Apologies for the uber-long question, but I think this is an important issue.
I've been meaning to post this for a while and have finally gotten my thoughts together, inspired by this thread: http://paleohacks.com/questions/125628/mental-physical#axzz1x7h0c7Hc
Koiron kind of beat me to it, but my question is different enough that I'm making a separate one.
I???ve heard it said that ???you can???t outrun a bad diet.??? (Meaning no matter how much you work out, if you???re eating crap, it is gonna catch up with you.) I???d love to hear your thoughts on ???you can???t out-Paleo a bum life.??? I can???t bring myself to say ???bad??? life, because all things considered, I have it pretty darn good. When (and only when) all other ducks are in a row (very clean diet, sleep, sunlight, etc), if someone isn???t seeing the results they think they should (improvement in either physique or mood/emotions), I???m wondering how much you think overall satisfaction with one???s life is a factor. It seems like I had better results across the board when I was just plain happier. How to get more satisfaction from one???s life is a separate issue, and one that everyone has to figure out for themselves. But I???m curious about your thoughts on the mind/body thing, and just how powerful it is or isn???t.
The background: A few years ago, my work/life situation was very different from how it is now. I loved my work, loved my schedule, and loved my coworkers. I worked noon to midnight (military deployment...long shift), which allowed me to sleep in and do fasted morning workouts, all of which was much more in tune with my own circadian rhythm than my current corporate, early morning city rat-race. My food quality out there was highly suspect, but I stuck pretty well to mostly protein and fat with lots of raw veggies and occasional fruit. (And some sinful treats here and there courtesy of care packages from those pesky Girl Scouts and people???s churches.) I was getting a lot of sunlight and probably walked 3-4 miles a day without even trying, on top of actual workouts. (When you have to walk to the latrine, chow hall, pretty much everywhere, the miles rack up easily.) I leaned out, got stronger, and was generally pretty darn happy and stress-free. (Yes, I know, a wacky scenario for someone in a war zone, but it's true! Although I must admit my experience there was very different from the guys whose lives were literally on the line every day and I'd be doing them a disservice by implying otherwise.) I looked and felt the best I ever have. Despite the food quality not being the best, the overall macros were where I needed them to be and I seemed to have found that mystical "sweet spot" with everything else.
Long story short, pretty much all the pieces fell into place.
Fast forward 4 years. My life is very different now. In all the ways that things were psychologically good out there, they???re piss poor now. Physically, things aren???t all that different. I???m a lot more sedentary now, but I still work out, get as much daylight as I can (which isn???t enough, sadly...trapped in a windowless dungeon at the Pentagon), and if anything, my food quality and overall diet are significantly better. BUT...my physique and emotional health have both taken turns for the worse. I haven???t put on 30 pounds and I???m not about jump onto the train tracks, but I really miss the energetic, fun, optimistic gal I was back then.
So I fully acknowledge that several things are different now, and they're probably all playing at least some role, but to be honest, I feel the biggest difference is that I was just plain happier then. Much happier. And my results were better.
I don't attribute things now to stress, because I don't feel particularly stressed or overburdened. If anything, I don't feel much at all. A total flatline. I don't think it's nutritional, because I think my diet is pretty darn good. I know myself pretty well (very quiet, lots of time for introspection!), and I really believe my complete apathy and low moods are due to spending all day every day in a job and a place that I loathe, with zero fulfillment and sense of self-worth. (Working on a career change...master's in a completely different field expected in Aug. And between work and school, I don't have time for many outside things that might give me a boost, like volunteering, getting involved in the community, etc.) I'm not saying one's career is the only thing affecting happiness, but it's a biggie when you spend 55 hours a week at work & commuting.
Sorry - not trying to whine at all. Not looking for suggestions or sympathy. Just wondering what people's thoughts are on whether it's possible to have great results on Paleo when your mind and heart aren't in a good place. I'm not even talking specifics like stress or depression affecting digestion/immunity. I mean overall really getting into a good groove -- will the physical inputs of Paleo only take you so far?
