Depression and paleo vs. crap: cheating?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created February 22, 2013 at 12:56 PM

I'd like to know how much cheating on your diet you guys can afford, without feeling like shit.

Let me elaborate. I've been yo-yo ing between a sort-of-paleo diet and crap diet for the last few years. I tried sort-of-paleo to see wether this influences my severe depression and mood swings. It helped, I felt more balanced, less anxious and overall a bigger sense I can handle life. I don't know really though why that is. I'd really like to isolate which food is the problem for me.

Now, when I've done that for a while, what follows is the sense that I don't want to limit myself, I want to be free, and therefore, I want one ... (fill in your favorite cheat food). This snowballs in eating a complete crap diet in a few weeks, which stays in playce for three months, until I get so fed up with feeling like shit that I want to change my eating habits for the better. That's where I am now.

So I'd love to hear your stories and ideas about how much cheating you can get away with mood wise (for the people who eat paleo for this reason). Of course this is generalised as it may depend on the food, the person, the sensitiviies - but I'd love to hear as much stories as possible to get a better understanding of what's going on with me.



on March 09, 2013
at 09:54 PM

I second Travis' sentiments... I've been strictly gluten free for a couple of years now, and even still I get my bouts of depression. I notice a huge improvement from 10k iu vitamin D in the morning and a full tablespoon of Natural Calm before bed, for a few days.

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on March 09, 2013
at 07:29 PM

You might find relief from depression with vitamin D, magnesium glycinate and vitamin A. Something to consider.

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8 Answers



on March 09, 2013
at 07:25 PM

This is my interview with a bipolar patient who found health via the Paleo-ketogenic diet. Hopefully, her life story will help you stay on course. http://eugenia.queru.com/2013/03/07/interview-wheat-was-the-culprit-in-my-bipolar-disorder/



on February 22, 2013
at 02:58 PM

The best thing you can do for yourself is get your yo-yo dieting under control. Diet swings, like mood swings, are evidence that you are indeed depressed or have some other condition going on.

Cheating? No, cheating (by definition) gets you to a goal quicker (and it's implied that usually rules are being violated). This is going to hurt, but I'll just lay it out there: you aren't cheating you are simply not actually on a stable diet (that's a kind way to say you are failing, technically).

Everyday, just try to make it through the day. Many of us here have overcome issues around diet, mental, emotional, an physical. You can do this - you've made it through stretches at a time being paleo, right? Everyday, just do it for one more day. Do not allow yourself to fall off the wagon -- you don't have to punish yourself or be overly strict, but you need to make the choices that are healthy and allow yourself to continue making them.

Good luck!


on February 22, 2013
at 02:40 PM

I feel it is an upward positive spiral the tighter your diet is over time and the more of a negative downward spiral it is the more you cheat. Like almost a constantly moving baseline. I find the tighter my diet is the better my workouts are, better my sleep, better my overall energy levels, better my food choices are, and I feel mentally sharper. Even my naps seem better when I can squeeze one in. If I have a cheat meal or even have a cheat day off with a few non-paleo meals I am just off. Can't push as hard in the gym, sleep sucks, I just don't feel 100%, and I will also sometimes crave more cheat meals. Now I'm not talking sneaking something small like half a cookie your kids made or having a beer or 2, which don't seem to impact me that much, but rather say a full pasta dinner as an example. Obviously if that half a cookie becomes 5 cookies or that beer becomes 6 malty and heavy IPAs that is completely different.

You have to run a balance between goals, lifestyle, health, current metabolic condition, etc.

Now that all said, I think there is a mental part of this you have to think through and plan. It seems some people get down on themselves if they cheat and get the attitude of "well I already had that brownie and blew the day anyway so I am just going to eat whatever I want." Obviously no cheating is best, but if you must or if you do cheat you should set up some rules for yourself. Are you going to do one or 2 cheat meals a week? One full cheat day (too much IMO)? No cheat days at all? Set your own expectations so you have structure and don't slide into throwing the towel in and coming of the rails if you slip up. When and if you cheat outside of said structure I think you have to accept it, even enjoy it, put it behind you, and move forward. Don't stress about it but you MUST be honest with yourself relative to how often you cheat. People will bring in cookies to work (because they don't want to eat them at home usually) and I'll watch the same people go by and grab 1/4 of a cookie again and again when walking by. Just keep in mind 4 quarters of a cookie is still a whole cookie if you get what I'm saying.

