Eating Well and Exercising With Depression
Last updated: October 2022
Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, especially in those who have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Up to 30 percent of people living with functional gastrointestinal disorders like IBS are estimated to have depression. As anyone living with it knows, depression can be debilitating. Everyday tasks become challenging, and diet and exercise goals often fall to the wayside.1
Here, I share some tips for getting back on track with your nutrition and exercise goals when struggling with depression. Please note that I am not a mental health professional. These tips come from my own experience with depression and should not be taken as medical advice.
If you or someone you love is struggling with depression, please contact a mental health professional for support.
3 tips for exercising with depression
One of the most common symptoms of depression is exhaustion, which can make exercising seem like an impossible task. But while exercise is not a cure for mental illness, it can help a lot of people feel more like themselves.2
Here are 3 tips for getting back on track with your exercise goals while living with depression.
If you are struggling with depression, setting a goal to get up at 5 AM every day to exercise probably is not realistic. Instead, think about what time of day you tend to feel best. Try to plan a physical activity during this time.
Exhaustion can be one of the most difficult depression symptoms to manage. Luckily, exercising does not have to be limited to sweating for hours at the gym. If you have been lying on the couch all day, try setting a goal to go for a short walk around the block. Or do some squats or push-ups during commercial breaks.
All of this counts as physical activity. You may find that you feel motivated to do more just by getting started with something small.
Depression makes even small tasks like picking out clothes feel hard. If you plan to get some physical activity in the morning, choose your workout clothes and set them out the night before. If you plan on exercising during the day, wear your workout clothes as soon as you wake up.
4 tips for eating well with depression
If you are feeling depressed, cooking a meal is probably one of the last things you want to do. But nutrition is incredibly important for people living with depression. Studies show that eating healthy foods is associated with better mental health.3
While we do not yet fully understand the link between food and mental health, nourishing your body can be an important part of managing your depression.
Here are 4 tips for eating well when you are struggling with depression.
Use grocery delivery services
Leaving the house can sometimes feel like a huge task. Luckily, getting groceries delivered right to your door has never been easier. While it is true that you will pay a little more for delivery fees, it is often worth it to get nutritious food.
Keep your pantry stocked
Easy-to-prepare foods like canned soup, beans, pasta, bread, nuts, and nut butter are great staples to keep on hand. Having these foods makes it more likely that you will be able to pull together a quick meal when you are feeling low.
Stick to a meal schedule
Depression can make the hours seem to fade together, leading to missed meals. Set alarms on your phone for regular meals to nourish yourself throughout the day.
There is a common misconception that all takeout is unhealthy. But these days, you can find a huge variety of foods available for delivery. On days when you just cannot deal with the thought of cooking, there is nothing wrong with ordering takeout.
Try to choose meals with a good source of protein and some vegetables to ensure you are getting the nutrients you need.
Depression is a debilitating mental illness that makes everyday tasks difficult. When you are living with both IBS and depression, tasks like eating well and exercising can feel overwhelming. Luckily, there are small actions you can take every day to get back on track with your diet and exercise goals while living with depression.
Do you suffer from IBS-C, IBS-D, or IBS-Mixed/Alternating?