Depression and Weight Issues Have you been diagnosed with depression, are possibly on depression medication, and find it affects your weight loss efforts? Post here for support!

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Old 07-31-2011, 11:46 PM   #1  
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Default Problem - Can't Eat

So, there is a lot of stress in my life right now, we've had a lot going on, and I can tell I'm sinking back into a depressive episode (NOT GOOD). For the past 2 weeks, since we had some really bad stuff happen rapid fire, I have had zero appetite, been sick to my stomach, and haven't been able to hold things down all the time when I eat. This is foreign to me, as I always was a stress eater before.

I know I need to eat. I know that the weight loss I've experienced has included muscle, and that my body is suffering from the lack of nutrition. I just don't know how to fix this when the smell of food almost universally makes me sick. My workouts are pretty much the only thing that keeps the worst of my depression symptoms at bay, so I haven't been skipping them, but I'm losing the energy to do them and I can tell my recovery is impaired. In addition, my therapist is very worried about the not eating part, and suggested that she might want to put me on antidepressants if I didn't start eating more regularly soon. I want to avoid that AT ALL COSTS. So there are plenty of reasons to eat...I just can't seem to overcome the physical hurdles.

Anyone ever experienced this? What do I do? I've tried bland things, I've tried giving myself total approval to eat ANYTHING I WANT (and since I've been embracing my new healthy eating lifestyle for over 6 years at this point, you'd think I'd jump at that chance), but nothing sounds good. We've tried getting my favorite foods in front of me, we've tried protein shakes, we've tried small volume things like cashews that have a big calorie load...nothing is getting my calories to a consistently good level.

Any advice? Anyone been here before?

Side Note: I know on a weight loss forum, this seems like not such a bad problem to have, but believe me, you do not want to have your life fall apart so significantly that you can't eat and start losing muscle! I've read similar posts here over the years, and they tend to get a lot of "Wish I had that problem!", but really, you definitely don't.
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Old 07-31-2011, 11:54 PM   #2  
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I'm very sorry you're going through all this.

I wish I had some sort of advice to give you during this time about how to healthfully increase your intake, but you've described just about everything I would've thought to suggest in a situation like this.

Again, I just want to send out many and know that I hope you're able to find what will help you eat enough.
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Old 08-01-2011, 12:33 AM   #3  
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I'm sorry you're having such a rough time, mandalinn.

I wish I had some ideas to help you. What are you doing besides exercising to help alleviate your depression? (btw, WTG for continuing to exercise) Has your doc ruled out any possible physical causes of your problems eating and keeping food down? It's pretty unlikely, but still.... I'm a big fan of cognitive behavioral therapy, and it's helped me deal with my depression and anxiety. If you've not already tried that, I'd recommend it. That's not an answer to your eating problems, but if those are symptoms of depression, they're probably not going to be fully resolved without dealing with the depression.



Good luck!
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Old 08-01-2011, 01:12 AM   #4  
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Thank you both for the hugs. I'm sure things will get better eventually, but right now the universe has decided to throw a whole lot of ugly my way.

My depression/anxiety have been, other than this incident, pretty controlled for 6 years with exercise, plus strategies learned in CBT. When I was younger, I had a history of turning to inappropriate ways of handling emotion (mainly self injury and binge eating) and escalating anxiety (mainly by catastrophizing smaller issues into raising cycles of panic) both of which I have stopped with the help of therapy. Which is another concern...here's another apparently unhealthy coping mechanism sneaking up on me, or so it seems (which, in my emotional state, has translated into even more negativity...a sort of "All that work you did to get your psychological house in order...yeah, apparently you're still not that functional when things get really rough").

I've had really bad luck with antidepressants, and they're contraindicated with some other stuff I have going on, so I really don't want to go that route.

So perhaps a question that can be answered more easily - how can I continue to look for the positive in all of this? I've been trying to pull myself out (with the help of a therapist) and so far, I'm still fairly non-functional. I have some concrete self-care things I fall back on (baths, reading, and exercise), but those aren't cutting it this time around. Ideas?

Probably I should schedule a checkup to rule out physical causes, but honestly, the lack of appetite started with the major stress-inducers.
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Old 08-01-2011, 02:42 AM   #5  
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I'm so sorry that you're facing such stress. I wish I could offer more substantial and helpful words than those, but sometimes when you're going through ****, the only way to cope is to get to the other side.

