Health and Nutrition Strengthens Mental Health
By Daniel Wittler
I have had to deal with a couple serious mental health issues throughout my life. Drug addiction being at the forefront but depression has played a significant role in my life too. On top of that, I am an emotional eater. I eat not to feed myself but to feel better. The problem with that is I usually overeat when I do that, and while it feels good as i’m eating, I feel terrible after! It’s an obviously very unhealthy cycle. A couple of months ago, at about 4 and a half years sober I found myself more overweight than I had ever been. My girlfriend had informed me I started snoring and I looked up how to prevent snoring and almost everything I read said ‘lose weight’ as the top reason. For some reason it really bothered me that I was snoring, I truly hit an emotional bottom about my weight around that time.
I reached out to my mom, who is the absolute healthiest person I know. My entire life she has woken up at 4:30 AM and gone to the gym before work. She completely swears by it. I called her wondering when she actually started doing that ritual, because it was surely before I was born. She said in her late 20’s she was overweight and diagnosed with depression and she hated how the medication made her feel, so she stopped taking it but knew she had to do something. She simply made the decision one day to start taking better care of herself. Nutrition and exercise became her top priority and the results were fantastic, obviously. She calls the gym ‘her medication’ and knows it is the reason she has been able to overcome her depression.
A couple of months ago I was sitting at my work desk and obsessing about my weight issue, this happened a lot, and like my mom did just simply made a decision that enough was enough. I bought a scale and stepped on it for the first time in 5 years. When I saw the number I wasn’t too surprised nor horrified thankfully. As I stepped on that scale and looked at my weight a flood of motivation came over me. I thought about my father who died at 60 of a heart attack and I just did not want that to be my fate. My father was a tremendous person who was loved by everyone in his life but he did not take care of himself and his life ended way too soon.
I remember being in my intensive outpatient groups when I first got sober and they would have entire sessions devoted to eating healthier and exercising as a way to counteract any symptoms of addiction when you are sober. I specifically remember the person leading the group saying, “Once you see and feel the results of just a few weeks, you’re gonna get hooked.” That made so much sense to me, as an addict if I feel positive rewards from doing something, I’m going to want more. The hardest part is just initially getting to those first benefits.
The past two months I have dropped 20 lbs. I have simply counted my calories and walked a few miles before work every morning and I am amazed at the progress I have made already. The most beneficial part however, has been how I feel. Looking better is a great and all, but the more balanced out mood and energy I have throughout the day is by far the greatest benefit. Every morning I exercise it sets the tone for my day and is much better than rolling out of bed and going straight to work. Improving my health and fitness has improved every area of my life and I really feel I am only getting started. To those who are dealing with mental health issues I strongly suggest you look over how well you take care of yourself and make the necessary changes. It is certainly life-changing.
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