I don’t know if this is a depression related thing, or if it’s something else, or if it’s even just me that finds it, but it’s often caused me problems so I thought I would write about it for the interest of anyone out there who experiences it too, for whatever reason…
I often find myself with little or no appetite. Sometimes I don’t even feel able to eat when I’m sitting with food in front of me, but often it’s just that I don’t notice that I’m hungry. Over the years I’ve noticed a lot of different signs that I need food, none of which feel like being hungry. I’ve started keeping track of them, so that when I don’t feel hungry I can still remind myself to eat at the right times!
If I miss a meal (or two, or three) on a day where I’m busy and active then often the first sign will be a drop in body temperature. I’ll start shivering or shaking, and will generally look pale. This is a slightly problematic one, as it’s also my body’s response to an emotional shock or upset, but a quick check for anything shocking or upsetting will generally tell me if food is likely to be needed. (And let’s face it, a good nutritious meal can help give you time and energy to deal with an emotional upset too, so it’s not the worst option in the world.)
I’m having trouble concentrating:
Again, this can cause problems, as it also means I’m unable to concentrate on getting food. Dealing with this one means constantly reminding myself that I need food NOW and stopping myself from being distracted by other tasks/chats on the way.
An important tool for dealing with this one is the willingness to tell people firmly that you need food now and will talk to them later. Some people have trouble accepting this, so be firm. You won’t be able to help them at all if you collapse from hunger.
I’m cranky or snappish:
One of the hardest to spot, as it’s easy to put down snappish behaviour to rudeness or other provocation from the people you’re snapping at. Once it’s spotted, though, it’s one of the easiest to deal with. Partly because crankyness doesn’t really stop you from getting food, and partly because people that you’ve just snapped at are generally more than willing to let you get food and become less likely to do it again!
The one thing to watch out for with this one is that you don’t ignore it and let it get further. If it gets to the stage where you’re getting angry at inanimate objects then you’re likely to take an unreasonable hatred towards food and refuse to eat it even when you know it will help. This is a BAD state to be in. Trust me!
I find this normally happens in specific situations where you’d normally react by getting cold and shaky but the temperature is too warm, or you react to being cold by wrapping up in blankets. I find that if I fall into this trap then it’s often too late for me. Even if I realise that I’m sleepy because I haven’t eaten enough I’m generally to sleepy already to get up and get food. If I don’t get food I tend to slip into a sleep that (for me) lasts around three hours and leaves me feeling groggy, dehydrated, and really bloody confused when I wake up. Oh, and I still need food, so I’ll probably be shaking too. All of this makes it even harder to get food, thus causing a vicious cycle.
HOW TO DEAL WITH THESE PROBLEMS:
(Again, this is just what’s worked in my experience! Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments below, or discuss any of the suggestions I’ve made here.)
Yes, I know that one’s obvious, but it’s also so easy to neglect! Eating meals at regular mealtimes and making sure you don’t get hungry in the first place can be a real lifesaver, so do it whenever possible.
Another obvious one, but again the basics are the best.
Make sure you have food in the house. By the time you realise that you haven’t eaten enough it’s generally too late to go to the shops and your energy is too low to cook something fancy. Small quick meals like instant soups or microwaveable meals (either bought or made and frozen previously) are amazing in these situations. So is admitting to yourself that you can’t cook right now, and just eating a bowl of breakfast cereal instead.
If you’re going out somewhere or are likely to be busy then bring some small snacks with you. Avoid processed sugar (the energy from it won’t last long) and try for fruit, crisps, biscuits or mini sausage rolls. Eat them at the first sign of energy dropping, or even just when you feel like it but aren’t hungry yet.
If you snack, follow up on it!
The point of the snacks isn’t to stop your hunger, it’s to give you some extra time in which to get yourself food. Finding yourself sleepy from hunger? Grab an apple and eat it… then cook yourself dinner and eat that too. Finding yourself cranky from hunger? Eat those biscuits you have stashed in your bag to stop yourself from killing your companions while you look for somewhere to buy and consume a real meal!
Put yourself first. Don’t ignore your hunger because other things are more important. Don’t ignore your hunger because it will go away. Don’t put other people first; you can’t help them if you’re shaking and can’t concentrate.
YOU ARE IMPORTANT. BELIEVE IT!