I grew up pretty happy-go-lucky.
I love my family, and felt strong and healthy, surrounded by those smart, funny, caring people. We played outside a lot, had enough of the basics, and every few year our cats had kittens…this was the 80’s so fixing your pets wasn’t so popular in rural Oregon.
On the back porch with my big brother Brendan
Every vacation and holiday was spent bundled in the car driving to celebrate with aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Games, laughter, and witty verbal acrobatics were served alongside massive meals.
Yet my family, like most, had a dark side.
Depression, anxiety, addiction, and self-medication litter the family tree like plastic bags stuck in its branches.
My mother’s sister and father both committed suicide, using prescription medications, within a few years of each other when I was very young. It devastated the family, especially my mom.
Other family members have struggled with drug addiction, depression, and anxiety over the years, but I thought I’d dodged the bullet.
Along with my dad’s blonde hair, I thought I’d inherited his family’s calm, steady strength. Then I hit my first health crisis at the age of 25.
Along with near-constant migraine headaches, digestive troubles, painful periods, and a 20 pound weight gain, I felt depressed, foggy, and disconnected from the vitality of my youth.
Coke, vanilla lattes, Peanut M&Ms, and Ben & Jerry’s Super Fudge Chunk were my cravings of choice, the sugar and caffeine pulling me through long days at an office job I hated.
If you’ve ever suffered through chronic depression, or even a short window of the blues, you know the pain, frustration, hopelessness, and fear that walks with it, hand in hand. Dreams seem impossible, or are just forgotten. Love and joy feel too far away, like distant, grey memories.
And because the body feels so bad, it often craves quick-fix bandaids like sugar, sex, coffee, smoking, gambling, or shopping.
Food, especially sugar and caffeine, became my main source of energy and pleasure. But what I didn’t see then was that those cravings were a red flag that something was wrong.
The first doctor I visited for the near-daily migraines handed me two prescriptions after a few minutes in his office: Prozac and painkillers.
The fear and pain of my family’s history with addiction and suicide came rushing back as I left his office, popping another handful of Advil. I knew I didn’t want to start taking those drugs, even if they meant temporary relief.
I had seen, first hand, the possible future that comes with becoming dependant on these drugs.
I knew there had to be another way.
And I found it…
What I discovered was a growing world of authentic healing, alternative doctors, and functional nutrition that not only healed my depression, brain fog, headaches, and weight gain, it became my passion.
I studied at the world-famous Natural Gourmet Institute, to learn how to cook healing foods. I dove into deeper emotional education at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. And I’ve gone further into the brain science with a 6-month Certification in Applied Positive Psychology (Emiliya Zhivotovskaya, the founder of the CAPP program was a past Crave Cast guest – listen to our interview here:)…
In order to get out from under the cloud of exhaustion, brain fog, depression, and physical pain of the migraines, I had to learn what my body and brain really needed, what my cravings were really asking for, and heal my sugar and caffeine addictions.
I’m NOT anti-sugar, nor do I believe any food is evil… (except high-fructose corn syrup – we should all avoid that 100%)
Now I have a very different relationship with sugar and caffeine. I sometimes enjoy them, but mostly avoid them. I feel when it’s ok to have those foods when I’m craving them – especially if I want to enjoy a celebration with my family or friends or have a seasonal treat.
And, most importantly, I feel when my body is really craving some deeper kind of healing. I feel like I want sugar, when what “she” really needs is a friend to connect with. You may crave caffeine when what your body really needs is a new sleep hygiene strategy and more soothing, joyful movement. I know when my bacterial balance is off, because I’m also having bloating, a zit or two, and brain fog.
The beauty is, science confirms everything it took me years to put together on my own: what you eat can cause or heal your depression. I detailed a lot of the journey in my latest book, Women, Food, And Desire, but there’s more science just coming out.
Today on the podcast, I interview Kelly Brogan, MD, author of A Mind of Your Own: The Truth About Depression and How Women Can Heal Their Bodies to Reclaim Their Lives. Kelly studied cognitive neuroscience at MIT before receiving her MD from Weill Cornell Medical College. Board certified in psychiatry, psychosomatic medicine, and integrative holistic medicine, she is one of the only doctors in the nation with these qualifications.
This book and her recommendations (which line up perfectly with my Cravings Cleanse + Mindset Makeover program) have truly changed people’s lives: her readers are healing their depression, anxiety, and the vague family of mood symptoms that so many of us suffer from.
Links and Resources Mentioned:
A Mind of your Own – Kelly Brogan
Anatomy of an Epidemic – Robert Whitaker