The Mental Health Diet

and how it made me fat:

I treat my body like a temple/ 

You treat yours like a tent.

Jimmy Buffet

I’ve definitely been in the “tent” camp lately.  (Get it?  Tent?  Camp?  Yuk yuk.)

via Wikipedia

We left the Perfect Health Diet (“PHD”), after over a year of inconsistent-but-persistent resolve.  Pat lost some weight, and we felt pretty good overall.  But I didn’t lose weight, and it seemed like a lot of work for negligible results.  So we quickly slipped from PHD to mostly whole foods to . . . what I call the Mental Health Diet (“MHD”).

The MHD consists mostly of convenience foods, take-out pizza, dinners out, and fast food (I discovered the Taco Bell cantina bowl–yum!).  I started a tasting tour of sorts, trying out all of the kids-eat-free nights at our local restaurants.

My mental health diet


Not surprisingly, my weight has skyrocketed.  At least I think it has.*  I haven’t weighed myself in several months.  But all my clothes are tight.  I’m kind of dreading fall because even the jeans I was so excited about recently are feeling uncomfortably snug now.


This got me thinking that maybe the PHD helped me more than I realized.  I didn’t lose any weight but I also didn’t gain any.  On the other hand, my weight has climbed steadily ever since coming off it.  Also–now that I think of it–my weight was starting to climb before we got on the PHD.

I stopped breastfeeding Girl 2 around September 2012.  Shortly thereafter I switched from Zoloft to Lexapro.  Due to some combination of those factors (I think), my weight started climbing.  Then in November 2012 we started the PHD and the weight gain came to a halt.

All this is making me want (“want” in a limited sense of the word) to get back on the PHD bandwagon.  Or maybe even do the Whole 30 for a clean break.  Jenny’s experience, among others, makes it sound . . . hmm, not appealing, but . . . like-a-good-idea-ing.**

{Pat is never ever critical when we fall off the healthy-eating wagon and yet he is always game for healthy eating, bless his heart.

Me: “Honey, I think maybe we should try this thing called the Whole 30.  [15 second summary of Whole 30]  What do you think?”

Pat: “Yes, I’m in.  Good idea. . . . There’s always apples and peanut butter, right?”  (PB&A being Pat’s go-to meal.)

Me: “Uh, yeah, about peanut butter . . . .”

Pat: “Um, well, how about homemade hummus??”

Me: “Well . . . .” }

At the same time, I don’t regret our stint with the Mental Health Diet.  Junk food is never good for one’s mental health in itself.  Not feeling the pressure to cook, though, was a definite boon.

The MHD has been one facet of a change of course I’m taking in life wherein I focus less on doing more.  I’m here.  I love.  I’m enough.

We ate junk; ordered out; I hardly ever cooked.  Yet the world kept on spinning.  My kids are as healthy as they ever were (not saying much), and Pat and I are fine.  There’s just more of me to love.  Nutrition and physical health are important but they’re not all-important.    (As usual, I love Amelia’s thoughts on this topic.)  Eating junk probably didn’t help my low energy woes, but the slug life led me to the MHD, rather than the other way around.

All the same, I’m sick of treating my body like a tent.  I don’t want to be forced to wear a tent.  I think it’s time for a change.  Stay tuned.


*Update: Since drafting this, I weighed myself and, sure enough: I’m up 10 lbs over the last four months, 20 lbs over the last 14 months.

**Update 2: I decided the Whole 30 would be setting myself up for certain failure.  I signed up for Weight Watchers instead.  More on that later.

17 thoughts on “The Mental Health Diet

  1. Have you had your thyroid checked? It sounds like it might be a bit off, especially since you mention feeling sluggish and rapid weight gain which are two major signs. I think the PHD helps with thyroid issues (especially if you take all the supplements they recommend like the iodine and selenium) which might be why you didn’t gain weight while on it (especially if the weight gain started before) the PHD.

    Also, I’ve found ways to make healthy food more “convenient” and that helps a lot with limiting eaitng out/convenience foods. Things like already chopped brocolli, dried fruit, hard boiled eggs (you can even buy the already cooked/peeled hard-boiled eggs), nuts, cheese, yogurt, carrots, pre-washed chopped vegetables, salads etc are all “healthier” convenience foods). And things like baked potatos, baked chicken really aren’t hard to cook at all…just throw them in the oven. You can pre-cook things like chicken and then just throw it on salads or whatever for the week. Or precook a bunch of rice and then you just thave to heat it up. Those things seem to help me, anyway.

    Oh..and thanks for the link. 🙂

    • Yeah i really thought it was low thyroid but I had a thorough thyroid test done–t3 t4 thyroid antibodies– and it’s all normal. My cortisol was really low though, which explains the low energy.

