Tag Archives: depression

Facing Up To Your Body

This is my first non-food related post. Partly because I haven’t cooked anything interesting worth posting (e.g. omelettes, fried fish w/ veg), although I’ve been eating paleo, and partly because I haven’t been cooking anything interesting because of my depression.

I’ve suffered from depression for over 15 years now. Probably clinical depression for around a decade. The episodes come and go, sometimes sinking down to severe. My latest dip has been going on since August. It suddenly hit me when the weather in the UK went from heat-wave summer temperature to cold fall air.

The only way I can describe it to someone is to have them imagine the physical symptoms they experience when they are really, really upset and stressed about something – heart ache (literally), stomach cramps, shoulder ache, heaviness in the body, eternal sadness which sits in the stomach. Imagine having that follow you around, 24/7, for no particular reason – at least none that you can see. Because there is no perceptible reason, you can’t seem to fix it. You are always in a state of both chronic emotional and physical pain.

Now there could be a whole host of factors why this is occurring. A genetic predisposition to low serotonin levels, there actually being some sort of a reason but I don’t see it, and so forth. However what I do know is that this is having a serious toll on my body and I need to somehow tackle that.

I started yoga last week and immediately connected with it. For months I’ve known that yoga was what I needed but didn’t have the courage to plunge into a new class in the gym. I’d done yoga several times before in the past, and whilst it always was refreshing, I never really ‘connected’ with it to the extent that I felt like I wanted to make it a proper practice. Something has changed now, and I know it’s exactly what I need and I’m hungry for more.

Why do I love yoga so much? Well it’s a spiritual practice rooted in thousands of years of history. I’ve chewed my way through various spiritual texts, but have failed to implement a proper practice in my life. After a week and a half of yoga, I’ve noticed subtle things like how you need to clear and quieten your mind in order to balance properly.  There is no ego in yoga – no wanting to outshine the person next to you, no exerting yourself to exhaustion. You just do the movement to where you feel comfortable and enjoy the moment. It also leads to a meditative awareness of the body. I have misaligned hips, and am mentally aware of this, but I don’t really feel it in my body. I only become physically aware of it when I overexert myself and nerve pain shoots through my leg. With yoga I constantly feel the imbalance in every movement – one side of my body tends to be considerably stiffer than the other because my body is trying to compensate for the misalignment I have in my hips. I also have become aware of the way I stand – I tend to balance on the outside of my feet. I feel very grounded at the end of the class.

I had an epiphany yesterday. The reasons regarding why I continue to do high impact cardio like body combat and zumba despite the fact that a) I am physically and mentally exhausted to an unhealthy level afterwards b) something doesn’t feel ‘right’, e.g. body combat class promotes aggression, was because sweating really helps me. I feel like I wet cloth being wringed out of all the bad stuff in my body. The swelling in my face disappears. I thought this was the only reason why I didn’t quit these exercises despite the fact that I knew very strongly that I should. But as I was talking to the yoga teacher about this I heard myself say to her ‘I don’t want to quit because I am scared of gaining weight’, and realised there was a deeper reason in there that I wasn’t consciously aware of till that moment. It then dawned on me that at the end of the day I was attached to these exercises. Attached because of I didn’t want to let go of exercises I’d been doing for pretty much a decade, attached to the ideal of being physically fit,  and attached to the endorphin-high.

I guess now with this awareness, I can slowly start the process of letting go.

Yesterday I went to a Qi Gong (Kikou in Japanese) class. For two hours we went through a string of seemingly simple movements that in practice are very difficult to get right – I guess akin to yogis saying that the ‘dead man’s pose’ i.e. lying down still is the hardest pose of them all. Through the movements I *really* felt this time exactly how bad my posture is and the effect it is subsequently having on my body. My shoulders are chronically stiff, and my back is arched unhealthily. More so now probably because of my depression.

The teacher slowly showed me how my back should be aligned, and it’s a far cry from how I usually hold myself. But after he made a few adjustments – voila suddenly I felt a huge release in my spine and it was telling me loud and clear : THIS IS HOW YOU ARE SUPPOSED TO STAND. This is another moment where understanding of my slumped posture – I know very well that it’s awful – transformed into an actual physical awareness of it. I’ve learnt how to superficially and probably unhealthily cover this up in dance class, but you can’t hide anything in yoga or qi gong class. You have to honestly face yourself.

One final epiphany this week has been the concept of total acceptance of the moment. Starting with meditation – I started a course this week. In the past when meditating I’d always inhibit my thoughts to create quiet, rather than let them naturally come and go. I don’t think this is healthy – especially as I’m starting to sense that perhaps the roots of my depression may lie in my unhealthy suppression of thoughts and emotions. Besides, how do we know what state we’re supposed to be in if we haven’t experienced it? The only thing you can do is to accept the present as openly and consciously as possible.

I felt the same with Qi Gong. Because I am very sensitive to energy (I’ll explain in another post), I can manipulate energy, or ki, or Qi, in my body. So whenever I went to qi gong classes in the past I would do this, thinking that unless I felt swirls of energy increasing in vibration in my body I was doing something wrong. But doing the simplistic exercises yesterday, at some points I thought ‘do I need to start manipulating energy?’ but then I thought, ‘but how do I know what I am supposed to be manipulating?’. I realised that for now, focusing just on these movements, in the present, in enough. I will move in the direction I need to be heading naturally. I guess this is why spiritual masters used to teach exercises to their students without telling them why they were doing what they were doing – the epiphany would come eventually, but it would come from within.

