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  • Giving up foods and mental health

    Lately I've been thinking a lot about diet and mental health... I have had some mental health struggles in the past and I'm almost certain they were related to diet. I shudder when I think about my old ways, when my 3 food groups were Caffeine, Candy, and Chips. I would frequently stay up all night, I would do intense cardio for an hour every day, then I started having mental issues that forced me to make my health a priority. Since revamping my diet things are better, but I'm still constantly trying new things, adding this food, cutting that one, to see how they affect me.

    I'm a 20 yr old female, I've always been thin but have struggled with eating disorders/body image issues since I was probably 12 or 13. For example, one summer in high school I came up with a diet that allowed me 1 soft pretzel and 1 stack of wheat thins with cheese every day, I worked out compulsively, and I was a slave to the scale. Now I tend to be compulsive about healthy eating, which seems to defeat the point. My body is probably very damaged due to years and years of poor nutrition (I'm pretty sure that from the ages 10 to 18 I didn't eat a single vegetable) and I have a family history of depression and anxiety, coupled with a bad relationship with my depressed/anxious mother.

    Anyway, I just wanted to hear some thoughts on the mental health aspects of primal eating... I have learned not to trust my body since it steered me towards all kinds of bad food choices over the years. But "overriding" my natural instincts, if you will, seems like the very reverse of the primal philosophy. If Grok craved pistachios, he'd eat them. He wouldn't spend 10 minutes beating himself up first, he wouldn't think about it so much. My problem is overthinking everything--it gets to the point where I don't want to eat anything, having read so many conflicting studies. I've heard about "orthorexia" and it sounds similar to what I experience. I'm also fairly sure I'm hypoglycemic, if my blood sugar dips I can feel it, it manifests itself as extreme depression only curable with carbs. Now, if I listen to this site, my depression would go away if I cut carbs and learn to live on fat instead. But I tried going grain free for 6 months-- although during this time I still ate fruit so perhaps it was a bad experiment-- and it made me depressed. The day I ate a sandwich again, and I thought to myself "I can eat sandwiches if I want to, fuck it!" made me feel so much better. This is clearly a mental thing-- sandwiches may not be good for my body, but denying myself them when it's possible to have them is not good for my mind.

    I don't have a specific question, just wondering if other people experience things like this... I wake up in the morning and I don't want to eat eggs, I want to eat an apple. I want some oatmeal (made in the rice cooker with coconut oil and cinnamon!). If I make myself eat eggs anyway, I feel sad... This site is all about debunking fiber but I've read other sites saying fiber is key to fighting colon cancer, and I have a family history of that as well... is there a point when all this becomes madness? I've reached the point where I think to myself, Grok would never make himself crazy over eating. He would eat what was available and be happy. For me, THAT is primal eating. Eating what you want, when you want. Where I get hung up is when I feel like "oh no, what if what I think I want is actually bad for me? My taste buds have steered me wrong before..."

    I also sometimes have envy towards people who come in the restaurant where I work...their minds aren't filled with conflicting info that makes their every food choice feel like Sophie's choice, and they don't feel guilty about every bite (at least, I imagine they don't...some of our larger patrons probably do), and I think perhaps even though I eat much healthier foods, they are still healthier than me because food doesn't torment them?
    Last edited by 2ndChance; 09-08-2012, 09:49 AM.

  • #2
    This sounds just like me I don't really know if primal helps, I feel like at first it did but after a while things went back to how they used to be...so now I don't really think that food alone is responsible for mental health.
    “There is immeasurably more left inside than what comes out in words…”
    — Fyodor Dostoevsky

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    • #3
      it may not help - but I totally "get this". You are not alone.

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      • #4
        Have you sought any counseling for all your years of disordered eating? You may need more than to simply eat healthy.

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        • #5
          Maybe your on the forums too much. Its a place filled with conflicting theory, and many times just plain nonsense. Just read the PB and follow it. You will be fine. No worries.

          And yes mental health....any health for that matter is a matter of all three things of how you eat, move, and think. So obviously you will have to address the way you perceive the world and your mental outlook on life to reach true health. Negative thought processes are just as dangerous as any of the foods on the primal avoid list.
          Last edited by Neckhammer; 09-08-2012, 11:38 AM.