And for anyone who's experiencing low mood - whether it's full-on depression or just a bad a funk or case of "the blahs," how many of you can point to it being due to diet, vs. a troubling life situation, vs. having every reason to be happy and healthy yet you're still trapped in darkness? (This is probably a completely separate issue on its own. I'm curious about the people who post about depression. In my case, I know very clearly why I'm depressed. Not a whole ton I can do about it at the moment, but I'm doing what I can. I wonder how many people feel like their lives are great but somehow can't sustain an optimistic/positive outlook, with no discernible cause like low vit D or n-3.)
Again, sorry for writing a novel. Aaah, catharsis...
asked byAmy_B_ (8014)
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on June 07, 2012
at 06:44 PM
It's like you went from free-range to feedlot!
I, too, struggle with depression about my job and the things that it requires of me (a LOT of driving, mostly). In addition to the personal frustrations of spending several hours a day in/as traffic, I feel guilty about how my job affects the city I live in and the environment, and I cannot help but feel angry sometimes that this is the accepted norm. I have come to see it as unreasonable (and even unethical) to do what I do since really digging into paleo, but haven't yet found the courage to just quit doing it and start from scratch.
What I have done (and what you are doing, too) is to start making a plan to do something different. Asking myself how I can make my work both valuable to my clients and myself without feeling like a sack of turds, both because I am wasting resources unnecessarily and because I am wasting time that could be spent doing other, more valuable things. And that takes some time.
My good diet keeps me sane. It keeps me from food addiction and from unnecessary medication. It keeps me from feeling hopeless and powerless to change myself and to change my circumstances. Now, maybe that's not "paleo", but it is a way to seek simplification and personal responsibility and community and well-being, which ARE paleo, in my mind.
If dissatisfaction has allowed you to question you path (because you've ruled out diet and you understand why you are depressed), it has been valuable!
on June 07, 2012
at 08:20 PM
I think that part of the question at hand is "Should happiness be an "all the time" thing?" Honestly, I don't think that it should. I think that it's really a matter of how we look at things.
Every day, we make decisions about what our future is going to look like. For you, you decided that, after your situation changed significantly, you were going to push for MORE change, to bring things back to a state where you were more satisfied with your day-to-day life. Of course, when we're pushing and pulling against the Universe, things are in a lot of upheaval, and often, we 'manage' this upheaval with either withdrawal (that sense of being disconnected and not really feeling anything) or with resistance (anger, frustration, stress, anxiety). These are all normal, transient stages as our life moves from one thing to another.
In terms of our progress in health, no, we're not going to progress at the same speed when our metaphysical being (which is comprised of the physical being, plus all of the electrical impulses generated by our emotions, thoughts, etc.) is already being pushed to its boundaries in one area -- progress elsewhere is bound to slow down, stop, or even move backwards a bit. The thing is, if we retain the habits that prevent further damage to our physical selves while we're struggling with metaphysical issues, it reduces the distance we'll have to recover when the metaphysical self re-balances itself. So while we may not make leaps and bounds in terms of progress, every little bit that we do, to the extent that we're able without further stressing the boundaries of our overall metaphysical capacity, is helping us to sustain our health through the less-than-stellar parts of our lives.
And even then, an Oreo, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, or Girl Scout cookie may provide that rare metaphysical boost that occasionally just brings a little sunshine into an otherwise bleak day. For me, the decision to live essentially primally was one that I underwent to get a better quality of life for myself -- so that is the first thing I examine when I'm looking for success -- has my n=1 resulted in a more satisfactory life? -- So I don't seek perfection... instead, I look with a positive frame of mind at how every decision I've made and every encounter/experience I've undertaken has shaped the path to lead me to the life that I now live... and from there, I look and see where I can "plant a flower" so to speak, to beautify the existence I'm living. Primal living is part of that beautification for me, and whether or not I experience physical success at any given moment, as long as I can see that metaphysical success and ongoing progress, and as long as I can see that I am actually continuing to move towards my goal, I consider myself doing well, regardless of my current circumstance.