So on that note I’m off for some more present-moment focus in a yoga class.



Early morning yoga in the park.

Bye Bye Sugar

I’m having a binge eating problem and it’s probably psychosomatic. When I say ‘binge eating’ the worst that it’s gotten is that I’ve eaten two bars of chocolate and a cookie all at once, but all day every day I’m constantly suffering from the need to put something in my mouth even though I’m not hungry.  It’s very uncomfortable and frustrating.

While I’m trying to find out the root of this problem I need a combat, or at least a coping, strategy. I’m guessing meditation will help calm the restlessness I’m constantly feeling, so I’ll try that every day (and I’m starting a meditation course next week).

When I binge, I have managed so far to resist the urge to binge on carbs despite there being two huge bags of corn chips and popcorn in the cupboard. But As mentioned by the chocolate binge earlier, I let myself snack on sugar. Does it help? Only during the 20 secs that I’m actually eating the chocolate.

So, like with the paleo diet, I am declaring that for a month from this day on (till Oct 8th) I will cut sugar from my diet, including chocolate. When I say cut ‘sugar’, I am referring to processed sugar. I will stick to fruits for now. I hate the fact that I’m cutting my no 1 comfort food, but I also know it’s my ‘favourite’ because I’m just addicted to it when I have problems. When I’m back in Japan, surrounded by family and happy I hardly need to eat chocolate. In fact, I don’t really want it.

Besides, numbing pain isn’t a solution.

I’ve also been constantly entertaining the idea of a juice fast. My stomach irritation/serotonin deficiency syndrome has gotten a lot milder on the paleo diet, and my allergies have virtually disappeared, but it’s not enough. My gut feeling (this joke is going to get old) is that my whole digestive track just needs a big break so the chronic irritation can stop. I think this month is the best time to do it because I don’t have intense work. I’ll start off with a one-day juice fast and will extend it if I feel a bit better (though I hear three days are necessary to really feel the effects). I’ll say here when I’ll be going on a juice fast, probably sometime this week, so stay tuned.

I’m not doing it today for the simple and childish reason that I desperately want to try to make 1) Butternut Squash Cookies and 2) Butternut Squash Flatbread (can you tell that I have a carb-binge eating craving?).

Making changes slowly so I don’t crash….

Stay tuned!




The Nuts and Seeds Issue.

Last night, I felt positively awful. I had a depression episode, and to top it off my binge eating tendencies came back. This continued in the morning and the afternoon – if anything I felt worse today. I managed to drag myself to the gym, but it was tough.

My strong gut instinct was that it was all of the nuts and seeds I consumed yesterday. Nuts contain an anti-nutrient called phytic acid. This is indigestible, and worse, binds to essential nutrients such as zinc and iron. If you soak nuts and seeds you can remove this phytic acid. In the past I used to eat a cereal consisting of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds and had no issues, but I always soaked them overnight. I ate the seeds yesterday without soaking them, and this could have significantly irritated my gut, leading to IBS, leading to depression.

Incidentally, in the past I also developed awful IBS when I started using almond flour. I discovered today that almonds are super high in phytic acid. Again, evidence that it could be a prime culprit for depression.

Today I had brown bags under my eyes – evidence that my body wasn’t getting enough nutrients. Another piece of the puzzle that makes sense.

I resisted the urge to binge on ramen, and decided to go super duper healthy and to attempt to get as many nutrients as I could in my body. I decided to take a half raw half paleo approach today. I’ll save the pros and cons of the raw diet for another post, but it’s clear that eating lots and lots of fresh vegs couldn’t hurt at all.

Lunch: Gazpacho + Over-Roasted Salmon


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Gazpacho: Blend chopped tomatos, cucumber, bell pepper, onion, garlic and a bit of apple vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste/

Oven-roasted Salmon: Salmon w/ asparagus, mushrooms and spinach, soy sauce and butter to taste.

Dinner:  Thai Salad + Thai Fish Curry

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Thai Salad: I got the recipe from the Raw Chef’s cookbook. So far, all of his recipes are pure alchemy, it blows my mind how he comes up with the flavours he does. This one is a great dish as it has *so* many vegetables and herbs in it: courgettes, peppers, cucumbers, basil, mint, spinach, spouts….basically anything green you can bung in there. The dressing is made out of tahini, lime, garlic, ginger, tamari, and agave nectar. As the tahini in my cupboard was dangerously out of date (read: six years old) I made my own from scratch. I know I used sesame seeds but I thought a bit on dressing shouldn’t irritate my gut too much. I also garnished the salad with some roasted butternut squash seeds as I used butternut squash for the curry. I soaked them for an hour before roasting them.

Thai Fish Curry: Standard. Green curry paste, coconut milk, kale, mushrooms, onions, cod, butternut squash.

I had a very, very satisfying meal. We’ll see how I feel tomorrow.

Although…. I have a confession, because I had coconut milk left over I made chia seed pudding out of it. A quick skim on the internet said that if they’re soaked their fine, but after consuming them and reading further it doesn’t seem to be good for people with IBS, so I may have counteracted my dinner by having this dessert. Ah well. I’m hoping the ridiculous amounts of veggies I consumed today will help.

Oh, and don’t mistake ‘cumin’ for ‘cinnamon’ when making dessert. Doesn’t make for a good flavour….

Peace out.