Monday, April 17, 2017

Obesity crisis is mental health crisis

At the age of 50, I'm now on my fifth year of being fat. When I went from size 10 to size 18 in the last months of my marriage in 2013, I thought, "I'm not worried about gaining weight. I've been thin and active my whole life. I'll take this weight off as soon as my life gets back to normal." Obviously that didn't happen, and since 2015 I've been very focused on at least dropping about 20 of the 50 extra pounds I'm carrying (I'm only 5'2" so those pounds really count).

But I'm trying to take it easy on myself these days. Here's a theory I recently came up with: many of us are fat because we need mental health services. Many people struggle with chronic depression or other mood disorders and the easiest and cheapest way to self-medicate is with food. We're trying to get through the days without the psychiatric treatment we need, or our medication has stopped working, or we just got on medication but it hasn't kicked in yet and we feel like hell all the time. We're tired or angry or discouraged or self-loathing or hopeless or numb or despondent or can't get out of bed or we're any combination of those. So what's quick and easy and cheap and has an immediate effect on mood and energy? Food. Whether it's sweets or alcohol or fried stuff, the key is carbohydrates. Carbohydrates turn into sugar and that gives our brains the serotonin they desperately need, so we can get through the workday or the party or the conversation with our spouse. But while our brains need the chemical reaction those carbs cause, our bodies don't need the energy, so we pack on the extra calories as fat. And the fat just builds and stays and builds and stays and no amount of dieting or exercise can counteract that process.

It's a horrible problem. I believe a large part of the obese Americans we all scorn are managing our moods and energy with food. And while mood management is the reason we eat and drink the way we do, there's no way we can lose an ounce by trying to eat less and move more. I believe our obesity crisis might actually be a mental health crisis.

We have such disgust for fat people, but what's more important: being thin or not committing suicide after the depression takes over and tells you it's time to die? On good days I have a clear answer to that. So I'll be fat because for now being fat seems like it's probably better than being dead. Probably.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dating while depressed


When you're in a major depressive episode, get off your dating apps. I'm not talking about having a blue day. I'm talking about the chronic emotional disorder: clinical major depression that warps your view of the world. If you suffer from this and you're single and you've been trying to meet someone, but you find yourself at the bottom of that hole once again, get off OK Cupid and Tinder and Plenty of Fish or you might have exchanges like this.

Him: Hi. You're beautiful.
You: Hi.
Him: I'd like to get to know you.
You: How are you with moody depressives?
Him: Good as long as they're at least half nude.
You: Never mind.

Or like this.

Him: Hello. How are you?
You: Not good.
Him: Why not?
You: Life sucks.
Him: How so?
You: Haven't you noticed?
Him: No.

And then you can't be bothered to respond because he's obviously delusional.

Being in a major depressive episode can make you not care about anything and see others as in another world that has nothing to do with you. Of course most people have no idea what chronic depression really is and if you have a conversation with them, they might try to make you feel better. I made the mistake of having an initial phone call with a very nice man, telling him about my mental condition and then having to listen to story after story of how he had dealt with adversity. He seemed to hope his optimism would inspire me and that after hearing how his grandmother told him to pull himself together, I'd say, "Hey, I feel better now! Thanks." Instead, he talked and talked and I became increasingly bored and sleepy until he muttered that I didn't "get it" and we ended the call.

It might seem like those quick-contact apps and websites can alleviate your feeling of isolation, but they really won't. If you're a woman with good photos on your profile, you can get someone's attention pretty easily, but interacting with him will just lead you back to the conclusion that you're incapable of normal human behavior and ever being loved. So just don't do it.

What do you do instead? I don't know. If you've already called your psychiatrist and had your medication adjusted and talked to your therapist and spent time with friends and gotten some exercise and meditated and had a good night's sleep, then maybe try another box of donuts.