I am not a garbage can. And, yet, I have been filling myself with garbage for months – both literally and figuratively. I am left to wonder, now, if this influx of trash isn’t at least partially responsible for the downturn my mood has taken; for the depression that has left me often apathetic about my health and wellbeing and the world as a whole. I have often heard it said “garbage in, garbage out,” usually in reference to nutritional intake and I believe that to be true in every aspect. Furthermore, I have been consuming more and more garbage as time has gone on.
At the gradual onset of my dejection months ago, I failed to make the connection between what I was consuming in a figurative manner and my mood. At that point, I was eating healthfully and exercising and blaming my emotional state on a lack of progress in my weight loss journey. Now; however, having had time to reflect, I realize my emotions shifted sooner and in response to something totally different: the way I was feeding my environment.
Every day we go into the world and are exposed to a barrage of information: news media, social media, water-cooler conversations in the workplace, etc. and every day we choose what we let in, which conversations we will participate in and how. Being positive, spreading a positive message is important to me – being kind, empathetic and compassionate is who I choose to be, how I choose to participate in the world. Without going off the political deep-end, I will say that maintaining a positive attitude has grown more difficult as the Presidential election has progressed. As a person who describes her political views (and spiritual ones, for that matter) simply as, “be kind and take care of each other,” it has felt like there is no place for me and my type in the world anymore. Sheltering myself from messages of fear, anger and hatred became nearly impossible. Furthermore, I began to react to those messages with my own anger, my own negativity – I was actively engaged in consuming this garbage. Realizing this to some extent, I deactivated my Facebook account in May. While that helped, it did not stop me from continuing to consume this garbage through other sources.
In hindsight, it seems obvious – almost embarrassing how obvious it is – that the sadness I am feeling about the political, social and moral atmosphere of the world would, in turn, began to affect my weight loss efforts. That’s the thing about depression… it is all-encompassing. There is no aspect of your life that isn’t, at some point, going to be touched by it. As heavyheartedness consumed my emotional state, I have struggled to care about anything. Eventually, I stopped caring about weight loss, about healthy eating, about exercise. Now I wasn’t just consuming garbage in my heart and mind; I was consuming it in my body, veering away from our healthy eating habits, calorie counting and meal planning and, instead, indulging in processed foods and frequent sugary espresso drinks. And my weight has begun to creep back up.
Yesterday, after weeks of furiously dropping my two cents on news story comments sections, plunking down each night for a daily dose of The Daily Show and tweeting a hailstorm of remarks pertaining to last week’s debate, I realized that I am not just consuming garbage – I am bingeing on it. My faith in humanity is nearly gone, the only hope I have for the future involves a plan to disappear into the mountains and live off-the-grid. This garbage can is overflowing. It is time I realize that I am not a garbage can.
I will not fill myself with garbage anymore. From this point on, I am focusing not on weight loss or numbers on a scale, numbers on a nutritional label. I am focusing not on negativity in my environment, on hateful or demeaning political candidates and their voters. I am focusing on only the good stuff. We are switching from calorie-specific meal plans to a simpler, more organic and natural way of eating. We will eat balanced and nutritious meals comprised of healthful, whole and organic foods – not processed, packaged convenience foods. We will eat healthy portions, eating until we aren’t hungry rather than eating until we are full. I am changing the way I communicate on Twitter, unfollowing users posting political messages on Instagram and switching from traditional news sites to those focused on reporting good, uplifting and inspiring news stories. We will exercise to feel good, to feel strong and energized but will not mentally flog ourselves when we have an off-day or take a day to rest. There will probably come a day in the future when I return to my calorie-restrictive meal planning and my hardcore workout plans but, for now, I have to focus on getting well in my head, my heart and my body. I have to take the pressure off myself, alleviate the demands of a confining dietary regimen, be gentler with myself regarding my performance and expectations. No more negative garbage coming from my foods, my environment or my own mind. I am not a garbage can.