gone through before.

I can actually enjoy the peanut butter. I don't have to scarf it all down because I will never have it again. I can enjoy as much as I want, and then if I am full, I can put it up. Because the minute I want more I can totally have it.

This helps to repair the trust between myself and my body.  After so many years of dieting (and the inevitable failure due to the fact that diets don't work) I didn't trust my body anymore (but still trusted diets) and didn't trust in it's cues to me about what to feed it. Thus these "forbidden" foods were placed on a pedestal of sorts. Something that I couldn't eat, because I was too lowly to control myself around it. By taking away the pedestal and giving my body permission to eat what it wants when it wants I start to rebuild the trust in my body, and my body starts to rebuild it's trust in me. If your body knows that you will feed it when it needs it, suddenly the intense feelings of being out of control and overeating dissipate. Because your body knows that if it needs it later, you will provide it.

Even if I get this jar of peanut butter and finish it, if I want more later, I can totally have more later. This does a few things for me:

It takes away the shame and stigma that I put on myself for enjoying peanut butter (a typically high fat, high sugar food!). So I'm not driven by shame to overeat the peanut butter, or to eat it out of defiance for whatever diet I plan on starting after this jar.

Instead of using this food to mark a black mark on my diet journey, I return it to its rightful place.  It is a food.  I have a right to desire, consume and ENJOY food.  No matter if it is peanut butter, apples, cake, icing, celery sticks, or steak. I have a right to honor my body when it wants these foods, to consume these foods, and to enjoy the sensations of these foods.

If you would like to start challenging a food fear for yourself, then start with this simple, yet powerful step. 

 Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want. Whenever you want.


What food do you consider "forbidden" to yourself? How do you plan on challenging yourself with it? Let me know in the comments below!

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Voodoo Fest 2017



The affiliate links are with the song titles, the links to the restaurants and the artist's website are not affiliate links. 

I hope you all had a fantastic Halloween full of candy, fun scares and hilarious costumes.

This Halloween weekend I got to spend in New Orleans for the Voodoo music festival. Voodoo fest started in 1999 and has been going strong every Halloween bringing together 74 different bands and musicians from genres of rap, pop, and rock. They also have an amazing food court, games, and a ton of alcohol for the festival attendees.

The most adorable bread rolls! 
We arrived Thursday night at a hotel that will remain nameless because their service was absolutely appalling. We arrived in the afternoon, so we were both feeling hungry so we consulted Google for a place to eat nearby. And we found Cochon! Cochon is a Cajun restaurant that specializes in pork (Cochon is French for pig). Their main selections consist of pork, but they do have a few other types of meat such as rabbit available as well. We decided to split the ham hock with greek yogurt and I got a baked potatoes as a side while my husband opted for the mac-and-cheese. The ham hock was beautifully presented, and you could tell that it had to have been cooked for a very long time because the meat fell off the bone, no knife required.  The most unique aspect of this restaurant for me though was that the portion sizes are absolutely spot on. We finished the ham hock, our sides and the adorable mini bread rolls they have, and we were perfectly content. Not over full, and no leftovers! Quite a unique find in this day and age of restaurant portion sizing.

Friday, we set out around 10:30 am to hop on the streetcar to take us to City Park for opening day. The New Orleans streetcars have been operating for over 150 years (the St. Charles line is the oldest) and they are a great, clean, and safe way to traverse all over New Orleans, and it is super cheap. An all-day pass is $3.00 per person and works for the streetcars and the buses. Cheaper than Uber, and just as efficient. So we hopped on the streetcar from Canal to City Park and it took us maybe 40 minutes.  After reaching City Park we walked for maybe 10 minutes to the festival gates, went through security and then we were THERE.

It really is as good as it looks. 
The first thing we did was to get the amazing seafood bread bowl from Cartozzo's Bakery and it was everything I remembered it being. Soft warm bread in a bowl about the size of your head filled with creamy, cheesy pasta with shrimp and crawfish. Beautifully seasoned, wonderfully filling, and perfect for the fall weather we got to have this year.

The first artist we saw for the day was Gnash (most famous for his song I hate u, I love u with Oliva O'Brien), a pop-rapper from California. He had flowers on his mic stand, and flowers on the DJ table. He came out with awesome, chill energy and got the crowd going extremely fast. Some of my favorite songs included tell me it's okaysuperlit and Fuck Me Up. Fun, upbeat, poppy songs with an awesome beat and really touching lyrics (don't let the names fool you!) We also were treated to a song that has come out yet called "Good Vibrations" and I loved it, and I can't wait for it to be released!

