I posted this online event the other day on Facebook – http://thedepressionsessions.com and shared that I also cured my depression by changing my diet. Understandably there were several people who contacted me and wondered how exactly I did it.
So here’s my story. I would say I’ve struggled with at least mild depression all my life and have had several periods of severe depression where all I could do to cope was to self medicate with whatever was accessible. As a kid it was food and tv, and as I got older it was food and anything else I could get my hands on.
Starting at age 20 I started taking Zoloft (at pretty high doses to have any effect) on and off until age 33. Frankly Zoloft did little to treat my depression – it took the edge off my feelings but mostly made me feel numb.
Because my depression drove me to food to try to cope with my feelings, I struggled with my weight and had major body image issues. So funny enough it was my quest to lose weight that helped me stumble upon my cure for depression. I read the book “Wheat Belly” and another diet book around the same time that suggested cutting caffeine could help me lose weight so I tried them both. I cut out most grains, sugar, processed food and caffeine, all within a couple weeks (sounds crazy but I was desperate!), to see if it would help me lose weight.
This was a tricky change for me (aside from being a vegetarian since age 17, I pretty much ate the standard American diet). Up to that point I had lived my life (as long as I can remember) being chronically tired and at least borderline depressed all the time. I coped with this by always reaching for something external to give me a ‘boost’. The most accessible and socially acceptable forms were carbs (had some at every meal and snack), coffee (not cups but pots per day), and diet coke (omg lots!).
I remember having a few days of extremely low energy coming off the carbs and processed foods (oddly caffeine was pretty easy for me to wean off of), a withdrawal I guess. But the books told me told expect this so I made sure I did it when I didn’t have much going on. And then, as if by magic, the fog lifted. My brain didn’t feel so fuzzy and I stopped frantically thinking about my next ‘hit’ of carbs or caffeine just to make it through the day.
I felt like I had just gotten off some crazy energy/blood sugar roller coaster, and I never wanted to go back! I felt like ‘me’ for the first time, not someone under the influence of mind altering substances. It wasn’t long before I noticed I had more energy and that my mood was really level (looking back I wonder if I really tended towards depression or just that my life was a series of low moods brought on by eating a lot of carbohydrates and drinking a lot of coffee – to help me get out of my low moods…a vicious cycle!).
I then figured I’d try going off Zoloft and see how that went. I came off it with no issues, and in fact felt better than ever because I felt like I was me again. This amazing shift for me is what inspired me to take my health into my own hands and coach others to do the same. Food really can be your medicine.
I have since tweaked my diet to match what is right for my body and can honestly say I’ve never felt happier or more alive than now. I am a completely different person than I was 3 years ago when I started this journey to health and am 100% confident that as long as I will live I will eat this way and continue to enjoy amazing mental health.