As a grown-ass adult woman who has lived a good chunk of my years with clinical depression, I am not a stranger to the ways mental illness can disrupt your day-to-day life (and how those disruptions can often exacerbate your mental illness in ways you don’t always catch until you’re really feeling awful). Over the years my depression has interrupted by interpersonal relationships, my relationship to working out and movement and, of course, my diet. As someone who (even beyond a depressive episode) is prone to not really noticing when a mealtime has come to pass, I am a huge offender of skipping breakfast, shoving a couple crackers in my mouth at lunchtime and then wondering why I felt awful and drained and worse by dinnertime.
This is common for people dealing with mental health issues like depression, per the American Dietetic Association. When stressed or depressed, people tend to either overeat or under-eat — both coming with consequences that can make your body feel more tired, more stressed and feed the cycle of your depression. Not a great thing if you’re trying to keep up with work, life and retain some kind of lingering resilience in the face of a global pandemic.
All’s this to say: Sometimes, with the help of my support system’s friendly reminders (and a number of alarms set on my phone), I need easily accessible and (at least vaguely) healthy options that go down easily, have some degree of nutritional value and help keep me going throughout the day. Over the years, I’ve found my fair share of protein and meal supplement shakes that are helpful to keep next to my bed or workstation — they let me sip and get a bit of what my body needs until I can motivate myself to prepare and eat something for real.
(Big bold disclaimer: If you’re noticing drastic changes in your appetite, mood and general health due to your mental health, it’s super important to get in touch with mental health providers or your regular doctor to look into the best way to help you. There is hope and there are tons of really wonderful, compassionate providers who want to help you get better.)
My latest find — these awesome no-blend smoothie cubes from Evive Nutrition — have totally helped me add a bit more color, way more fruit and veggies and tons of variety to the days where I do not feel like a person but my body still needs sustenance.
To start, I ordered a box of 12 (you can set them to arrive at weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, etc. intervals depending on how many you’ll go through). They have a pretty vast selection of different plant-based protein, fruit and vegetable-based smoothies to choose from — I picked up Samurai, Asana, Pure and Sapphire — and you can choose whatever combo of 12 fits for your tastes. When they arrived in their insulated packaging I popped them into our freezer and disposed of what was left of the dry ice (this kind of packaging can be a deal-breaker for some folks, but you can totally recycle the small bags later).
And actually consuming them? Super easy. While my normal smoothie routine involves foraging through the frozen and fresh produce that’s about to go bad, chucking it in a blender with some protein powder and hoping for the best, all I had to do was break these little triangle cube wheels from their container, put them in a glass (or my little baby blender) with some water or juice and either wait 20 minutes or quickly blend them until its a drinkable consistency. It’s unbelievably easy to just throw them in a glass, forget about them for 20 minutes and then have at least 150 solid nutritional calories that I can quickly take in (and, on the better days, really enjoy) without overthinking it. (You can also make them into a smoothie bowl, if you’re into that/have the executive function for that.)
Now, obviously, a smoothie or a protein shake or a meal replacement shake is not a magic bullet or the ideal consistent meal option for keeping your body fueled. To get all those nutrients, you’ll want to make sure you’re hitting up the other food groups as best you can, drinking water and otherwise trying to get your baseline needs met. But, particularly when you’re dealing with an uncooperative brain, somedays you need to find simple, non-exhausting ways to take care of your body.
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If you’re looking for resources for helping a friend or loved one or trying to get information about treatment for yourself, you can turn to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling them at 1-800-273-8255.
Before you go, check out our favorite affordable mental health apps: