Home Q&A Wednesday Q&A Wednesday: I Want to Get Fit but I’m Depressed!

Q&A Wednesday: I Want to Get Fit but I’m Depressed!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

From Q:

Here is my truth….
I have NO EXCUSES. Even though I am not working, I do have exercise DVD’s but I don’t use them.  I have a dog, but I don’t walk him. I LOVE to cook (which means I am in control of what my family and I eat) however I am not the best HEALTHY cook around. Since I am not working I am on a limited amount of money monthly to provide for my family but eating healthy is expensive. Or either I just don’t know what I am doing. Sometimes its hard getting meals together for 2 weeks when I am just cooking regular meals. I am willing to try new recipes but my family can be picky eaters so if I make something new or more healthy and they don’t like it, I can’t afford to waste a meal so I make only what I know they will eat.

I am so depressed and I have no motivation. I want to be sexy for my husband, well for ME, but I must LOVE food and the devil (SUGAR) more then I love myself. I love all things that are bad. Carbs, sweets, soda pop, kool aid, bread, chips etc….I feel so lost.


I notice that people treat you differently when you are over weight, which is so hard on me. I am not a confident person. One thing I notice, looking at your pictures, is even in the pictures where you a bigger you still look confident. Confidence goes a long way….

Seems like I am never going to get this right and I am always going to feel this way about myself….like a big fat failure!

I think there are a few different things going on, here.

For starters, depression is serious, and it affects us all in different ways at different times. For some, it’s a temporary feeling brought on by strife or frustration, and they’re able to come out of it as the situation changes. For others, it’s a much more lingering feeling, something they fight with for an extended period of time — and, sometimes, without the assistance of therapy or medication, are able to eventually come out of it themselves or with the support of loved ones. For many that we know and love, it’s a much deeper issue that requires the assistance of a licensed and degreed psychiatrist, medication*, or both.

I urge anyone who is unsure where they fall to talk to a psychiatrist to determine the path that is best for them first and foremost. It’s not shameful to ask for help, seek it out, and take advantage of it on a regular basis – it is a sign of strength; it is an effort to make you a more emotionally solvent human being, and efforts to better oneself are always admirable.

There are low-cost resources for psychiatry all over the place, but if you’re in the NYC Metro area, here’s a link that’s a fantastic start. There are help lines, supervised support groups, and lots of resources that can help someone who needs that kind of assistance on a budget get what they need.

It’s important to get that out of the way first, because depression clouds the way we see things. It’s easy to fixate on what we don’t have; but what about all the things we do have? Depression might make you feel like you do have nothing. You’re alive, and – barring any extenuating circumstances – you have tomorrow; and tomorrow is Erikanese for “another opportunity to make a shift, a change, and a move toward something healthier and better for me.”

When you look at all this through the context of depression, it’d make sense that you wouldn’t want to go outside, that you wouldn’t want to spend the time on yourself necessary to achieve fitness goals, and why “confident” feels like a cross-country flight from where you are. It messes with your head.

It also makes the emotional eating make sense – your “love” of “all things that are bad” also looks like a long list of things that contribute to that positive dopamine[rgic] reaction in the brain that really incentivizes emotional eating. Emotional eating and food addiction can really take hold of a person when they’re in a depressive state, because it brings you those feelings and emotions, the smiles and the peace, that you feel like you’re otherwise missing in life. The problem with that is not only how dissociative you can become, and how difficult it can be for recovery, not to mention what the excess sugar, fat, and salt can do to your health.

You aren’t a failure. You’re a person who is having difficulty that you may need additional support to overcome. You need people in your life who understand the challenges of mental health and who can support you through it all with no shame. You need love and encouragement. You’re human. We all are.

I was confident in each of those photos, but I was confident for a different reason in each photo. I’d appreciated different parts of myself and my journey as a person, a woman, and a mother. I left an emotionally damaging relationship, and started a business to to support my daughter alone at 22. I’d moved back to my first love, Miami, with my daughter and we lived semi-comfortably there together. I’d survived the economic downturn – not unscathed, but I survived. Lots of things were also going wrong in those photos, too – I was so scared and ashamed that I’d been taken for a ride in that relationship. I safely moved back to Miami, but that was after a ton of financial turmoil. I’d survived the economic downturn, but financial near-ruin will traumatize you in ways you aren’t prepared for, regardless of how well you’re doing afterwards.

Pictures are always deceiving. Never compare your life to what you see in the photos, or even what people tell you to your face. It’s dangerous, and it’ll never tell you the full story.

People put on facades every day, and for someone dealing with depression, it makes you think everyone around you is hunky dory happy when you’re miserable and can only focus on how stressful home life is or how the bills need to be paid. Some people are just better at putting on that facade than others. Much like I shared in the Twitter chat last week, you never know what’s really going on behind the scenes with people. Don’t let the confidence fool you.

There are resources all over this site and all over the Internet that will help you make healthy eating and cooking more affordable. And, they will be here for you, waiting, when you have gotten the help you need in working through your depression. Focus on that first and foremost. I can’t wait to hear from you after you’ve taken the appropriate steps, and then we can talk about the nonsense that is kool-aid!

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Donna March 21, 2015 - 4:39 PM

I also have a history of depression and it makes it very hard to motivate myself to exercise. When I told my doctor about my depression and asked for a referral the first thing she mentioned was that exercise helps with depression. Things that have worked for me:

1. When I was unemployed I started going for 45 minute walks every evening. No special gear required, I just had sneakers and wore a random t shirt and shorts. Then I’d speed walk while listening to music on headphones.
2. Try to find an exercise class that interest you. I work in higher education so sometimes I have access to free or low cost campus gyms. I started doing a free yogilates class 3x a week during lunch.
3. After moving to a new city I tried the (not free) campus yoga class but didn’t like it. It was too hot to walk everyday so I decided to join a women’s only gym. Eventually I found a dance cardio class there that motivated me to go twice a week and learn new choreography while dancing to fun music.
4. After a local move I was closer to work but farther from my gym. I started walking to work everyday, 1 mile each way which took me about 30 minutes. I didn’t have the energy to go to the gym anymore but it didn’t matter cause I was getting so much exercise from my daily commute. My body firmed up and the extra endorphins got rid of my depression.

They say they have a dog. Try to use the dog walking as your mandatory daily exercise. Also check out your local recreation center for free exercise classes. Many offer Zumba or line dancing which are more fun than just using a treadmill.

Erika Nicole Kendall March 23, 2015 - 4:01 PM

You’re absolutely right – exercise has a history of aiding with depression, however it’s grossly irresponsible for me, as a health and fitness professional as well as a member of a community that often eschews the value of therapy, to not underscore the need for consulting with someone in favor of implying that depression is something that CAN be handled on one’s own.

I DO think the key part of your comment is that this is something you’ve pulled together with the assistance of your doctor, and I want to doubly highlight that. An exercise plan, combined with a support system that may or may not include professional support, can absolutely make a difference.

Donna March 24, 2015 - 11:29 AM

I was not trying to tell her not to seek help from a doctor. Where did you see that in my comment?

Erika Nicole Kendall March 24, 2015 - 11:41 AM

Didn’t say you were – I’m more so explaining why I didn’t mention that, even when it’s a widely known and acknowledged fact.

Tony Vinchealle July 4, 2016 - 8:51 PM

I absolutely agree with what you have written in your article. I believe that there has to be a fusion between allopathic treatment, holistic care, and work with a fitness professional, especially when it comes to dealing with our psychological and emotional issues. This way, we are covering all areas in our self care.

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