"I don't think that being a strong person is about ignoring your emotions and fighting your feelings. Putting on a brave face doesn't mean you're a brave person. That's why everybody in my life knows everything that I'm going through. I can't hide anything from them. People need to realise that being open isn't the same as being weak."

- Taylor Swift

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Operation Get Fit: Depression screws with everything.

Before I was serious about losing weight I never cared about what I ate, or how much I ate. I always had a tummy, but I had wafer thin arms and legs and got away with it. When I was really little I hardly ate, anyway - food simply wasn't interesting.

Then when I got to about eleven I began eating ravenously, and shot up from about 4'8" to 5'2" - the leads from my pacemaker snapped (this doesn't even happen during pregnancy, usually), I lost my little-boy figure and got some lovely stretch marks here and there. After various stints of gymnastics, acrobatics, ballet, jazz - none of which I was particularly good at - I began playing basketball quite seriously; in that it was my biggest sporting commitment to date.  I was eating more than my dad, but I was relatively fit for a timee; but eleven was also when depression set in.

It's impossible to describe how mental health and physical health are so deeply interconnected. When I was little I was a dapper little kid, a little fighter; I bore the brunt of my heart condition very well, and I was as healthy as I could be given my medical problems. At about eleven something just went wrong, and I was very depressed for a good three years. Depression in itself is purely a mental thing, but what it makes you do to yourself is quite alarming - you know you should be taking better care of yourself, but you're beyond caring. You just don't have the energy to care.

High school started, I moved away from the basketball stadium and my basketball team, and I sort of lost it. It took me eight years in primary school to form tangible friendships, but I went to a high school quite far away from where I grew up, with only a couple of familiar faces; but I didn't really get along with those familiar faces. I skipped a grade, losing any kind of social status in the process, and starting drooling over anyone remotely Y-chromosone. But I still ate as if I was still growing like a weed (I wasn't - between twelve and sixteen I've grown about an inch) and not really caring what I shovelled down. This was also the height of my ramen addiction - ramen being a rather noxious combination of refined wheat, sodium and a cocktail of chemicals and preservatives.

But this was when food became an obsession - I had become so unhappy and frustrated that I tried to replace everything I wanted with food. I became a coffee fiend, a ramen fanatic, and a faithful worshipper of anything calorie-laden and fattening. I was already unfit, but as I stopped exercising even walking the dogs became such a monumental effort I would go for weeks without properly exercising. Every day I would drag myself up staircases and wind myself if I ever tried to run more than a few metres.  

Now, I don't drink coffee. I work out every day, and I watch what I eat; within reason. I don't deny myself the joys of birthday cake, pour exemple - life is too short to not enjoy your sweet sixteen, and when you're permamently the baby of the grade, it's nice to feel grown up. But most of all, I'm happy - I'm happy beyond words. Last year I really felt like I've shaken off my depression, and although my life is far from perfect it's much more fulfilling, and I'm much, much, happier than I was before.

So, if you're gaining weight, don't look at it as a problem in a vacuum. For me, the real root of the problem was my depression - depression, not laziness or genes or puppy fat or anything else - that had caused my weight problem. I had to face my depression and conquer it before I could even think about shedding pounds. If you're happy, you're halfway to being healthy.

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