Sooooooo last month I promised a second part of the diet conversation, in which I’d get a little more specific about my personal diet, what I eat and when, etc., but like your parents telling you all about the Tooth Fairy…..
Instead, this month I am going to discuss something that is plaguing me currently, and I decided to be up front about rather that sweeping it under the rug…..depression/anxiety (general mood issues) not only how they can affect training, diet, and motivation, but more importantly how we deal with how they affect us.
Who has seen the memes…..you know the ones…..that talk about how powerlifters/weightlifters find refuge in the gym from their mental demons, how the gym is the one place they can let their troubles and feelings disappear, or even better, work them out and purge them from their lives?
They’re usually in black and white, sometimes involve some big scary animal of fangs and claws, dripping blood, looking determined and powerful.
While I understand the sentiment, and also employ this method for dealing with stress/depression, IT IS MISLEADING.
I don’t care how big a deadlift one pulls, how many awesome bicep curls they manage, how much puking they do on a gnarly leg day, WHEN YOU LEAVE THE GYM, ALL THAT SHIT YOU WERE TRYING TO AVOID IS STILL THERE.
Not only that, it DOES affect your lifting, your diet, etc. Let’s face it, depression, anxiety, grief, anger, all these things are like a stain of color on a blanket.
They are with you, regardless of what you do, what self-talk you engage in, etc.
I think sometimes we that lift, that run, that fight, and engage in sometimes extreme forms of strength activity have a big stake in looking and feeling tough.
It’s sort of a “fake it til you make it” affair, and also part of the paradigm of what we think it means to be strong.
However, for those of us who flag, who deal with the all-to-common feelings that accompany depression and stress, such as lack of motivation, a general feeling of “fuck it” and the slide into skipping one cardio session, then two, eating that pizza, then that ice cream, then saying “fuck the gym today, I am staying home”, seeing nothing but these messages of “nothing affects me” and “overcome” makes the guilt we deal with at wanting to skip out on training, or just not being “there” and focused when we do, so much worse.
We feel like we are weak, that we should just ignore our feelings, shut off the bad mood, and suck it up, like everyone else posting those lion memes seems to be doing. However, I have found the guilt from not acknowledging that the depression is part of who I am at the moment, and that it will pass, often leads to even MORE depression, feelings of failure, and then paradoxically a slide into even worse diet, training, etc.
This is all kind of rambling and abstract, like me in general, so let me use myself as an example.
I have a history of issues with food. I was at one point diagnosed with exercise bulimia (yeah, that’s a thing, I know, wow) and I have a long history of issues with weight (at my worst IN BOTH DIRECTIONS, I weighed 215 and 108).
I have issues with bingeing, I’ve flirted with anorexia, I have been obese, and I have spent months where I barely ate, then lifted for two hours, then did intense and grueling cardio for two hours EVERY DAY.
When I was a kid I was chubby, hid food, and binged on it. I’ve bought stuff online to try to make myself puke.
I’ve done some weird shit.
However, these extremes in behavior were only made WORSE by not acknowledging that the mental state I was in was ok, part of MY PROCESS, even if not normal or healthy for me.
I hid all this shit, and instead of realizing it was a time that would pass, I berated myself for being weak, not being “like everyone else” and just dealing with my shit. But just “being ok” is not that easy.
If it was, does anyone REALLY think I would be 44, and still struggling with eating half a cake, then being so guilty I spend days hating myself?
If moods were something we could turn off and on, we would all just turn “off” the bad stuff.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that moods happen.
They come, AND THEY GO, both good and bad ones.
Depression and anxiety often ebb and flow, and part of dealing with them is realizing, not to be cliché, that “this too, shall pass”. And then you just do the best you can with what you have, but also you don’t beat yourself up endlessly for the small mis-steps.
As much as I hate to admit it, I am human.
We are all human.
We are not robots that can just turn off and on what we need and when to meet the goals we have.
Even though that lion dripping blood in the meme looks fierce and unstoppable, like nothing phases or affects him, it does. He is us, putting on a brave face and doing what he can to get by. Cut yourself some slack……it’s where you are going that matters also, not just where you are at.
And let me tell you, if you feel guilty that you are “weak”, that you half-assed that set, that you ate that cookie, that you “failed” on your diet or max lift, know that I am right there with you, with the same struggles and issues, and I’ve still managed to come a long, long way from that kid in the closet, hiding food and feeling shame, afraid to tell anyone how I felt or what I was dealing with.
You’re not alone, yo. I’m just as fucked up as you are, and I’m still here, kicking and screaming.
Holy fuck that got serious quick. I promise, back to nonsense next month. 😀
by: Stephanie Tomlinson