Exercise, nutrition and depression part 3

Exercise, nutrition and depression Part 3

I submit part three to you on Oct 25, 2017 one year after someone I loved committed suicide. There are few people who I cared more for and loved more than him. Depression will lead people to take extreme actions. An extreme action I hope I never have to experience with a loved one again and I hope you never have to experience in your life time.

Life gets hard sometimes. We all deal with stress differently. Dealing with stress that came with separating from my wife I stopped eating healthy and working out was no longer a priority. Eventually I wasn’t sleeping enough and was eating out because of my living situation. Those two factors left my energy levels low and I stopped working out altogether. Cutting out the two things that had been helping me mitigate my depression made it difficult to get out of bed once again. My energy levels were low and my head was foggy. I was having a difficult time dealing with what typically was an easy task. An example would be writing a check and then mailing it off. Maybe I would write the check but it would take days for me to mail it. Something so simple was so difficult because I did not have the energy to walk 30 yards to the mail box. The fog in my head consumed so much. It made it extremely hard to work on my marriage and my faults in the marriage.  I was going to two counselors, one to help with my marriage and one to help me make sense of my actions. During these sessions is when both counselors stated I am battling depression. With my personal counselor I dived deeper into this issue. He wanted me to make my fitness more of a priority because of the effects it has but he also wanted me to go to the doctors to get a prescription for anti-depressants. My primary doctor had me take a test and she said I have depression. She prescribed anti-depressants. I did not want to take these pills at all. It is hard to see myself as a strong individual physically and mentally if I must rely on pills. The effects of the pills were noticeable and helped. The anti-depressants made me feel well rested and took some of the fog away.  Allowed me more focus on problems that I created, not problems depression created. With the help of anti-depressants, I must be mindful of what I am eating and that I am working out consistently, so I can better manage my depression. I know depression will always be there. I know I have some control over it. I know there will always be low days. I will have to navigate through those low days. Working out and making good decisions with what I put into my body will help me navigate those low days and minimize the duration of those low days.

Parts 1-3 I have discussed how my depression is better managed when I am eating right and consistently working out. If I am not doing both my depression can severely affect me. How simple tasks are difficult to complete. In part four I will talk about what research says regarding healthy eating, excercising and depression.

Exercise, nutrition and depression part 2

Exercise, nutrition and depression part 2

I want to talk briefly about the only time since I have been out of the military where consistently I felt clear in my head with no fog, had energy all the time and it wasn’t a fight to get out of bed.

It was time to get my ass in gear. I made a commitment to eat healthy and workout more consistently for 5 weeks. If I am going to be serious about what I put in my body I will use the Paleo guidelines to healthy eating. Eating paleo meant no processed food. For protein I kept to top sirloin, chicken, eggs. Carbs I only had red and sweet potatoes, fruit and veggies. My fats where primarily bacon, cashews, almonds and eggs. I decided I would also take alcohol out of the equation. Not drinking alcohol wasn’t hard but taking alcohol out of the equation is huge when dealing with depression. If you are dealing with depression or think you might be, I would suggest that you don’t drink alcohol. I am not a doctor but alcohol is a depressant and will not help you. Taking processed foods out, making healthy choices as to what went into my body and working out 4-6 times a week, I was feeling good. With my success over the five weeks I decided to look at joining the Air Force reserves. I went to the recruiter with a buddy who was thinking about joining. Talking to the recruiter I needed to lose roughly 25 pounds and shave a minute from my mile time. I made the commitment to meet those goals. Best way to keep myself accountable was to sign up for a race. I put more time into my training over the next 3 months then I had the past five years. With the race over I ran my fastest mile I had run since the military and my weight was below the maximum allowable weight. I had accomplished my goals and met the Air Forces standards. I continued to talk to the recruiter about jobs available to me. I’m not going to say I was close to signing but I was getting there until life took me in another direction. I have several brothers and sisters still wearing the uniform and I would stand by them if ever needed.

