On eating while depressed

[TW depression]

Currently posts happen in English. Don’t know why, but that’s just how it is right now.

I just met a friend I haven’t seen in quite a while. As we asked each other how we were, we both knew how we really were without having to say much. They asked me to accompany them to the supermarket to get something to eat. I said yes, because I wanted to spend more time with them, but also because I felt I knew why they asked. They were hungry and needed food, but making or buying food, alone, was just too much effort. Eating while depressed can be like that for me.

As I am still coming out of a depressed phase, I am amazed at and celebrate the things that are suddenly possible again. Putting in earrings. Doing the laundry. Doing the dishes. And making food. At first, making food again meant making food that requires heat and a pan. Cheese toast to be exact. I don’t have a toaster, so I fry the bread gently in butter, top it with cheese, flip it, fry it gently, and then eat it with lots of ketchup. Right now, I’ve taken the next step to cooking soups. Soups aren’t hard to make and if I make a big batch they’ll last two or more days. These are two huge steps up for me. I even made pasta twice.

Why are they huge steps? They’re huge steps up from eating cold food, like bread and cheese or other combinations, from cereal with yoghurt, from chips and chocolate pudding. There is nothing wrong any of those foods, I love them all. But eating them every day gets tedious, when there is so much more out there.

At this point in time I consider my life to be seriously too short to keep beating myself up about what I eat anymore, even though society says I should because I am fat. I love food. It took me a while to get a safe distance away from the guilt, the shame, the self-hate, the fears, the restrictions, the hang-ups, the constant self-abuse of berating myself for my choices. Somehow I managed to resist dieting, mostly. One ex-partner tried the no-carb diet and I “had” to do it with them (because I was “responsible” for the cooking, natch), that cured me for life. I don’t think I’ve ever craved potatoes so much.

I managed to get to a safe distance with Michelle Allison, who blogs and tweets as the Fat Nutritionist @fatnutrionist – and Lesley Kinzel’s amazing fatshion articles on xojane (she writes great articles on a wide range of other topics, too). Because of Lesley Kinzel, who tweets as @52stations, I put on a bathing suit this summer and went swimming, because of her, I am putting on whatever clothes (dresses!) I want. Because of posts like this by Michelle Allison, I started being able to say yes and no to food as I pleased and no longer pressured myself as much.  I’m still working on all these things, still unlearning the internalized fatshaming, still trying to resist the fatshaming from others. Still working on applying the health at every size concept to my life.

That’s how my relationship is with food when I am feeling ok or happy. When I am not feeling well, I don’t lose my appetite, I stop caring (not feeling, caring). I stop caring whether I eat, and cooking and doing the dishes become chores of monstrous proportions. This is not a sudden occurrence, one day fine, the other day completely unable to cook food. It’s a gradual process. At one point during this year, I managed to get up at a reasonable time, make breakfast (tea and cereals I let soak *the night before* with actual fresh fruit, how “together” is that?!). At one point this year, I have managed to invent new recipes and go to amazing lengths to prepare certain foodstuffs.

Then I started lying in bed a little longer and eating my cereals unsoaked for many reasons. Maybe not every day. But this is how it starts. It ends with me going to work hungry, eating lunch far too quickly, and feeling bad about the whole thing and this time finally not eating at all, which, just no. No no no. I don’t want to go there again. Michelle Allison has written about “When eating falls apart“. This.

What feeling depressed and not being able to cook also means for me: I have let food rot, because I just couldn’t find the energy to prepare it. This is considered very bad. Supervillain level bad. So while I can’t help it, I feel very bad about it and make myself feel worse. To combat this, I stop buying food that goes off quickly and/or needs many steps to prepare (i.e. fruit and vegetables, although I really like them). I eat only things I don’t have to prepare or can prepare quickly, preferrably in a bowl, and eat with a spoon. Now, as I said above, I love cold foods like bean salad and cereal, but having bean salad every day isn’t fun. A good post to read on this is Michelle Allison’s Perfectionist cooking paralysis. Basically I go from a higher level to level zero and then up again over time, except I know how to cook food at every level, that’s not the problem.