Then we had about 3 hours before the next artist we wanted to see which was Andrew McMahon and the Wilderness.  So we decided to walk around the festival grounds and see what was new this year. We had already seen the food court, and the festival rides (a Ferris wheel and a kamikaze) so we went over to the EDM stage (La Plur) and checked out the Salted Caramel M&M stand where they were giving out free M&M's, bandanas, free hair coloring, a charging station and a claw machine (at which I was woefully unsuccessful).

The steeple of the chapel.
We hit up the Mortuary that Voodoo has set up every year, it looks like a cemetery, and there is a haunted house you can through, and this year they had actual actors wandering around like zombies to give us a little spook as we walked through. They also had a cute looking creepy chapel (complete with bride and groom zombies) set up. We then watched a few other artists that we didn't for a little bit, including Alfred Banks. Then we head to the Wisner stage to take a seat for Andrew McMahon.

I'll be honest, though my love for Cecilia and the Satellite has been strong for like 3 years now, I had never seen a picture of Andrew McMahon, so when the first man came out on stage rocking a full beard, glasses, and a hat I was like "ok!" but that was the guy who did guitar and keyboard (very well) and then Andrew McMahon came out. Dressed in a nice pair of slacks and a button-down shirt, with no beard, and a really cool swoopity-swoop hair-do. And he KILLED it. That man can sing, he was hitting notes that I have never seen a person do live. He had so much energy, he was bouncing around the stage, he crowd surfed (I was too far back to be one of those lucky folks) he had an entire parachute sent over the crowd for us to play with, and tons of beach balls thrown out into the crowd for our enjoyment. But the best part had to be the wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube men! I had NO idea that they were even on stage, and in the middle of a song they just popped up! And it made me so happy! It was so cute, child-like and fun. It brought some awesome magic to that show. He closed out the show with Cecilia and the Satellite, but some other songs that I fell in love with are Fire Escape and Walking In My Sleep. They are my jam on my morning commute (super loud so that I can belt out to my heart's content).
YASSS

After that amazing show, we decided to go and get an awesome "black and gold" crepe from Crepes a la Cart which is a Nutella and banana crepe, in all it's rich, goodness was definitely a great way to end my festival day (and it went surprisingly well with my Angry Orchard).

Saturday was a short day at the festival for us because we only wanted to see one artist who performed at around 5 pm. Rich Chigga is an Indonesian rapper who got started on Youtube. He has also done songs with the Suicide Boys who made an appearance during his show! The show was fun, and the energy was good (it was at the EDM stage) but his hype man was (for some reason) set on a mosh pit happening, which made the show a little less enjoyable. Maybe I'm too old, but I know I didn't pay money to get my ass kicked.

Cream Cheese Wontons
After Rich Chigga's set, we hopped back on the streetcar to go get some dinner at Rock N' Sake a delicious sushi bar that was only a block away from our hotel. We had AMAZING cream cheese wontons, delicious sushi rolls, and the best part was that they had freakin' MOCHI icecream. Mochi ice cream is typically ice cream (of various flavors) wrapped in a mochi (sticky rice pounded into a thin shape) and it is so good. If you haven't tried it yet go out and either A) find a restaurant that sells it or you can try MyMochi, a brand of mochi ice cream that is available at Albertsons. Whole Foods often has a "mochi bar" as well. I had the strawberry flavor, and it was just perfect.
Mochi Icecream!


 Later in the evening, we met our roommates up for some beers at a local bar known as the Howlin' Wolf. It is a bar, that also serves gumbo, jambalaya, and fried pickles until closing. They also feature jazz bands in their back room venue.

Sunday was also a chill festival day for us since Post Malone didn't come on until about 6 o'clock. Post Malone is famous for his songs rockstar [feat. 21 Savage] and Congratulations [feat. Quavo]. His following is HUGE. The area was packed all around for a good 35 feet from the stage.  Unfortunately, the stage they had Post Malone on, was quite small, with no screens, and with no speakers in the air. So where we were standing we could talk at a perfectly normal level the entire show. But, we did get to see a (drunk) concertgoer climb the "no chair zone" flag and rip it down, which was quite entertaining!

About 1.5 of these does me in for the night. 
The last band of the night was The Killers. I sadly missed Mr. Brightside since they decided to open with it, instead of closing with it and I was on the other side of the grounds getting a Voodoo Unicorn (ginger beer, vodka, and red bull). But the rest of their show was stunning, the lead singer looked dapper as always and the end of the show was given an extra touch of magic with falling sparks and fireworks.

