Eat To Heal Loss Of Appetite And Depression, Interview With Jo
In this interview series we explore how diet and chronic illness affect each other and today I have the honour of sharing Jo's story. Jo's appetite was severely affected by her mental health, but with the help of loved ones, she found a way to overcome it and get back to a place where she could once again enjoy a healthy diet.
When it comes to chronic illness, there is no one-size-fits-all solution, especially when it comes to healing through diet. It's up to us to try different approaches until we find our personal solution - the thing that our body responds to most positively.
I hope this series will inspire you to make changes to your diet too, you never know how much relief you could experience through just a few modificaitons. What you eat really can make a big difference!
Please Note: these posts are meant as testimony of personal experience and are not to be considered as medical advice. Please do your own research and consult with your doctor before making any dietary changes.
Deppression And Diet, Interview With Jo
Tell us a bit about you
I’m Jo and I blog at Tea & Cake for the Soul. I love to write about all the things that interest me not just mental health and menopause. I enjoy travel and love music, it’s my biggest passion and I’ve written about it for books and magazines as well as my own blog. I enjoy spending time with family and friends but also enjoy quiet time reading.
What is your proudest achievement?
Recently getting my first payment from a new freelance writing job and having articles published in a couple of books about music and lifestyle.
About Your Health And Diet
1. What is your diagnosis?
I’ve suffered from some form of mental illness for pretty much all of my adult life. It began when I was about 23/24 and it hit me like a bolt from the blue (I’m 52 now). I’d been working in a job I hated and had done all the preparation to leave and go self-employed. I was excited about the future. I’d handed my notice in and was on the countdown for my new life, then I became very ill with depression almost overnight.
2. Briefly explain the process you went through to get your diagnosis.
I made a doctors appointment halfway through my notice period, not really knowing what was wrong. My GP diagnosed stress and signed me off for the remainder of my notice and gave me some beta blockers. I had to go back a fortnight later.
As the weeks went on, I sunk deeper and deeper with no sign of improvement, so he referred me to a psychiatrist. I went to a very dark place and didn’t understand what was happening to me. I couldn’t be alone, I couldn’t take care of myself and I really didn’t want to go on feeling the way I did.
I had to wait over 3 months for an appointment. On the day of the appointment they were running over 2 hours late. You can imagine how anxious I was by that point. Just knowing that I was seeing a psychiatrist was scary as anything. I mean I didn’t know anyone who’d seen one except in television programmes. I was expecting to be told what was wrong with me and when I’d get better. When I finally got in to see him, he said “I think you have clinical depression. Take these pills and see me again in 3 months!”
I got worse after that, I saw my GP every fortnight. Nobody could tell me when I’d feel better and why I was depressed. Of course, decades later I now know that nobody can tell you, but mental health services were severely lacking back then and I don’t feel there was very much support at all at the beginning.
Eventually, I got put in touch with a counsellor for CBT and talk therapy which helped a lot.
3. What did a typical day's meals look like before you made the changes?
My meals were the same as most everyday peoples in the 80s – toast or cereal for breakfast, a sandwich, chocolate bar and bag of crisps for lunch and evening meal of meat, potatoes and vegetables.
4. Explain how you came to the decision to make changes to your diet
It wasn’t so much a decision to change my diet as the fact that I couldn’t eat at all. I had no enthusiasm for anything, eating and drinking included. At this point, I couldn’t take care of myself and didn’t want to be alone in case I did something silly! I spent daytimes with my mum or my nan and of course, even though I was an adult, I was still my mum’s baby and she and my nan wanted to take care of me and make me better.
It was my mum’s decision I guess. I was losing weight and needed some nutrition. She tried to get me to eat but I didn’t want anything so she tried a different tactic. She took me back to my childhood. Remember the sights and smells of things that were good from when you were a kid? Remember when you were poorly and your mum put you on the sofa wrapped up in a blanket with comics and Lucozade?
Yes, she made me chicken noodle soup (a recipe that’s been handed down through the generations), she cut sandwiches up into tiny squares or triangles, fed me fish fingers, jelly, custard, rice pudding and butterscotch tarts. In fact, anything that was flavoursome, small and achievable, but most importantly took me back to simpler times.
5. How did you transition to the new way of eating?
At first, it was just a bite or two, then a quarter of a sandwich, couple of mouthfuls of soup and slowly but surely it built up. As I got better so did my appetite until I maintained a normal diet.
6. What does a typical day of meals look like now?
Thankfully I have had my mental health more under control on the depression side of things for a few years now, although I still suffer from anxiety.
When I’m well, I typically have fruit, porridge and/or cereals with rice milk for breakfast, an egg salad or soup for lunch (yes I’m still making that same recipe), and our evening meal is generally turkey/chicken with fresh vegetables or salad, sometimes rice or potatoes. I also make curries from scratch too.
I rarely drink alcohol. I mostly drink water and hot black tea. And I do like a cake for a treat at the weekend.
I adopt a predominantly dairy and wheat free diet now due to some other health issues that have developed as I got older (stomach pain/bloating, eczema and asthma).
7. What improvements have you experienced since changing the way you eat?
When I’m ill (mentally or physically) I still reach for those comfort foods and I still find it makes eating easier even if they’re not the most nutritional of meals. I just find it keeps you in the habit of eating until you can resume a normal healthier diet.
Adopting a dairy and wheat free way of eating did improve my skin, breathing and stomach complaints. I’m still a bit in denial and do tend to overindulge on things I shouldn’t have, particularly when on holiday, and boy do I pay for it! My stomach bloats and cramps and feels sluggish for days, my eczema comes back up and I start to cough. So, diet definitely has a huge impact on my health.
Tell Us About Tea And Cake For The Soul
I initially started my blog in 2015 for two reasons. One, I wanted to share tips and itinerary from a road trip in the USA, and two, I wanted to write my story and self help tips about mental health to try and help other sufferers. I found I enjoyed writing a blog so much that I expanded it to write about several other topics.
As well as health and travel, I also write about home and money saving tips, eco issues, books, recipes and I like to promote kindness.
My favourite blog post is the one I wrote about my fan moment with Robbie Williams, just because every time someone comments on it, I get to relive it all over again.
Would you like to add anything else?
Firstly thank you for having me as your guest. I hope that this may help some people who suffer from depression if their desire for food has waned. Just make it achievable.
I also hope that it will give people some hope that you can get better and live a happy life with mental illness. On my blog, you can read more about my mental health diet with some more ideas on how to prepare and manage your diet, especially if you are trying to cope on your own.
Connect with Jo
Would you like to be featured on this blog?
If you would like to share your chronic illness story here, please visit this page and complete the interview form of your choice. I look forward to sharing your story - Char
* Please Note: The photo used is not of Jo, it is a stock image.