This time, as I started getting out of my depressed phase (still not entirely out), I also got a massive virus infection with sore throat, clogged sinuses, fever, the works. I lost my sense of smell and taste. This made me want to eat and cook even less. I could have ordered stuff or could have gone to a restaurant. I can buy readymade food at the supermarket. But I can’t afford that on a regular basis, nor do I want to buy readymade food all the time. Also, I was sick. I couldn’t really go out.

Add this to the fact that I live and mostly am alone. I have a parent (who has their own life and struggles), friends (who have their own life and struggles) and that’s it. Also, when I am not feeling well, I feel like I can’t impose on people. I tell them I can do stuff by myself, because I feel they have enough on their plate. Also having them visit me or going out with them means getting up, showering, getting dressed, cleaning up and many other things that sometimes just take more strength than I have, especially when I am also having a fever. Still, there are lovely people who persist, make food for me, take me out – and I am eternally grateful to those people.

At the same time, when I am feeling depressed, eating whatever I feel like gives me pleasure and helps me stay alive. It helps me stay connected to this world, because I don’t want to give up the pleasure of eating chocolate pudding and potato chips and because I know that at some future point I will be able to make and eat arugula salad, mushroom risotto or homemade Christmas cookies. Lucky me. This is a privilege.

Now. Take all these layers (and some I’ve not been able or didn’t want to fit in). Understand that there are times when I have been meaning to cook a simple dish for days and haven’t managed to do it. Even if it only requires cutting things and cooking them all together. Sometimes I am just not able to do this. Sometimes I am slowly approaching the point at which I can. Sometimes I can and sometimes I can do more. If I had to do this at work, I’d do it, no problem. But this isn’t paid work. It’s feeding me and sometimes I can’t.

That’s why I am touchy when people comment on my food choices. Even during ok or happy phases, comments that go beyond “Wow, that looks good!”, “Yummy!” or “I’d like to have the recipe” get annoying really fast, mostly because there is so much fatshaming in them. “How can you eat that?”, “I couldn’t eat that!”, “(Food I’m eating) is so gross!”, “You’re eating *that* for breakfast/lunch/dinner?!”, “But you could make that into a vegan dish!”, etc etc etc.

No, I don’t want to hear about your diet, whether you’re doing it for weight loss or other reasons. It’s fine if you tell me you can’t or won’t eat certain foods, I’ll try to work with that if I ever cook food for you. Whatever you choose to eat is fine with me and if I like what’s in it, I’ll be glad to try it. I’ll gladly talk about delicious food, I’ll look at your pictures of delicious meals, I’ll read your recipes and love them and try them out myself when and if I feel like it, but I will only forgive one person for diet talk – my best friend (for reasons I don’t need to explain to you). From people who don’t really know me, comments about what I’m eating get irritating really fast. From people who know me, they can be incredibly hurtful.

But since I’m afraid people will no longer like me if I tell them they’re hurting me, I stay silent far too often and rather start avoiding them. Not an ideal solution, either, I guess. Which is why I’ve written this post to ask you to please take into consideration that people might have issues with food that you don’t, can’t know about. It costs you nothing to say whatever you want to say about my food choices in your head, but you’ll spare me pain. If you can’t do that, be prepared for me to react in a way that might not be “nice”.

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9 thoughts on “On eating while depressed

  1. Pingback: how to trick your brain? | All I do is nom nom

  2. This is exactly where i am at right now- cannot bring myself to care about food, have much concern over if i eat (except to keep the headaches away).
    know you arent alone.

    • Every word you wrote in this article came straight from my own mind. I too typed in no cook foods for people with depression. I hope many people suffering will find this article, know they are not alone and stop feeling guilty about not taking the best care of themselves. I would love to print this out and give it to people who have never been depressed and can’t possibly understand. Having food go bad, yes. I no longer accept food like fresh veggies from someone’s garden because I know it it will never leave the fridge and will liquefy there. Then I have another mess that is too overwhelming to clean up…. Wish everyone positive feelings.

  3. I am in the thick of a depression and food is such a burden :) I wake every morning wishing that I didn’t have to eat. thank you for writing about this. <3

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