Since the show ends at 9 pm on Sunday, my husband and friends decided to hit up Bourbon street before turning in to the hotel to pack (HAHA). We got down to Bourbon where we found out that they are ripping up the middle of the road to replace the bricks with concrete due to a mishap with the sewage system that allegedly happened due to years of local restaurants pouring their grease into the sewers 🤢.  So there are a few sections where you have to walk on only one side of the road and are only able to cross over the middle at certain points. But we made it to Pat O'Briens and had some seafood cakes with the traditional hurricane. What's in a hurricane? A ton of alcohol. But it tastes delicious, looks pretty, and if you eat in the restaurant you can keep the glass! After, we stopped to pick up some hand grenades, which are AMAZINGLY delicious, and comes in a cool alien glass! After we waltzed over to Cafe Du Monde to end the night with beignets (fried dough biscuits with a SHIT TON of powdered sugar, seriously if you wear black there get ready to have it on you all day) and milk.

Have you been to New Orleans before? What are your favorite places? Let me know in the comments!

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Nutrition and Depression

Photo by Jean Gerber on Unsplash

An affiliate link is at the bottom of this post. 

Welcome to the third installment of my nutrition and mental health series.  Be sure to check out my earlier posts on anxiety and bipolar disorder!


I am not a doctor or psychiatrist. All information provided is for informational purposes only. Please, do not stop taking any medications without consulting your physician first.


Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin) 


Yup, it's our good ol' buddy, B12. It has made an appearance for anxiety and bipolar, and here it is again for depression!

B12 supports the brain and central nervous system by assisting in normal nerve growth and development, improving communication between nerve cells, promotes stable adrenal function, provides emotional and mental energy and helps to bolster memory function.

Observational studies have found that as many as 30% of patients that are hospitalized for depression are deficient in Vitamin B12.  The number may be higher since B12 testing is not a standard procedure when it comes to treating psychiatric patients.  Why this may happen (other than dietary, or chronic disease issues) is not known at the moment.

One study followed 115 people that were diagnosed with a major depressive disorder for six months while monitoring their vitamin B12 status. They found that higher B12 levels correlated with better long-term psychological function, and the individuals whose moods improved the most over the six months had the highest vitamin B12 levels, while those whose depression did not improve had the lowest levels.

Since B12 plays such important roles in the brain and many of those roles affect mood, there does seem to be a correlation between depression and B12.

You may be especially affected by B12 if you have Crohn's, or celiac disease which makes it more difficult to absorb B12 in the gut.  Older people may also have a harder time getting enough B12 as our bodies natural ability to absorb it decreases as we age. If you are vegan or vegetarian you may also have difficulty getting B12 in your diet, since it is mainly found in animal products, though many non-animal products can have B12 added in (such as cereal, tofu, etc.). But it is generally recommended for these particular populations that a B12 supplement be added to the diet.

Tryptophan

Whenever you have been suffering a depressive episode, have you just "lost time".  Or memories of that time seem fuzzy? My first major depressive episode occurred way back in 2010/2011 and I don't remember much of it. I have a distinct memory of laying on the couch and watching tv.  But...other than that. Not much. And it covered almost a 6 month period. One of the reasons this may have occurred is due to the amino acid tryptophan, which is a precursor to serotonin (the happy chemical). Studies have shown that depletion in tryptophan (which in turn causes a decrease in serotonin) may have an effect not only on mood but also on cognition. Which may account for memory loss during depressive episodes.

Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, which helps us feel good and to sleep well. Low brain levels of serotonin are associated with poor memory and depressed mood. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid that is found in many protein-based foods, but all those other amino acids found with tryptophan compete with it to gain access to our brain through the blood-brain barrier. Some studies have suggested that consuming a high-glycemic index, or high-glycemic load meal (basically a high carbohydrate meal) can help to increase the availability of tryptophan to our brain.  It does this due to the insulin response from your body when carbs are ingested. The insulin diverts the other amino acids to body muscles but does not use tryptophan, which leaves it scott free to get on into the brain.

Tryptophan is also the least abundant amino acid so it can be quite a war zone in the body for those little guys! Since tryptophan is the sole precursor for serotonin (whether it is produced in the brain or in other parts of the body) it is very important that tryptophan is able to gain access to the brain because without this amino acid serotonin production stops, and depletion may contribute to depression.

