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Mental Illness and the Whole30


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I wrote this post on one of my Weight Loss Surgery boards a while back.  I wanted to share it here because the Whole30 has continued to improve my relationship between food and my mental illness.  I am on Day 13, and I have already noticed a drastic decrease in my anxiety and mood swings.  I feel this is largely due to feeling in control of my habits, my body, and the choices I make day to day with food.  I have included my previous post to elaborate on how big of a deal this is and how this diet is truly changing my life.


For me, my weight is inextricably tied to my mental health.  Although I started experiencing symptoms from a very young age, I was not diagnosed with Bipolar disorder until I was 22.  Before that my life was marked by extreme highs and miserable lows.  One week I was emptying my bank account, working out for 2 hours a day, and rarely sleeping.  The next I would shut myself into a dark room, avoiding life, family, friends, and the havoc I created while I was manic.

Many people who suffer from bipolar disorder turn to drugs.  I turned to food.  When I was feeling sad, I would binge in secret until I felt ill.  When I was manic, I was spending my money at restaurants and filling my stomach with bad food and beer. 

My periods of mania were also marked with extreme workouts in the gym.  I was running, lifting, stair climbing; seven days a week for two hours a day.  I convinced myself I was being healthy and many envied my dedication to the gym.  What I didn't know was that I was slowly destroying my back.  At age 23, I needed lower back surgery to correct the damage I had done.  I became scared to exercise and my outlet for mania became eating.  Before I knew it I was 300 pounds.

Six years later I am much more stable and my mental illness is (mostly) well managed be my medications.  I still have fluctuations and I still struggle with anxiety driven eating.  Now my (very mild) mania manifests itself in motivation to get organized- planned menus, planned workouts, and meal preparation.   Weight loss surgery was not just about losing weight.  It was about learning to accept my history with mental illness and knowing that I did the best I could with the tools I had at the time.

I share this story because so few people talk openly about mental illness.  It is a harrowing experience that many people don't (and will never) understand.  As I lose the weight, I find that my doctor and I need to monitor and adjust my meds regularly.  Just last week I had the worst case of mania I have had since I started treatment.  I rarely slept and I emptied our bank account, spending what little money we had on alcohol, food, and things to redecorate the bathroom.  But what my surgery has taught me is that I ultimately have control over my mind, my weight, and my well-being.   I can't dwell on my past actions, but instead I can use them as a learning opportunity to grow as a person and meet my goals.


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Thank you for sharing. I think you're very brave and I truly commend you for making such drastic and healthy changes aimed at managing your illness. I suffer from depression and it's something that people can't really understand if they've never experienced it so I can relate to feeling misunderstood or just alone in battling mental illness. 

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