With the help of my counselors I can see where my mental health was, where it went and where it is today. I can see how my fitness and eating habits directly affected the intensity of my depression. The highs and the lows. Once I reached all my goals I kept eating healthy and working out. During this time, I felt great physically and mentally. My energy levels were always up and my head was clear. It was the best I had felt since I was in the military physically and mentally. While I made my fitness a priority it did not role over into other parts of my life. I was still disengaged from my family, my wife and my friends. Depression makes things hard but I cannot use it as an excuse for other issues in my life as they come up. It would be easy for me to blame depression but that wouldn’t be the truth.

Part three I will talk about how not exercising and eating healthy at a time when I should have, allowed my depression to knock me down and made it difficult to handle a hard time in my life.

Nutrition, training and rest

A question was being asked, which of the three is most important training, rest or nutrition? Below is my answer in order and why I believe they are ranked in this order.

1.      Nutrition is the most important of the three. Nutrition is the foundation to everything in life. If you eat crap you’re going to feel like crap. Trust me I know this all too well. I know the better I eat the better I feel. It does not matter if you work out or you sit down on the couch every night and watch tv, what you put in your body will affect how you feel and how you operate. It does not matter if you are active or not. Nutrition is the foundation to everyone’s health. You don’t have to work out to care about what you put into your body. Your nutritional choices will affect your success in the gym. Eating whole natural foods is your best bet. There are so many different ideas on how to eat. There is Paleo, Mediterranean, Keto and The Zone to name a few and there are so many more ideas on how to eat. You need to find what will work best for you. Giving something a try to does not mean you give it a week or two and decide you are not getting the results you want. My thought is you give it a minimum of 3 months to see how your body will react to what you are putting into your body.

2.      Training is second. The effort you put into your workout is going to decide your results. You need to have a plan of attack when you go into the gym so you do not walk around aimlessly not sure what to do. You also need to have a plan so what you are doing coincides with your goals. It doesn’t make any sense to do an hour of cardio everyday if you are looking to gain weight. I plan my training 4 to 12 weeks out in advance. It all depends on what my goals are. I have learned from attending the Gym Jones advanced seminar how long I should stay in a specific training phase.  If you do not know what to do in the gym hire a coach to help devise a plan.

3.      Rest is third because you need workout before rest becomes a priority. You need to eat to match your goals in the gym. A rest day does not necessarily mean you should take the day off from working out. Your rest day can be active rest. A leisure 5k run, row, swim or 30 minutes on a bike at 60% of your maximum intensity.

When you look at these three topics you should look at the first two as a way of life. Don’t find a diet that works for you find a way to eat as a lifestyle. You are hopefully going to be walking on this earth for a long time and should make what you put into your body a priority. I believe you should be training a minimum of three times a week to stay fit and feeling young. Rest and recovery will directly affect your training. Nutrition should be looked as part of your recovery. Just because I believe rest is third on the list does not take away its importance.

Exercise, nutrition and depression

Exercising, nutrition and the effect it has on depression Part 1 of 4


Depression sucks and it is something I have been dealing with for several years. I’m going to share my ups and downs over the past several years. Let you in on how exercise and nutrition helped me feel better and how the lack of both made my depression weigh me down more. How at the time I had no idea my mental health was poor due to depression! With the help of counselors and doctors I found out the reason for always being tired, for having no energy and for my head always feeling foggy was due to depression. I can look back now and see I was dealing with depression while in the Air Force. It wasn’t as prevalent then as it has been the past several years. I believe my depression was not as noticeable because I was always in shape during my time in the Air Force. My health and fitness was a priority. I had to be physically prepared to fulfill my duties and responsibilities. During my time in the military I would find myself not wanting to get out of bed, lacking energy and my head would be foggy for days at a time. I would go through this a couple times a year. At the time, I figured I was extremely fatigued and that the symptoms were not related to depression.

After the military, I took a job working in Europe for three years. I absolutely loved living in Europe. I got an opportunity visit several countries but even though I was enjoying life and my stress level was low I was still dealing with the same symptoms. Lack of energy and my head feeling foggy was starting to show up more than a few times a year. During this time being fit was still a priority but it was slowly not becoming one.

