Post 2 of 3: A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Medicine Go Down

I figured you loons would want another classic song in your head all day long. Again, you’re welcome.

I currently find myself in a situation that I never thought I’d be in: Doubting the all-wise Mary Poppins. Is there any other person alive that I’d like to model my adult life after? (Answer: No) Mary taught us the importance of making work fun. Mary showed us how fabulous a wild imagination can be. Mary taught my sister Cate how to dance like a penguin.

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So why did she betray us all?! It’s like a sword straight to the heart.

Let’s recall my previous post, where I stated that our spiritual health, mental health, and physical health are all interconnected. For this post, I will be operating under the assumption that you are working on your spiritual health and your relationship with Jesus. It is, after all, NUMBER ONE on your list of priorities. (If it isn’t, put it there.) So this post is going to take a closer look at the connection between physical and mental health.

Now, some of you may be aware of the struggles that Darling Girl Ruth has experienced. Ruth has struggled most of her life with depression and severe anxiety. (Look for more posts from her about her journey!) Well, let me tell ya. It runs in the family. While my struggles are different from Ruth’s, I have also had to battle the ugly demons of anxiety and depression. And bloody battles they were. And I know Ruth and I are not the only ones. It is amazing to me how many people I talk to that have had these struggles. Especially we mamas. And we are prone to this, aren’t we? Motherhood is basically a “How-To” manual for getting mental disorders:

  1. We lose torturous amounts of sleep. For real. TORTUROUS.
  2. We are often isolated from other human beings.
  3. Motherhood is seemingly an exercise in futility (Hello cleaning and discipline issues. Will it ever end?).
  4. We don’t (or rarely) receive any positive feedback for a job well done. It’s not like we have performance reviews from a boss.
  5. Our entire life purpose has shifted.
  6. Our bodies are unrecognizable to ourselves (talk about an identity crisis!).
  7. We often are not given the time to focus on healing ourselves.

Obviously mothers are not the only ones who can struggle with depression. Anyone can. I am just pointing out that this is a reality for many of us moms. And so begins a vicious cycle. You eat because you are tired and depressed. You nap and sit because you are tired and depressed. And you are tired and depressed because you eat and nap and sit. (Well, and clean up poop and listen to constant crying and ref siblings fights and constantly clean and cook and then do more cleaning and cooking. Did I mention that we also have to clean and cook? Oh, and clean.) And what do we often eat? Chocolate. Ice cream. Chips. Pizza. Cereal. Take Out. ANYTHING that will prevent us from doing any more cooking. Or cleaning. In a word: sugar. Or foods that behave like sugars.

As much as we would all love to believe that sugar is our friend, it unfortunately is not. Now, let me be clear right from the beginning: I believe in moderation. Eating sugar is not a sin, people. Let me repeat: sugar ISN’T sinful. You do not need to feel guilty after you have a COOKIE. Don’t reprimand yourself or your children for drinking kool-aid. Halloween candy will forever be amazing, and no one can take that truth away from me!

However.

Sugar is sadly not harmless. Some can eat it with seemingly little affects. Others, like me, cannot eat sugar without feeling some serious kickback. All need to be aware of the dangers sugar presents to our bodies. In reading up for this post, I discovered

so

much

information

out there

linking sugar to depression

It was almost like a slap in the face. How do we not all realize the connection? Why on earth aren’t people talking about this more? Or maybe they are and I am just in my little mom bubble. Whatever the case may be, it’s legit people.

Did you know, that people who have a diet high in sugars and processed foods are 51% more likely to suffer from depression than those who have a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and lean meats? That’s a boring fact and a little less than impressive, but get this: people who already struggle with anxiety and depression (for whatever reason, genes, motherhood, etc…) are usually much more likely to have a negative reaction to sugar. Over on her blog (Seriously. Click that link. She writes amazing stuff), Therese Borchard quoted Mark Hyman, MD:

“There is no scientific controversy here. The evidence is in. Sugar causes inflammation. The insulin-resistant fat cells you pack on when you eat too much sugar produces nasty inflammatory messages (cytokines)…spreading their damage to the brain. In fact, researchers have suggested calling depression “metabolic syndrome Type II” because instead of just having a fat swollen belly, you also get a fat swollen (and depressed) brain. And psychiatrists are starting to treat depression and psychiatric disorders with anti-diabetic drugs like Actos! These drugs lower blood sugar, lower insulin, and reduce inflammation.”

So, Sugar causes inflammation in the brain as well as in your belly! And not only do sugars and refined carbs cause blood sugar imbalances, but they use up valuable B vitamins. And anyone who has ever done any research into natural methods for depression knows that a frequent suggestion is “Increase your vitamin B intake!” AND sugar can mess with your thyroid. Yikes! Therese over at everydayhealth.com also quotes the Brain Bio Center:

“Eating lots of sugar is going to give you sudden peaks and troughs in the amount of glucose in your blood; symptoms that this is going on include fatigue, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, excessive sweating (especially at night), poor concentration and forgetfulness, excessive thirst, depression and crying spells, digestive disturbances and blurred vision. Since the brain depends on an even supply of glucose it is no surprise to find that sugar has been implicated in aggressive behavior, anxiety, and depression, and fatigue.”

So eat your stinkin vegetables and forget the $5 Little Caesars pizza. At least don’t make it a regular occurrence. I speak from experience, ok? No judgment here. Little Caesars probably would have made my husband and me their mascots soon. But I also can speak from experience when I say that it really does destroy your brain. Eat well, and your body will thank you!

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Now, it is also proven that exercise improves mental health. Exercise releases all those feel-good brain chemicals like endorphins that help to lift your mood. On top of all that science-y mumbo jumbo, exercise helps you to gain confidence in yourself and allows you to cope with stress in healthy ways. And you don’t have to run marathons. No over achievers allowed. Just go take a walk. You’ll feel better.

So what does all this mean? If you eat lots of sugars and refined carbohydrates, you will almost definitely become depressed. If you do not have any exercise in your life, you will very likely be lacking in feel-good mood lifters.

So, Mary, despite all the wonderful things you taught us, I can never forgive you for fooling me into thinking sugar would assist in my health in any way. I guess I will have to resort to someone with less of a British accent for my role model. Suggestions welcome.

Want help setting a plan to get on the right track? Watch for post 3 in this series!

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