Strive for progress within your own goals and lifestyle and not perfection.



on February 22, 2013
at 05:04 PM

I cheat about 2 meals a week (different days). This will consistent of a couple of slices of bread and dessert (cookies). Sometimes I get bloated as a result, othertimes it's quick. Eating more carbs gives me cravings so I have to have more discipline after those meals. I have a strong stomach in general, but started eating low carb to remove cravings and lose some weight. The cheat meals probably slow things down, but I'm comfortable with the results so far - losing about a lb a week. I have more energy, less bloat, less anxiety.



on February 22, 2013
at 01:04 PM

This is probably the answer you where dreading but i feel best when i am strictest, this multplies the longer i have done it. I can feel any 'cheat' for a few days, the most i ever cheat now is with some dark chocolate though, which has little effect.

In short, the better you eat the better you feel, if you do not feel good while eating very clean you may be doing it wrong (well 'wrong' for you) e.g. eating lots of healthy free range/ organic eggs only to later discover you are highly reactive to them or, and i might get pitchforked for this, you do not eat enough carbs.

That is my experience anyway.


on March 10, 2013
at 12:18 AM

I can definitely say that, for me, the more I cheat, the worse I feel - mentally, especially. When I first started dieting (pre-paleo), I was doing serious binge sessions at least once a week to try and suppress those cravings. The irony is, that aggravates your body or psyche (or at least mine, anyway) to want that even more. So how does this have anything to do with anything?

Well, the only thing that worked for me was not allowing myself to binge, or even consider the thought of having that "cheat" food. I would deliberately not go to a certain grocery store because of the fact that they had a certain peanut butter there that I couldn't help but buy and would subsequently binge on the whole thing in about 5 minutes. Now, I make a very unapologetic list and don't waver from it, because I know I'll set myself up for failure if I do.

My food choices are a lot more boring, maybe, but I feel like I enjoy what I eat, and I feel grateful for what I do have, instead of constantly giving into the desire of wanting something that isn't optimal for my body. I try to look at what positive the food I am eating gives me, instead of glorifying the taste of something that will be detrimental to my health. I feel like all of this, overall, gives me a more holistic approach to health in general.

TL;DR - I allow myself zero room in the crap food arena, because if I want one thing, it turns into fifty. As they say in the song I Second That Emotion, "A taste of honey is worse than none at all."



on February 22, 2013
at 05:05 PM

It's probably not a case of one food being the culprit. It's all the processed foods together which are probably affecting you. Even if you could narrow it down to one food, would you continue to eat other crap just because it doesn't affect your mood swings? I would just try to eat as well as you can and the longer you do it, the better you'll feel and you won't want to go back to eating crap. I wish you luck. :)


on March 09, 2013
at 08:45 PM

I do really well with strict rules/guidelines. I've been paleo for a little over a year and I know that when I'm less strict, it's a slippery slope. I'm doing my second Whole 30 right now and I find that knowing I'm not allowed certain things, I don't cheat with them. It's the gray areas that get me into trouble (dark chocolate with almond butter?!)when I'm not following the whole 30. So, I've set rules for myself that I stick to. If I am going to have a cheat, it is planned in advance. I allow myself certain things like 2 squares of dark chocolate with a TBL almond butter on my workout days or a (largish) glass of wine. I know this scheduling might make someone else nuts, but for me it is planned indulgence that makes me feel satisfied and not deprived. I have a tendency to feel entitled at times because I feel like I've worked so hard ("I went to the gym 4x this week, I can have _"). I have to remind myself that I'm only sabotaging my efforts and making myself feel sick with that attitude. If you do find yourself in that trap and you eat a bunch of crap, try to think of getting back on track during your next meal or the following day. Eating junk shouldn't ruin your whole day, week or month.

If you want to be able to plan a cheat or find out what makes you feel good and what doesn't, I'd recommend doing a Whole 30 and then slowly add back the foods that are least likely to make you feel crappy. Also, if you're interested in doing this for the long haul, you will have plenty of time to tweak and experiment. That's something I have to continually remind myself. I have found that mental health-wise, I feel really crappy when I have gluten, sugar, and corn. I'm probably okay with natural sugars, but that only because it's harder to over-indulge. Now, if M&Ms were made with honey, I might have a serious problem. good luck to you!

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