By: Natalia Beiser
In my experience, I have found there to be a direct correlation between food and bipolar disorder.
When manic or hypomanic, I have observed that not eating is easy. The more that I don’t eat, the more weight that I lose and not eating makes me even more wound up. At that point, I don’t care how fast my brain is spinning. Once I went into the hospital during mania and the doctor told me that I could eat whatever I wanted, because I was burning calories being busy. He said that I could eat up to three candy bars a day. I had always been used to a restricted diet, so I thought that this doctor was a genius!
I learned at an early age that food would temporarily help sooth depressive feelings and sadness. And the more overweight that I became, I found that food, reading recipes, and cooking were therapeutic, too.
These behaviors began years before being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I learned that zeroing in on carbohydrates had the best effect on temporarily improving my mood. I would generally focus on ice cream, pasta, and potato salad. These foods would help make me feel better.
After years of eating this way, not only did I find my comfort “solution” did not last long, but it caused me to become morbidly obese and diabetic. I weighed nearly three hundred pounds and I was too heavy to tolerate much exercise.
I decided to have bariatric surgery, which changed my life. I had to take classes and meet with a dietician to learn how to eat. What a surprise! Most of the rules about food that I learned in my childhood home were inaccurate. I actually lost some weight before the surgery because I learned how to eat healthier, and was taught about what kind of exercise that I could tolerate. It was required that I be able to successfully complete a minimal amount of exercise to be considered healthy enough for bariatric surgery.
While not at my ideal weight, I am able to perform many tasks and enjoy life more than I could before surgery. After surgery, most of the binge eating cravings has dissipated. The changes in one’s body and mind are substantial after bariatric surgery. I am now able to identify ways to self soothe without eating, as my body has a much different tolerance for types of food and amounts.
After bariatric surgery, I was able to reduce the amounts of some of my medications and my self confidence and body image have improved, which positively affects my mental health. It is important to recognize early on any food distortions that you may have when having bipolar disorder, because it can be easy to gain weight with the medications that are prescribed to us.