If you're having trouble eating and keeping food down because of the stress, is there anything you can do about the stress itself? Sometimes there isn't; if you're grieving a loss or dealing with something else equally immutable, only time will ease it. But if there is a way to remove the stresses, maybe that would help you pull yourself up.

You probably should get a physical check-up on general principles. It might not help the stress, but you may find that the lack of interest in food and inability to eat much has a physical root. Stranger things have happened. Your physician might also be able to recommend some ways of encouraging your appetite and coping with stress--although it sounds like you're taking care of yourself well, which is great.

Bodies are amazingly resilient. I went about ten or twelve days, I don't remember exactly, without eating after my mom's death. It isn't healthy, it isn't ideal, it isn't a happy place to be--but it didn't harm me in the long run. I'm not saying that to assure you that it's perfectly fine to have trouble eating because of stress, but because I understand what you mean by catastrophizing and I hope that you don't let food or the lack of it become another form of stress or alarm.

It isn't a healthy coping mechanism, but it is a coping mechanism, and if you're fighting off the stress with it...well, at least it means you have some fight left in you. You're trying to reach a new equilibrium. You aren't shutting down completely and you aren't going back to bad old habits. Those are all positive things.

If stress makes you unable to eat and if you then feel stressed about not eating, it would be easy to fall into that feedback loop for a short period of time. Add in the possibility of anti-depressants--a sword of Damocles I wouldn't want over my head either--and it's no wonder you're having a rough time of it at meals. If you can't set down your burden of stress about other things, ask your therapist how she would feel about your setting down the burden of food-related stress.

You've tried giving yourself permission to eat; is it possible you need to give yourself permission to not eat for a time? Please don't mistake that as a suggestion to cease eating--it isn't! But if you're someone who tends to catastrophize (and how well I understand that), you might be eating your meals with thoughts like "I MUST keep this down, I MUST give myself proper nutrition, I MUST not lose muscle" in mind. Feeling pressured to eat can't be conducive to your digestion, either, and maybe you need to let that eating-related pressure slip away for a day or so.

That's something to discuss with your therapist, though, or with a physician when you see one.

I hope that things stabilize for you soon. You are tremendously strong to have re-made yourself the way you have; I know without doubt that you're strong enough to withstand whatever life has thrown at you lately.
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Old 08-01-2011, 02:44 AM   #6  
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mandalinn82 View Post
So perhaps a question that can be answered more easily - how can I continue to look for the positive in all of this? I've been trying to pull myself out (with the help of a therapist) and so far, I'm still fairly non-functional. I have some concrete self-care things I fall back on (baths, reading, and exercise), but those aren't cutting it this time around. Ideas?
Well, a huge positive is that you're still trying. Getting through a depressive episode - especially without using antidepressants - is hard work, and something that many people who are struck with depression are unable or unwilling to do. Even though you're not doing too well right now, you are:
a) Working with your therapist.
b) Using the support that's available to you (e.g., 3FC).
c) Continuing to do things that you know are good for you (e.g., exercising).
This is all basic stuff, but it's stuff that often takes a lot of strength and energy when one's sick, and it's something that a lot of people don't do. Just continuing to try to work through the depression as well as you can is great! Don't minimize (or disqualify) that.

Would it help to think of it more like you would a symptom of a physical illness? For instance, if you got the flu and couldn't keep anything down or do anything but wait for your fever to break, it would be a setback. But that's the nature of the illness, and it's something that you'd get over with appropriate care. Depression's kind of similar. It's something that just happens (although some of us are more prone to it than others), has identifiable symptoms, and can be overcome with time and care. Not being as "functional" as normal is a symptom of the illness (as is loss of appetite). It sucks and sometimes the treatment options suck, but that's just how it is. It's important to keep on working through it and not to wallow, but I think it can also be important to give ourselves a break and admit that even though our functionality might not be near what it normally is, if it's the best we can do right now, that's really all we can ask of ourselves.

Anyway. Enough dime store psychology. "This too shall pass."
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Old 08-01-2011, 03:35 AM   #7  
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I wanted to agree with the other poster who said that our bodies are amazingly resilient. It's surprising how little food we really need to function. Without going in to the issues surrounding your problem, if you just don't feel hungry but are needing nutrients, have you tried some healthy juices or protein shakes and some vitamin supplementation? That might be an immediate fix for your lagging energy.

