I would binge out on cookies, red wine, chocolate, and ice cream as an escort to two emotional responses: 1) when I was feeling good about myself and 2) when I wanted to punish myself. Either way, I would end up feeling both physically and emotionally crummy the next day. But I would do it again and often regardless of the consequences, I had a lot to feel bad about.
I would try to stick to a healthy diet. I went through diet after diet and even went vegan for two years. I wasn’t eating this way to lose weight–I have always been quite skinny–I was eating this way to be healthy and maintain my weight. When I binged, I would exercise like crazy the next day. I was on the hamster wheel of diet and exercise that so many of us are on.
My highly sensitive body went through the ups and downs of going from one extreme to the next with complaints of constipation, infections, low energy, low sex drive, acne, fatigue, cravings, and heart palpitations. I’m sure there were other symptoms but I was just too dull to notice.
Then I had a nervous breakdown and everything changed. I was suddenly very sensitive to food and would react with increased vertigo and floating sensation, nightmares, anxiety, extreme weakness, and overstimulation of the senses to a lot of the foods I ate before. Sugar and chocolate was off my list and so was alcohol. Rice and other grains just sent my world spinning. Chemicals and preservatives, forget it! Eggs, certain vegetables and fruit and some dairy were agitators as well. I was basically eating meat and vegetables and then suddenly another vegetable would start to bother me. There were days where I felt like I couldn’t eat anything, even water!
Eating out was terrible and something I did only if I had to. I was scared of food and the stuff that I didn’t know was hanging out in the food.
I lost weight and got down to about 104 pounds (I’m 5″7′). This played on my mental state as me being weak and unhealthy and unable to give my body what it needed to get through the constant fear and anxiety that was taxing my system. It affirmed my fears that my body was falling apart and soon I would be hospitalized because I could not sustain myself on my own.
I was diagnosed by my psychiatrist as borderline anorexic because of my fear of food. I did not agree with the diagnosis and became determined to gain weight on my restricted diet. I also was determined to stick to one diet and not yo-yo around like I had in the past.
I adopted the SCD. My attraction to this diet was that it had been said to help schizophrenia and I felt if it helped one form of psychosis then it could help me as well.
This diet included honey which I was terrified to eat since my reaction to sugar, but upon trying a little bit I found I could tolerate it. Maybe it’s because the bees are as sensitive as I am!
This diet worked well for me. I gained back 15 pounds and started enjoying my food again. I felt healthier with the added weight and the plenty of protein I was getting to sustain my adrenals through my daily fear and anxiety.
I slowly, very slowly, began to add back vegetables and fruit that I was unable to eat before. Most of the time, my body was now able to receive the food without complaint.
It’s been almost 3 years since I have adopted the SCD and feel that it has really helped to improve my mental state. I need variety and have made some modifications but basically I stick to a diet of whole foods which is about 60% vegetables, 14% low glycemic fruit, 10% nuts, 14% lean meat and fish, 1% honey and 1% psyllium (which I need to take for the constipation that is a side effect of my antidepressant). I am also a big fan of Kris Carr and her Crazy Sexy Diet and I have eliminated cheese and yogurt and feel better–lighter–without it. I supplement my calcium and get as much as I can out of nuts and greens. I juice greens everyday and have found a substantial increase in my energy (which I feel is pretty good considering I am on two sedatives!). I try and eat as alkaline as possible though I will not give up the lean meat and fish because I feel that a person with my highly sensitive constitution needs a lot of accessible protein. I am always trying to introduce new foods (usually of the veggie variety) into my diet, giving my body some time to tell me if it’s right for me.
I still don’t drink, eat any forms of sugar but a bit of honey, or consume processed foods or things that I cannot pronounce. I am going to try small amount of raw cocoa in the near future though my previous attempts have resulted in me feeling jumpy, edgy and spun!
No more cravings and no more bingeing and no more exercising like a mad women! I eat well and exercise in moderation which is so much more enjoyable to me. And I maintain my weight.
Though I cannot measure what this diet has done for me in a scientific sense, it has helped me to shift my perspective on what food means to me. I now see eating as something I do to honour my body and my health. I have so much compassion for my body; my already highly attuned nervous system that is now over-aroused by fear, anxiety, worry, stress and the bombardment of stimuli in our overstimulated society. My body is putting up with a lot and I am doing my best to ensure that it has what it needs to sustain equilibrium. I made the choice between eating foods that tax my already-strung-out nervous and immune system or eating foods that support my nervous and immune system. I chose the latter and that’s what comprises my diet. It took a nervous breakdown and listening to my highly sensitive body to give me the strength to make that choice but I am so glad that I did.
What has been your experience with food and mental illness? I would love to hear about it.
Hi. I’m Trish Hurtubise…the founder, curator and an editor for Mental Health Talk. I love serving those who are relegated to the shadows by society by giving them a platform to share their voice and be seen and heard… hence my passion for working with all the wonderful people who have shared their stories and wisdom on MHT.
You may view all posts by me here.
Much love to you.