      Sent from my iPhone

  2. Girl, Whole 30 has done WONDERS for us. I really really really hope you decide. My mom is a lifetime WW member and while I learned when I went to the meetings, if felt like it was all about getting the most points for junk. I know other people have had great success – maybe its just the local group here- but I hope it works for you. We totally do “MHD” during early pregnancy, late pregnancy and post partum. I think this last baby we ate DiGiorno pizza three nights a week. OY!

  3. Laura, there is so much good in this post. First of all, I’m always so impressed by how well you do “vulnerable”. You’re not whiney or pathetic or overly rosy about things. Just the facts m’am with a little funny on the side! I know the reality of dealing with weight and anxiety issues is not as cut and dry or funny, but you write about it well.

    As for WW, I’ve only heard good things about it, and I plan on doing it myself when Gus is 6 months and eating enough solids. My milk supply is greatly affected by how much or how little I eat, so I really can’t cut down on things when I’m exclusively nursing. So, unless I magically lose 15 pounds in the next 4 months by doing nothing, I’ll be joining you on the WW train. The reason I’m planning on doing WW instead of trying a Whole 30 or Perfect Health is because I know I don’t do well with restricting myself from whole food groups long term. I need to work on portion control first, and then lifestyle switcheroos like fewer grains and sugar and more of whatever I’m supposed to be eating instead of those yummy things.

    Anyway, great post Laura. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  4. You always look amazing Laura! But be wary about WW, every time I did it I gained weight because I got to eat more than I would normally. It was a cruel trick. And I was a stickler about measuring and serving sizes. I have had a lot of success with the My Fittness Pal app, I like the features it offers, and better yet, it’s free!

    • “Weight Watchers”: Watch your weight go up! Argh! No! I counted calories for about a month using My Fitness Pal, this spring. I lost no weight. Granted I cheated a bit but it seemed like I was cutting calories enough that I should have dropped at least a couple pounds. *Sigh* I’m going to stick w/ WW for at least a couple months and see if it works. If it doesn’t, I’ll head to REI and just pick up a few tents, because I will have tried everything at that point. 😉

  5. Great post, Laura, thanks for sharing. I’ve considered Whole 30 before- mainly because of the weight loss results and health benefits other people have experienced, but I feel that I would be setting myself up for failure, too. Or *if* I happened to finish it, would I just go back to my old eating habits? Probably.
    I’ve always subscribed to the notion of “everything in moderation”, (mainly because I enjoy food a lot 😉 ) although I definitely need to have more moderation when it comes to sweets and salt n’ vinegar potato chips…and portion size. 🙂 Looking forward to hearing more about your WW!

  6. I’ve joined WW’s about four times in my life – once I even lost 40#, never lost less than 25# fairly rapidly. But as with anything WW’s is what YOU put into it. What I do like about it is that when you want to be on the MHD, WW’s accomodates that – you just have to count the points, but when you’re ready to eat healthy, that works with it too – and you can do the “simply filling” plan and not count points. The meetings are critical. I hate to admit it….but so it the leader. You have to enjoy the leader. I had a great one in Toronto, not such a great one here. With going once a week for 1/2 an hour it forces you to keep your health/weight in the forefront of your mind – it helps seal your resolve. Doesn’t even matter what the heck they talk about, it just matters that you get your fat arse there, sit down and think about it for 1/2 an hour. Listening to others (some boring, some funny) helps too. Good luck, Laura. You do look great. I’m on Lexipro now too – instead of Zoloft. Have been for about 1/2 a year now; after 6 years on Zoloft – and before that, Paxil. I’m 189# at 5’8″ tall now – but at my highest I was 210 – which was probably what you saw at Lizzie’s wedding – and, now that I think about it – at yours too!
    Love you kiddo.
    Aunt Alex

  7. We’ve been on the mental health diet for about 8 months and yes not worrying about dinners and big clean up is so much easier. More expensive and less healthy but totally necessary sometimes! And it makes it so I really love cooking when I do it like once a week.

  8. We first tried a paleo diet around four years ago, after swearing we could never do such a thing (how could we give up pasta?). That slowly morphed in primal and eventually PHD (after reading about it on Conversion Diary). We stuck to that for about a year and slowly started integrating bits of the Weston A. Price “diet.”

    In the beginning we were super strict. No pie or stuffing at Thanksgiving. No going out to eat. We were crazy. With time we’ve come to see that and loosened up a bit. We eat out, eat grains (the horror!) occasionally, and I even bake every once in a while. All this to say, I feel like my relationship with food is way more screwed up now then it ever was before. Before, I could eat a slice of cake and be satisfied. Now? Not so much. I want to eat half the cake. I feel like I have less self-control when it comes to eating “bad” food plus I have guilt to go along with it! It’s crazy and I hate it, and I struggle with it, but….I guess I’m stuck having to work through it.

  9. Pingback: My “Forever” Menu Plan | This Felicitous Life

  10. Pingback: Goal-Type Things for the New Year | This Felicitous Life

Feel like commenting? Please do. I usually respond here in the comment box.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s