With the project finished and living back in Oregon for the first time in 10 years I started to distance myself from family and friends. The signs of depression became more frequent as my training was taking a back seat. Training was no longer a priority of mine and my eating habits got worse. I became inconsistent. I did absolutely no cardio. I might make it to the gym a couple times a week and might not make it in for a couple weeks. When I separated the Air Force I weighed around 200 pounds and I ballooned up to roughly 240. When I did workout, I lifted as heavy as I could and shoveled anything I wanted into my pudgy face. My health had never been poorer. I felt like garbage physically and my head had a continuous fog.

January 2010 while visiting my best friend in South Dakota he suggested I give CrossFit a try. He knew how much I loved working out. We trained together while stationed in Iceland and I can remember some of those workouts vividly to this day. When I got home I found a CrossFit box in Redmond and gave it a try. He was right and I was hooked. CrossFit is what I needed at that point in my life. The accountability aspect of CrossFit made me more consistent and my weight started to drop and I started to feel better. With the weight loss and consistency in the gym my head was feeling less foggy and my attitude was getting better about life. I started looking at my options for opening a CrossFit box. I found a place in Sherwood Oregon and never looked back. My weight was down, I was productive with CrossFit Absolute. I was happy in all facets of my life for a couple of years. But my consistency in the gym and my nutrition started to falter again. I started to disengage from everyone that I cared about. I still wasn’t aware that my desire to not see family or do things with my friends was due to depression. I figured this is who I was. This is who I am.

The next three weeks I will take you further into my struggle with depression covering the highest point in my life to the lowest point and where I am now. If you follow me to the end I will provide you with my thoughts of how exercise and nutrition helps me deal with my depression. I will also provide you with some research to back up my thoughts.


Body Shaming

Ever since I picked up a weight I wanted to get bigger. My goal was to put on as much muscle as I possibly could. With that goal in mind I would get some back lash from people. They would ask “why do I want to get bigger?”, “Your big enough!”, “no reason to be so big”, “your too big as it is”. At 5’10” my heaviest was roughly 235-240. I was a big and stronger than the average guy. My weight was not entirely healthy but I was happy and confident in my own skin but had to deal with those questions. I did not care about what others thought because I was not trying to get big for others approval I did because I loved lifting heavy. It was something that made me happy. I believe their comments and lack of understanding was a type of body shaming due to the fact they did not agree with what I wanted to accomplish and they did not like my body type. I know what I dealt with is miniscule compared to what woman with noticeable lean muscle deal with.

Ladies, ladies, ladies there is nothing wrong with having lean muscle mass. Nothing wrong at all with looking strong. I understand woman can be catty when they see you have strong legs and glutes that are tight and round from squatting and doing lunges. From you putting in the work that they are too afraid of to do. It is easier for them to try and put you down then put in the hard work. I know men can be intimidated by your strength when they make a comment about your shoulders and traps jumping out at them while you are wearing a tank top. It is their fear of knowing that someone would rather have you help them move then them. Their fear that your confidence overshadows theirs. They rather see a petite woman who is not capable of taking care of themselves.

Sad thing is that body shaming doesn’t just come from your peers but your family. People who love you. Who should help empower you and not tear you down with their snide marks about getting to big. What the fuck is to big anyways? Is to big when you help your dad lift something heavy because your fat brother has a hard time getting out off the couch or your skinny sister might break her back trying to help him out?

Ladies do not be afraid of a barbell. Do not be afraid of the strength a barbell is going to give you. That strength will be noticeable in many facets of your life. Embrace the lean muscle. Embrace the confidence that will grow parallel of your strength. Don’t listen to the snide comments. When someone does say something point blankly ask them why they said it, why they think it. Don’t let them off easy. Find out how confident and strong they are with their words as you are with your body.

Self inflicted heart disease

Feb 2011, I was at BWI waiting to board a plane taking me to Iceland to start my 2-year tour. While hanging out at the airport I called my family to say goodbye. Called my mom, my aunt and then my grandparents. My grandfather tells me that my grandmother is not available to talk because she is at the hospital preparing for quadruple heart bypass surgery. This hit me hard and there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t be there for my family, I had to get on a plane in a few hours. My grandmother had surgery the next day and lived for another 10 years. I didn’t get to see here for about 18 months due to my obligation to the military. Thankfully she made some changes to her lifestyle as did my grandfather who is still puttzing around these days.

