Depression and Food Cravings: What Are You Feeding?
This past week, I was struck by how much of a role food cravings play in the dance of my moods. When tired, stressed or feeling low, I consistently found myself reaching for sweets to get through. Cookies, cake, or pudding: it didn’t matter, so long as carbohydrates were involved. I didn’t want to keep eating in such an unhealthy way. Yet despite my best intentions, I returned again and again to the very foods I had forsworn just hours earlier. Then I would get frustrated and beat myself up for breaking my promise. After sinking to polishing off a dinner of pretzels and double chocolate chip cookies one night, I tried to sit in awareness of my chaotic, depression feelings. The question came to mind: What are you feeding?
Low Serotonin Levels Can Trigger Cravings for Sweets
Not long after, a friend sent an article my way highlighting a link between low mood and cravings for sweets. According to the article, for those with lower serotonin levels, this can trigger cravings for carbohydrates and sweets.
It was comforting to consider that there might be a biochemical reason why I was so helpless in the face of sweets. Of course, this doesn’t mean that my increased intake of simple carbs and junk food was healthy. There are better ways to boost serotonin levels.
Dealing with Depression and Food Cravings
Now I’m on to trying to build a healthier diet and dealing with my depression and food cravings in a healthier way for both my general health and mental health. I hope to write more on this topic in an upcoming blog post, but for now, this is what my recent cravings have taught me.
- Practice self-awareness – Learning mindfulness techniques has helped me the most in the area of learning to be more self-aware. When the storms in my mind are raging and I am upset with myself and the world, mindfulness helps me slow things down and grants me a new perspective. This extra moment of perspective may be what it takes for me to choose an apple over a handful of cookies for a snack. This perspective can also help me answer the question – what is going on in my life that may be prompting me to eat unhealthy?
- Don’t restrict yourself too much – Too often, I fall into the perfectionist boat – either I’m eating super healthy or I allow a mistake in judgment to turn into a junk food binge that leaves me feeling bloated and guilty. I’ve learned that being too restrictive with myself tends to backfire. Somehow, I have to learn to exist more in the gray when it comes to food – healthy, but realistic, firm with myself, but gentle too.
- Educate yourself – Just like I learned that my food cravings may have roots in my brain chemistry, there’s a lot out there to learn in the areas of food and mental health and I’m looking forward to it. Knowledge is power.
Tazzi, J. (2014, July 23). Depression and Food Cravings: What Are You Feeding?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, February 2 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/copingwithdepression/2014/07/depression-and-food-cravings
Author: Jennifer Tazzi
I hear you, Greg. Neither of them are to be trifled with, in my opinion. Best of luck.
Yeah, the food thing...the most long-standing and stubborn part of my overall pattern of addiction. Quitting drinking was nothing compared to this.