Is the idea of nourishing yourself what's throwing you off or is it just the idea of physically chewing and swallowing food? From my armchair, I would be more concerned if you are on some subconscious level "punishing" yourself by denying nutrition than if you are just stressed/anxious and having stomach upset that makes you feel not hungry. Have you tried sitting down and thinking about what you are hungry for? Visualize shopping for the ingredients, preparing it, and sitting down to eat it, or driving to the restaurant, sitting down, ordering, etc.?

Is there an "end" in sight with at least some of these recent stressors? Sometimes it helps me very much to think, "Ok, if I can just get through these next x number of days/weeks, things will be better. The next x number of days might be hellish, but then it will be ok." And I try to imagine myself living in the time after stressor has passed: how relaxed I will feel, etc.
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Old 08-02-2011, 06:09 PM   #8  
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I just noticed your location as Woodland , Ca where it was always Davis, Ca , that is of interest to me as I may be moving to Davis.
If this upset that you are experiencing is related to a move that is sometimes a very upsetting event. Moving can be very stressful even if it is something we want to do. I am only guessing because of the differance in location, I am not prying. I always find you to be such a voice of reason, I am sorry that you are going through this.
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Old 08-08-2011, 07:21 PM   #9  
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I'm sorry it took me so long to respond. When I am depressed I tend to wall myself away from people, but you were all so lovely in your advice, so I feel very bad about leaving the thread orphaned (plus, walling myself off is ultimately destructive, so I'm working on not doing it).

In terms of the stressors - most appear to be mid-range or permanent. It's not a move - we did that a few years back and it took me some time to update it on my profile...kept remembering to do it and then forgetting. There are really a cluster of things going on at once - some mid-range to permanent health issues for me, combined with some permanent decisions made by other people that are game changers for my wife's and my future (basically, entire visions of what certain parts of my life would look like had to be torn down and abandoned). Those combined with a variety of less catastrophic, but no less upsetting issues, including a visit to the ER for my wife, some ongoing responsibilities in caring for elderly relatives that are fairly wearing, my parents selling my childhood home, etc to create a giant mass of the Universe deciding I can't catch a break. Neither my wife nor I is dealing with it very well, which means we don't have our usual fallback (one of us falls apart, the other keeps life trucking onward while the other recovers).

My eating is still a wreck. I've had a few "normal" days over 1200 calories, but my average is still well below that. Breakfast and snacks have been particularly hard - I've usually managed lunch (or at least a protein shake) and dinner.

Quote:
It would also explain not eating now in the sense of "I might not be able to control what is going on around me, but I can control what I put into my body."
This is part of where I feel like I'm failing, actually, because I am trying really hard to eat. And I can't control even that, because my body is just resisting me at every turn.

Quote:
Bodies are amazingly resilient. I went about ten or twelve days, I don't remember exactly, without eating after my mom's death. It isn't healthy, it isn't ideal, it isn't a happy place to be--but it didn't harm me in the long run. I'm not saying that to assure you that it's perfectly fine to have trouble eating because of stress, but because I understand what you mean by catastrophizing and I hope that you don't let food or the lack of it become another form of stress or alarm.
Quote:
Would it help to think of it more like you would a symptom of a physical illness? For instance, if you got the flu and couldn't keep anything down or do anything but wait for your fever to break, it would be a setback. But that's the nature of the illness, and it's something that you'd get over with appropriate care. Depression's kind of similar. It's something that just happens (although some of us are more prone to it than others), has identifiable symptoms, and can be overcome with time and care. Not being as "functional" as normal is a symptom of the illness (as is loss of appetite). It sucks and sometimes the treatment options suck, but that's just how it is. It's important to keep on working through it and not to wallow, but I think it can also be important to give ourselves a break and admit that even though our functionality might not be near what it normally is, if it's the best we can do right now, that's really all we can ask of ourselves.
Thank you both for this - it was very helpful. I probably need to let it go a bit more. I just don't like the way it's making me feel (my average recovery time from lifting weights went from a day to almost four). Part of the problem is that, because some of the stress is coming from health issues, I feel, for lack of a better term, "broken". So not being able to eat is becoming, in my head, another way I'm broken. Which is not helping. So I'm going to work on this.