Two weeks ago, I found out a buddy of mine had to go in for triple heart bypass surgery. It wasn’t a big surprise considering his lifestyle choices. He openly admits making bad choices and not taking care of himself. He should have been taking good care of himself because he knew his family had a past of heart disease. If that wasn’t enough you would think his wife asking him to make changes would do it or maybe his two daughters and grandkids.  He has since had a successful bypass surgery and has along recovery ahead of him and it sounds like this is what has finally opened his eyes to what he needs to do. Thankfully he did not join the roughly 610,00 people who die of heart disease every year in the United States. The mayo clinic state that the major contributors to heart disease include but are not limited to

1.      Poor diet

       a.      A diet that is high in fat, salt and sugar can contribute

2.      Obesity

       a.      Excess weight typically worsens other risk factors

3.      Physical inactivity

       a.      Lack of exercise is associated with many forms of heart disease

4.      Stress

       a.      Unrelieved stress may damage your arteries

5.      Family history

       a.      Family of heart disease increases your risk

6.      Excessive alcohol use

There are other factors that can contribute to you be coming another statistic to heart disease. If you look at the five contributing factors that I mentioned four of the five are self inflicted. Those four can be controlled and reversed. Over half a million people in the United States should not die due to heart disease.

Obesity and a poor diet go hand in hand. If you are overweight this is the first thing you need to fix. It is such a simple fix. Make better eating choices. don’t grab a pizza and beer at the local pizza place. Instead buy some chicken and vegetables to cook at home. Stopping off at Wendy’s, McDonalds or Burger King for lunch is not a good choice. Make a salad for lunch and take it to work with you. Not only is it healthier but it’s cheaper and trust me you’re going to need that money for your surgery if you don’t make changes. The average cost for bypass surgery is $70,000 dollars. That is on the low end and without any complications.

What does it cost for a monthly gym membership? $40 at the low end and upwards to $200+. Which choice is cheaper? What are the benefits to the gym membership. For one if you consistently workout you’re not only going to be in shape, reduce your risk for heart disease but you’re going to look amazing. Lean muscle mass it what everyone should be looking to have noticeable on their bodies not the ongoing splurging of popcorn and a soda at the movies.

Stress is probably the hardest of the self-induced factors that can lead to heart disease. There are many variables that will account for your high stress levels. What can help mitigate that stress? The obvious is exercise. Exercise is a great stress relief for many people. Sleep will also help reduce stress It allows your body to recover allowing it work at an optimal level. Find a hobby to help with your stress.

               Excessive alcohol use. Over consumption of alcohol has a lot of bad side effects. Can easily ruin the following day, lead to bad decisions, long term use can lead to liver disease and obviously heart disease. Having a drink here and there isn’t horrible but if your beverage of choice with dinner every night has alcohol you are drinking excessively and need to switch to water more frequently with dinner.

Family history is the one thing you can’t change of the five major factors that contribute to heart disease. If your family has a history then you should be doing everything you can to reduce the risk for the other factors by living a healthy lifestyle that includes making that right decisions on what you put into your body. Exercising to keep your lean muscle mass and build up your cardio for a healthy heart. Finding something that helps you relieve your stress.  The fact is that it is easy to be healthy. You make decisions in your life that will contribute to you living a healthy lifestyle.

Reality for most is that heart disease is self-inflicted by poor lifestyle choices. If you relate to any of the five-major contributing factors to heart disease, please start to take the steps to fix it. It is so simple. It will take some time to make lifestyle changes and it will take you being consistent in your task at hand but you need to own the poor choices you have made and own the decision to make the proper changes.  Lastly you might not be afraid to die today or tomorrow but are your loved ones ready to be without you? Your spouse? Your kids? Your grandkids? Mom and dad? Brothers and sisters?