Mental Healthy Eating
Posted by dirkgently1066
24th Nov 2014

I was somewhat surprised to realise that my healthy eating regime had been going for three months and it seemed a good time to take stock of what I have learned in that time.

Starting weight - 12st 4lbs

Current weight - 11st 2lbs


* Well the first thing to note is that it has worked. I had hoped to get below 12st and somehow achieved that target by the end of the first week. My secondary goal was to get to 11st 3lbs, my previous 'best', by Christmas, which I have achieved a month early. My next target of sub-11st now seems like a realistic target before the end of the year.

* They key to the success of the plan has been balance, a core tenet of mental health. It would be no good implementing some hardcore, militant regime where I tried to enforce too much discipline over food or try to squeeze in too much exercise. It was important to develop a plan that could be sustained indefinitely. As such, I haven't really cut anything out per se. My basic meals are unchanged, I simply switched lunch and dinner around to move carbs to earlier in the day. At the same time, I eliminated any unnecessary snacking, replacing a sugar laden biscuit with an air filled rice cake for instance. Exercise meanwhile has been gently built and then maintained. My lunch time walk has been sustained, the route varied to keep it fresh, the time taken to complete reducing as I became fitter. I even managed to go for a jog, not wholly successfully, but I was proud of myself for doing it.

* One other core tenet of mental health that has manifested throughout this period is a subject that I have used as the framework for a number of blogs and I make no apologies for repeating myself here - you can change. It is such a basic and yet fundamental concept to dealing with life.

From a mental health standpoint, this was key to my recovery. When I first entered therapy, I assumed that I was broken. I thought (hoped?) that there was something fundamentally wrong with me that meant I could not function in normal life. It came as something of a surprising revelation therefore to discover that I was the primary cause, and therefore solution, to my mental health issues. There are different types of depression. Some people have a chemical imbalance in their brain for instance. Mine was a cognitive depression, brought on by sustained, heightened anxiety, amongst other things. By addressing underlying thinking errors and unhealthy behaviours, I could lower my anxiety and banish my depression. It is not easy and it is a path I am still walking. But the skies above me look sunnier than those behind.

The same basic concepts are true of healthy eating. I had meant to start on a 'diet' several times over the last few months but always convinced myself that I couldn't. Part of the excuse was that I was not happy and did not see why I should make myself more miserable denying myself things I wanted at that time. Quite simply, I wanted to eat more than I wanted to lose weight. This is a thought and thoughts can be changed until they manifest in behaviour. And the change cam almost instantly. Once I made the decision to embark on the new plan, it was like a switch going off in my mind. Suddenly I wanted to lose weight more than I wanted to eat. I had learned to accept that I was I was in control. I could change. If I wanted to.

* As the name implies, this regime was always about both healthy eating and mental health. I was keen to explore what effect one would have on the other. It is an oft stated point that exercise has a positive effect on mental health and I wanted to put that to the test. So, what did I discover?

Not much to be honest. Sure, I feel a little better about myself having lost a few pounds but there has been no great revelation, no sense that the fog of depression has been permanently dispersed. In fact in some ways my anxiety levels have never been higher. My daily blog entries are littered with instances where I have emotionally struggled to cope with an event, to the extent that I started an entire new thread, dedicated to anxiety issues.

What does this mean? Nothing. There is no magic pill. Life is not a Hollywood film. It does not comprise those moments of revelation, backed by some poignant musical score. Instead, life unravels over time, whatever truths it has to reveal to us are done so in stages as we grow and lean. I go back to my original diagnosis of depression. Whilst I may have some underlying predisposition to mental illness, the cognitive errors that led me into depression were not to be solved by going for a couple of walks. These issues are with me for life. Each day I must confront them, must choose to go left instead of right. Healthy living is one of those choices.

* So, what now? The last time I embarked on a serious healthy eating plan it started at a similar time of the year to this one. I was waiting for an operation and my blood pressure was too high so I set about losing weight to try and reduce it. I always referred to it as a 'lifestyle change' but the truth is that after the operation, the plan quickly fell away, my weight ballooning as high as I can remember it. As such, it is difficult not to have concerns that this could go the same way, especially with Christmas coming up. But this feels different. As I said before, this has not been a diet and as a result, I have no serious cravings. My experiences with therapy are also key. I want to change.

You can read more of my food blog at

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