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          • #6
            And remembering that Grok or Grokette didn't have the choices we have. He or she had to eat what was there and I'll betcha they ate happily when food was available.

            I agree about getting off the food related forums. Also I noticed that you seemed to be very positive that "this" caused "that" for you....the lack of carbs made you depressed, for example. We can certainly convince ourselves of causal relationships but that doesn't mean that's the only explanation.

            Trying to get happy being you might be more critical than what you eat....You (yes, you) are okay, no matter what you eat. Sure, there are no doubt healthier and less healthy ways of eating, but you, as a human being, are okay no matter what kind of food you choose. Learning to really, really believe that will make choosing food a whole lot less critical.

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            • #7
              Primal eating may help you somewhat, but it wasn't really designed with mental issues in mind. As such, I wouldn't assume that eating primal will resolve these issues. While I encourage you to continue to eat primally and reap the health benefits of such an eating plan, I also enocurage you to seek counciling, particularly with someone who specializes in body image issues and eating disorders.

              Go forth, eat primal, get healthy, but most important of all, continue to seek help for your issues. Best of luck!
              "The cling and a clang is the metal in my head when I walk. I hear a sort of, this tinging noise - cling clang. The cling clang. So many things happen while walking. The metal in my head clangs and clings as I walk - freaks my balance out. So the natural thought is just clogged up. Totally clogged up. So we need to unplug these dams, and make the the natural flow... It sort of freaks me out. We need to unplug the dams. You cannot stop the natural flow of thought with a cling and a clang..."

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              • #8
                your struggles are totally understandable...and you should realize that you are 20, and it is natural to be confused about many things, i know i was at 20. But it is good that you now are aware of the importance of what is put in your body. I know i put lots of crappy things in my body before, and i came upon this knowledge in my 30s...and i am still learning. It is good to always seek knowledge, and not think that you know everything (lots of people do this unfortunately).
                You will be the person that determines what goes in your body. As far as the mental struggles, i hear you on that too...the mind and body do work together, and it is you who feeds your mind and body. Granted, there are times where one might need some extra help (talking to someone, etc). Do you have a close friend or relative that you can talk with? Or heck, even write in a diary. This will take some time, but take control, and it will work out

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                • #9
                  My parents insist that I go to counseling but I don't find it that helpful... I'm a musician and find making music a much better use of my free time and so the counseling appointments mostly make me resent my parents, not to mention my counselor isn't into nutrition and just asks me to tell him about my life which I don't really feel like doing... it's not my thing. I have nothing against him but nothing to say to him.

                  I have a really supportive boyfriend who is learning about eating and living healthily alongside me. I was mostly just wondering if others who have given up foods find that forcing themselves to stop eating things they like does more harm than good to their mental state... I start to feel like I'm both the depriver and the deprived and not sure who to identify with... Good to see others' thoughts on this matter though!

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                  • #10
                    I didn't have this problem for long, but I had. I agree it's mental. You probably don't actually like grains. It's just that you're not "allowed" to eat them anymore. I also missed my cruesli. But I'm sure if I convinced myself eggs and meat was unhealthy, I would hate cruesli and suddenly eggs and meat 1000x more. When i was a vegetarian I craved meat all the time. Then I became primal and I hated it (at first). I told myself "alright, I'm going to eat primal (nuts and dairy and chocolate included) as much as I want. I'm going to get fat, I don't care. But then I wasn't deprived anymore an never got fat .
                    well then

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by 2ndChance View Post
                      I don't have a specific question, just wondering if other people experience things like this... I wake up in the morning and I don't want to eat eggs, I want to eat an apple. I want some oatmeal (made in the rice cooker with coconut oil and cinnamon!)
                      Then eat some oatmeal - in my opinion there's nothing wrong with it - I eat it several times a week as well - and if you want to avoid bloating or gas just soak the oats for a day with some rye flour, warm water and lemon juice. Carbs aren't bad, heck I even eat pasta several times a week and live to tell the tale - some people might truly benefit from reducing or even avoiding carbs and gluten, but is that your case? Listen to your body not other people's bodies.

                      Originally posted by 2ndChance View Post
                      This site is all about debunking fiber but I've read other sites saying fiber is key to fighting colon cancer,"
                      Yes, this website, the forum in particular, can be extreme just like any other place that tells you on how one should truly eat and avoid - Eat what you want, and if it makes you feel fine and you get no problems with it then good - everyone is different - what works for some won't work for others.
                      Last edited by Darz; 09-09-2012, 01:57 AM.

