Being depressed and trying to lose weight is like walking up to that person you’ve been fancying, that you know is so out of your league, and asking them what their weekend looks like. It’s hard, nerve-racking, and a bit of self-loathing plays into it if you’re shy — but it’s not an impossible thing to do.
First of all, in order to understand what you’re up against, you have to realize that depression is an illness, and it’s one you have to take seriously. That doesn’t exactly mean giving into a full day in bed all the time, but it does mean taking note of things that cause your illness to flare up, whether that be a person, place, thing, or idea. Yes, you’re your depression triggers are a noun.
Once you’ve completed a list of your triggers, channel your inner Ravenclaw and figure out healthy ways to deal with them, so they don’t threaten your resolutions. That way, those things don’t hinder you from meeting your goals.
For example: There are some memories, people, things I hear, and things I see that often spring up on me out of nowhere and paralyze me into fear, which leads me to the trap door of my anxiety, which leads to beating myself up over getting so worked up over my triggers and getting disappointed in myself and feeling shame and sadness. Irrational, I know.
Trust me, if I could just not think about them and file them away until I’m finished with a workout then that would be great, but my mind doesn’t work like that. Once something is there, it’s there, which means I’m more than likely to have a handful of workouts this year where I’m running, or moving along with Jane Fonda and trying to make sure my legs are in a good place during leg lifts so I don’t hurt my lower back, while trying to dispose a memory or thought. That is, unless the shame in my irrational cycle gently whispers soft sweet soothing words of how much I need to lie down and take care of myself and skip a workout.
There will be some days where you emotionally can’t muster up the strength or discipline and you will give into the nice sweet call that your bed is making at 2 in the afternoon on a Sunday. If you find yourself in this predicament, don’t be hard on yourself. This will only make things worse.
Just breathe, listen to some slow songs, and gradually up the tempo and genre. Even if you only make it out of bed to do 20 pushups and 20 curl ups within 4 minutes total, then give yourself a pat on the back. Not every workout is going to be a sweat induced killer thigh squat kind of day. And when it’s not, just plan on tomorrow, and pace yourself.
Read that last phrase. Pace yourself. It isn’t healthy to burn yourself out during the first week of January, because by the time the third week of the month rolls around you’ll have given up on your goals, and that doesn’t ever feel good. So take care of yourself and don’t give yourself another reason to feel anymore guilt then you already do.
Realize that HITT (High Intensity Inver vault Training) isn’t the only form of exercise on the planet. Yes, it’s a good one, and I encourage it. But for those of you with a slower pace, HIIT will only burn you out.
Instead, opt for something you’ll enjoy like yoga or basic ballet to tone your legs. You’d be amazed at what you can find on YouTube. Yes, there are actually people in this world who do high quality exercises video classes for free and upload it as a YouTube video. Just search “aerobic class,” “yoga class,” or whatever you enjoy. (Also a nice hunk of Jane Fonda’s tapes from the 80’s/90’s are on YouTube, but you didn’t hear that from me.)
Take things one day at a time, and always have at least one day of week that you set aside a few minutes for physical activity that you look forward to. Like Sunday yoga if you’ve had an intense week of cardio, or Sunday afternoon aerobics if you’ve done yoga all week (seriously you guys, most classes are 30-60 minutes — that’s just one episode — you can do it).
The key to meeting your fitness goals in 2017 when you’re suffering and battling a mental illness it to figure out how to navigate your pop up triggers, learn how to work through the triggers in a healthy manner, remember to pace yourself so you don’t burn out before the 3rd week of January, and take things one day at a time.
A bonus to physical activity is that when you exercise, dopamine is released in your brain and blood stream. (Dopamine is a natural anti-depressant that gets released, causing a healthy buzz and rush of energy. It’s like a built-in happy pill that doesn’t make you gain weight and doesn’t come with harsh side effects).
Depressed or not, who doesn’t want a free healthy buzz?