I hope this made sense -- sorry if it started to ramble a bit.
on June 07, 2012
at 06:06 PM
Clearly what you eat is only one component in a whole array of things that make for a healthy life. Your satisfaction with what you are doing with your days will have an impact on your physical well-being and health. As I've said elsewhere on PH, it doesn't make much sense to separate mental health from physical health, they are definitely connected, as we already know through the stress hormones like cortisol.
Your post is interesting because it strikes me as a sort of n=1 for activity (as opposed to food) ... you have pinpointed the things that satisfy you in day-to-day life. Now the challenge will be to find yourself a job or place where you can make them happen. I'm sure you can do it. have faith in yourself! You sound like an eminently capable person.
on June 07, 2012
at 05:18 PM
I think I wouldn't look at it as happiness is a way to drive paleo success, but paleo success is a way to drive happiness. And, as you pointed out, it is just one of the many drivers of happiness.
I agree with you 100% on the job thing. It's not "paleo" to sit in an office all day doing something from which you rarely if ever see the concrete real life impact. A job used to mean hunting/gathering food, building shelter, etc:
on June 07, 2012
at 06:34 PM
I think happiness is very very important. However, my question is - where does it come from? I think happiness is different for everyone.
There are many sources of happiness and they all are important. Think of it as if it is a diamond with many sides. If one side shines and another one is very dull, then ... it is still a diamond, but the quality is not the same.
Some people are happy when they go to clubs and listen to loud music. Not I.
I found that happiness for me personally is being around people I love. My friends and family make me happy.
Food is very important for me, just as another "side" of my happiness.
Being in nature makes me happy too. I love sunshine, but I love thunderstorms even more.
Being happy with my work is also a part of my overall happiness.
Being healthy and active is a huge part of my happiness.
What makes me unhappy - usually situations and other people. Situations I can always deal with - there are no dead ends. Other people - this is harder. I hate people who yell, scream and lie. I mean, I can take everything, but if somebody does it - that ruins my state of happiness for the whole entire day. And if I have to yell or reprimand someone - that also ruins my day. Fortunately, I don't have to do it too often.
I also believe that happy people live longer and are healthier.
Not sure if I answered your question, but at least I have tried.
on June 07, 2012
at 06:33 PM
I know that for me personally, when I'm not a in a good place mentally or emotionally, I tend to get bummed out about my diet. I start to resent paleo because in my head I'm thinking "I bet ice cream would really cheer me up right now." I've always had a hard time kicking the "eating when depressed" habit.
Meanwhile, if I'm in a good place in my life, I don't think about my diet at all. I eat when I'm hungry, and I couldn't care less what I'm eating, so paleo is effortless. I stick to the "food is fuel" concept when they rest of my life is going well.
I also find that I tend to gain weight no matter what I eat when I'm stressed or depressed, so it benefits me to find a way to keep myself upbeat. You should check out the book "The Charge: Activating the 10 Human Drives that Make You Feel Alive." It has a lot of helpful advice for keeping yourself upbeat and positive.
on June 07, 2012
at 06:05 PM
I think it's definitely a factor. I'm a month away from a visit to England to see my boyfriend, where I consider it my "2 weeks of happiness". All things considered, I have it pretty good over here, but my well-being just exponentially improves when I'm over there, and I see other improvements in my body (weight loss, etc) and mood that I struggle to see here.
I can simply pin it down to being happier there, where here I'm in a cycle of trying to keep occupied and killing time till my next visit. I'm not stressed, just neutral. My low mood is absolutely because of the life around me and things I really want to change, but can't (at this moment) for various reasons.
My overall goal is to move over there so it's not a long distance relationship anymore.
on June 07, 2012
at 07:11 PM
Completely agree with you - I'm in a similar boat and it's so miserable. I hate my job and I'm working myself to the bone trying to find a way out but all I get for it is huge shadows under my eyes and constant panic attacks. My diet is awesome (and I bike commute in Miami, so plenty of Vitamin D), but I never really feel healthy because I'm always dizzy and sore from stress/fatigue. I felt much better, physically speaking, on the SAD under better circumstances. I really don't think it's possible to have good health with diet alone (it's necessary but not sufficient). Your mind and body are too closely related.