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                      • #12
                        I offer that food may be a MAJOR component of mental health.

                        I have a mantra that I have spouted for years..."If I eat right, I feel right. If I feel right, I exercise right. If I exercise right, I think right. If I think right, I eat right....". (Please excuse the poor grammar...but this works for my purposes.)

                        What I am trying to say is that for me, food is the foundation...and the cycle is self-reenforcing. I have found that if I eat crap...I feel like crap...and then think like crap. This leads to depression, frustration and irritation at both myself and others. I also stop being mindful and thinking as as clearly.

                        Admittedly, I am no doctor...but I know what works for me.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by 2ndChance View Post
                          The day I ate a sandwich again, and I thought to myself "I can eat sandwiches if I want to, fuck it!" made me feel so much better. This is clearly a mental thing-- sandwiches may not be good for my body, but denying myself them when it's possible to have them is not good for my mind.
                          So "This is clearly a mental thing". Not necessarily. It's questionable whether there's any meaningful distinction between "body" and "mind" anyway.

                          Perhaps it was a relief simply feeling that you could have what you'd been denying yourself. However, I can give you a plausible mechanism by which the food could actually have lifted your mood.

                          You may have been rather low in serotonin. When you ate the carbohydrate, it caused an insulin spike. As I understand it, that spike tends to push a lot of chemicals out of the blood. However, not serotonin. Since there is, in effect, less "competition" it can then get across the blood-brain barrier more easily.

                          What you did may have acted to manipulate your serotonin levels. It's just a back-asswards way to do it.

                          I'd suggest just eat primal and make sure you eat enough, too, in particular getting enough protein. But if you succumb to non-primal foods now and then, don't worry about it.

                          I wouldn't allow the fiber-fiends to panic you as regards cancer. You get plenty of soluble fiber in vegetables and fruit. Insoluble fiber, such as you get in cereals, doesn't do much other than irritate the GI tract.

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                          • #14
                            IMO, you have a disordered relationship with food, and that's the link between food and mental health. I've read that in such situations, you need first to 'heal' your relationship with food by NOT restricting in any way. The idea is to focus on eating as healthily as you can, making sure that you don't deprive yourself unnecessarily.

                            Trying to follow a specific plan that dictates that some foods are 'off limits' or must be avoided will only mess further with your head. To be comfortable with food, you need to feel that you can eat whatever you wish.

                            Since you want to eat healthily, I really doubt that you're going to go off on some pretzel/triscuit binge any longer. In fact, those past experiences can be a reminder of how you don't want to eat. By all means, have your oatmeal!

                            If you'd like a good book about food and our minds, I strongly suggest Brain Over Binge. It's the story of a young woman who became bulimic as an adolescent and was in therapy for years--with no progress at all. She 'cured' herself by understanding how her own brain was dictating her binge eating--AND figuring out how to control that 'voice.'

                            IMO, the book benefits anyone with 'food issues.' I haven't had an eating disorder, but having been morbidly obese my entire life until recent years, I don't have a 'normal' relationship with food, and this book helped me understand myself.
                            Last edited by emmie; 09-09-2012, 04:16 PM.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Lewis View Post
                              So "This is clearly a mental thing". Not necessarily. It's questionable whether there's any meaningful distinction between "body" and "mind" anyway.

                              Perhaps it was a relief simply feeling that you could have what you'd been denying yourself. However, I can give you a plausible mechanism by which the food could actually have lifted your mood.

                              You may have been rather low in serotonin. When you ate the carbohydrate, it caused an insulin spike. As I understand it, that spike tends to push a lot of chemicals out of the blood. However, not serotonin. Since there is, in effect, less "competition" it can then get across the blood-brain barrier more easily.

                              What you did may have acted to manipulate your serotonin levels. It's just a back-asswards way to do it.

                              I'd suggest just eat primal and make sure you eat enough, too, in particular getting enough protein. But if you succumb to non-primal foods now and then, don't worry about it.

                              I wouldn't allow the fiber-fiends to panic you as regards cancer. You get plenty of soluble fiber in vegetables and fruit. Insoluble fiber, such as you get in cereals, doesn't do much other than irritate the GI tract.
                              word.

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