Studies of tryptophan depletion in never-depressed individuals typically show no or little effect on the lowering of mood. Though reports show that moderate mood lowering is seen more often in studies with healthy women vs. healthy men. But never-depressed healthy individuals that have a high risk of depression through familial risk factor (typically when someone in your immediate family has depression) acute tryptophan depletion produces apparent abnormalities in mood control. While remitted depressed patients can have an acute depressive relapse by temporarily lowering tryptophan levels. This suggests that if you have an existing vulnerability to your serotonin system (either through a previous diagnosis of depression or through genetics) you are more susceptible to react to tryptophan depletion.

Increasing tryptophan in the diet (or through supplements) can also help improve memory and sleep as well as emotions, due to serotonin involvement in these areas of the brain as well.

While consuming foods with tryptophan can be helpful, for many of us it may be more beneficial to look at what we are doing that may be disrupting tryptophans ability to make it to our brains. The biggest one that many of us (including myself) may be doing is consuming aspartame.

Aspartame

Aspartame is a low-calorie sweetener most commonly found in diet soda, though it has started to be used in many other products. It is also sold straight-up as a non-nutritive sugar substitute (not-naming names, but its typically sold in the blue packets). Aspartame is made of 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid, and 10% methanol.  Its history as a "safe" sweetener has been very controversial. While it is considered "safe" by the FDA, some studies disagree with these findings. But from looking at specific associations between aspartame and depression, I can say that the findings definitely are not looking too great. 

In one study, on mice, they were given a daily oral dose of 0, 13, 133, or 650 mg/kg of aspartame for 30 days. These doses were to reflect the ranges of average consumption, and over-consumption of aspartame, similarly found in the human population. Sadly, these little mice gave their lives for this study, so if you have some time today, make sure to tell them a little thank you. From the investigation of their brain, it was found that serotonin was decreased in several regions of the brain. This study suggests that an increased supply of phenylalanine may be responsible for a decrease in tryptophan uptake by the brain tissue or for depressing the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin. 


One caveat to this study is that mice metabolize aspartame different from humans.


Studies on human subjects suggest that those with a history of depression may be especially vulnerable to the side-effects of aspartame on the brain. One study was halted early due to the severity of reactions to aspartame within the group of patients that had a history of depression. That's pretty worrisome, in and of itself. 

While another study put people on a "high" aspartame diet of 25 mg/kg compared to a low aspartame diet. The "high" aspartame diet was only HALF of what the FDA sets as an adequate daily intake of aspartame. After only 8 days the participants on the "high" diet had a more irritable mood, exhibited more depression, and performed worse on certain brain function tests. These people did not have a pre-existing history of mental illness. 

It is generally thought that aspartame causes this increase of depression and depression symptoms due to its concentration of phenylalanine, which competes with tryptophan to gain access to the brain. When a large quantity of one amino acid is present in the bloodstream it will occupy the most space on the transporter that takes them over the blood-brain barrier. People who consume a lot of diet soda (or other aspartame-containing foods) will usually have a higher concentration of phenylalanine in their system which could lead to a decrease in serotonin. 

Because of aspartames ability to access the brain, and its ability to prevent other important amino acids from gaining access to the brain it can potentially disrupt a wide range of processes in the body. 

If you consume a lot of diet soda or use aspartame as your go too sweetener, I would highly suggest cutting these products out of your life or at least cutting the amount down. Your brain will most definitely thank you! 



Points of Contention: Carbohydrates

Some studies recommend that people with depression should consume carbohydrates to increase their serotonin levels. As stated above, consuming carbohydrates signals the body to release insulin which will require other amino acids to go down a different metabolic pathway leaving tryptophan to go to the brain and help produce serotonin.  However, this system has only been shown to work with the consumption of very simple, or refined carbohydrates, as even a small amount of protein will negate this pathway.  Even the protein found in whole grain pasta would be enough to dampen this. While there is nothing wrong with having candy, cakes, and other simple/refined sugars in the diet, eating them too often can lead to mood swings due to the blood sugar going on a roller coaster, and can potentially lead to issues such as diabetes, cavities and may exacerbate cardiovascular issues. So just keep that in mind when evaluating what changes you would like to make to your dietary habits. 


For more depression resources please click here.

If you are feeling suicidal or violent, please call: 1-800-273-8255



If you enjoyed this series, let me know! Please comment, like or share. And if there are any particular mental disorders that you would like me to cover in the future, be sure to tell me!

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