Quote:
Is the idea of nourishing yourself what's throwing you off or is it just the idea of physically chewing and swallowing food? From my armchair, I would be more concerned if you are on some subconscious level "punishing" yourself by denying nutrition than if you are just stressed/anxious and having stomach upset that makes you feel not hungry. Have you tried sitting down and thinking about what you are hungry for? Visualize shopping for the ingredients, preparing it, and sitting down to eat it, or driving to the restaurant, sitting down, ordering, etc.?
It's definitely not self-punishment, it's very physical. Nothing sounds good to eat, and when I do eat, I get sick to my stomach. A few days ago, I literally spent 45 minutes trying to think of something that sounded good to eat. I went into a list of restaurants in Davis, looked at every one, and considered whether I could eat it. I ended up with nothing - which seems so ridiculous!

I think that what is happening is that the stressors, combined with the depression they brought with them, dovetailed with a ton of responsibilities (taking care of wife after the ER, taking care of my elderly grandfather and his long term girlfriend twice a day, plus keeping on top of my job because the bills don't care if I'm falling apart) and with my own inner baggage about being depressed (in short, a belief that people only like me when I'm happy) and broken (which depressed is a form of), which made it harder to get out of the spiral.

So maybe, I need to give myself permission to be SAD. Except I have to work out how let myself be sad without falling apart to a point that those responsibilities don't get taken care of, which seems nearly impossible. So maybe this prolonged mini-eating-breakdown is my body's way of slowly working out the sad parts without completely rendering me unable to do any of the things I need to?

Sorry for the novel. I'm still trying to work out exactly the best path to keep myself moving back toward mental stability.
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Old 08-08-2011, 07:26 PM   #10  
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I don't know what to say, but I am praying for you.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:12 PM   #11  
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You are a tough cookie, mandalinn. You will work this out.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:22 PM   #12  
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As others have said... Still thinking of you during this time.
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Old 08-09-2011, 11:46 PM   #13  
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I'm sorry to hear that you are going through this. I do have one question/recommendation that went through my mind after reading your story. I only thought of it because a good friend was just diagnosed after similarly struggling to eat and feeing so weak she could barely stay awake. Her husband made her see a doctor and they immediately (after a few blood and other tests to confirm) diagnosed her with severe anemia as a result of blood loss from a bleeding ulcer which is a result of a h pylori infection. This may have already been ruled out for you, but I figured it was worth mentioning. They are now traeting the infection and hope that will allow her stomach to heal and eventually bring up her iron count. Good luck with getting through this.
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Old 08-10-2011, 12:53 AM   #14  
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hugs from Alaska
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Old 08-10-2011, 05:22 AM   #15  
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Sometimes it helps to take a physical approach to a psychological problem, especially when it's manifesting in physical symptoms. I'd suggest trying some anti-nausea medication. Last I checked, it's relatively harmless stuff. If you can get out of the problems caused by the nausea, that should make matters easier up to some point.

As for eating, you sound like you're worrying a lot about having food that's nutritious. Stop fretting about that and just concentrate on trying to have any food at all. A lot of people, including myself and my cousin who has long-term problems with being able to eat (physiological in her case), find that high-water and/or sweet foods are most appealing when you lose your appetite. I don't mean cakes, I mean fruit, or vegetables such as carrots and sugar snaps (snow peas?) which are good for scooping up houmous. Once you can get some food down you successfully, then it's easier to move onto other foods. Small things which you can snack on are also good. Even if you're only eating one strawberry or grape at a time, that's still progress. Low appetite and nausea tend to snowball, which may be why you're finding it increasingly difficult to deal with food, and similarly it's why starting with a tiny amount can help.

Ginger, lemon and similar can also be useful for nausea and low appetite. A glass of water with fresh lime juice squeezed into it, for instance.

Would anti-anxiety meds help? I do well with low doses of Valium for PMDD, although obviously it's not for everyone and particularly not for anyone with addictive tendencies. I get both anxiety and depression with PMDD, and while Valium only treats the anxiety, it's often enough to pull me out of the black hole I can sink into (I can go from chirpy to suicidal in the space of an hour, it's terrifying). In terms of herbs, valerian is an excellent herb for similar purposes. As well as the usual business of finding a reputable supplier, you may have problems with the fact that it reeks to high heaven. A couple of capsules aren't too bad, although right now probably worse since it sounds like your sense of smell has sharpened, but you may need someone else to get them out of the bottle for you, as the whiff you get when you take the lid off can be pretty overpowering. I wouldn't bother with herbal antidepressants unless you know that they work for you, as you need something immediate and herbal antidepressants (St John's Wort and the like) are very slow-acting and may not be reliable.

Can you shorten your workouts so that you're still getting a psychological lift from them but they're less exhausting?
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