How to Eat When Depressed and Anxious

Jason Weiland

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Are you “blessed” with the double whammy of anxiety and depression? Do you often have an upset stomach? Are there times when you can’t even bring yourself to eat? Are you confused about what you should eat or if you should eat at all?

If you search the internet, you can get a lot of advice about food and what to eat. Most of the time though, if you are anxious or depressed, you aren’t very happy about eating anything at all.

I’m not a doctor, let’s get that straight from the beginning. But I have something even better than advice from a book: experience. Among other things, I have suffered from both depression and anxiety for most of my life. As a bonus, my stomach is very sensitive to the foods I eat.

I get sick to my stomach and nauseated all the time.

You can do one of two things if you aren’t well. You can skip a meal, which contrary to popular belief, will not kill you. I’ve done intermittent fasting with good results. But if you have depression and anxiety, you should eat something, which is the second choice.

We always feel better when we get some nutrition in our bodies. Notice, I don’t say eat, because I’m not suggesting you eat a pizza or a bag of burgers. You need to get some protein, good fat, and vitamins from fruit and vegetables.

Period.

What should I eat?

There was a very good article on Skillet, which is part of Lifehacker.com. It is by A. A. Newton, and it’s called, “How to Feed Yourself When You Are Depressed.” I read the whole thing twice, and you should do the same. Right now. I’ll wait.

She breaks down different things to eat based on how depressed you are feeling, which is a marvelous idea. We are going to do something similar.

When you read, you will notice I talk about preparation. Doing a few things in advance of feeling like the world is ending will help. Take note as you read and pick up a few things at the store beforehand.

If You Are Malignantly Depressed and Anxious

If you are in the worst possible place and feel like you can’t go on anymore, put the idea in your head that you need to eat. Doing something you normally do every day will take your mind off the pain, if even for a moment. And, the nutrition may be what you need.

The last thing you are going to want to do is to cook something. Even making instant oatmeal may be a challenge. This is where preparation comes in.

What you need right now is to get a little good fat in your body. Nuts are great for this, as are avocados. Have a handful of almonds or walnuts and eat an avocado half. Grab a spoon and dig in! Eat slowly and concentrate on the food, not on how you are feeling. I’ve never eaten nuts or avocados and been sick afterward.

Don’t drink anything with sugar or caffeine. Caffeine especially may aggravate your anxiety. Drink a little green tea. If you want it sweet, add a little honey. If you can prepare it in advance, cold-brewed green tea is a great alternative.

Alternatives: Olives, a can of tuna, dark chocolate, hard-boiled egg, or rice with butter.

If You Are More Depressed than Anxious

I’ve found that if I eat something high in protein, I always feel better. Chicken, beef, fish, tofu, and pork are all good choices. Add a little raw vegetable or fruit to get some variety.

Try to avoid fried or greasy because any oily food may put you on the toilet for hours. Bad fats are not at all good for you anyway, so avoid them if you can.

Again, drink green tea for the many benefits. But a little coffee maybe the pick-me-up you need.

Alternatives: Natural nut butter, cheese, cottage cheese, natural beef jerky, and sardines.

If You Are More Anxious Than Depressed

This stage is where I have to be careful. When I am anxious, my stomach will resist anything I put into it. I get diarrhea, nausea, and cramps.

Soup is a lifesaver. Nothing too fancy, just some broth or noodle-based soups. Prepare a simple soup that consists of either beef, chicken, or pork. Add your favorite vegetables and a few bouillon cubes.

I like to eat it over rice.

If you have a better-behaved stomach, you can eat some of the same good fats and proteins that you would eat when depressed. Get as much healthy food as you can stomach, but don’t over-eat. You will feel better if you aren’t stuffed like a pig in slop.

Alternatives: Ramen, noodles with butter, rice with butter or soy sauce, oatmeal, or an egg sandwich (whole-wheat bread).

If You Are Mildly Depressed and Anxious

This stage is where you may spend most of your time. The periods where you feel terrible don’t last forever. When you feel better, you should indulge. While this is also a good time to eat a whole lot of healthy food, celebrate a little, and have a burger once in a while. Eat some cheesecake, it makes everything better!

Vitamins are your friend

Depending on which study you read, vitamins are either worthless or the best thing ever. Spend some time reading and always talk to your doctor. If you are taking medication, your body may be low on essential vitamins.

You decide.

After I eat, I always take some vitamin C and B complex. I wouldn’t suggest taking them on an empty stomach if your stomach gets upset like mine.

You may already get the recommended amount from what you eat. But a little more of those two vitamins has been great at boosting me up when I need it.

Final Words

Some say to eat carbs, while I say eat fat and protein. The best thing is doing what works for you. I am offering these options because it’s what I like and it’s helped me in the past.

You may be completely different. Experiment.

If you get one thing from this article, I hope it’s to prepare. Keep the foods you like available in your house. If you feel a bad spell coming on, make up some food in advance and keep it in the refrigerator. Don’t wait until you are in a very bad place, because you won’t do what’s best for yourself in the food department.

I hope this helps at least one person who is in the same situation I face every day.

What do you eat when depressed and anxious?

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Writer and advocate interested in mental health, health, family, culture, creativity, and success.

Los Angeles, CA
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