This is one of my favorite subjects to talk about. Many of us with bipolar disorder can suffer weight gain from medication, bouts of depression or both. Until I got a reduction in medication, I was suffering from extreme food cravings. I literally could not stop eating fried food, chocolate and candy. I packed on thirty pounds in less than a year. It is possible to maintain a healthy weight and take medication. It does take some work and dedication.
I like to watch nutrition videos online, read health magazines and read nutrition books. Nutrition is a science and it is always changing. What we eat can have an impact on our moods and some foods can even have a bad reaction to our medicine. For instance, for one of my pills, I cannot eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice. Isn’t that interesting?
One area for those of us with bipolar disorder that can make nutrition difficult is impulse control. Anyone can see a commercial for a pizza and be driven to order some. Not all people with bipolar disorder will battle with impulse control but some people might. Depression could make it worse. On the flip side, during hypo mania or mania, appetite can be severely reduced or non-existent.
Depression can be a time when certain foods are appealing. For instance, cocoa can naturally uplift our mood. It is no wonder that sweets with chocolate can make us feel better. Food is a wonderful thing for anyone. We celebrate with loved ones with food, we go out to eat and eat for entertainment. Also, alcohol can be involved during these occasions.
This is worth mentioning because those of us with bipolar disorder don’t need to suffer with alcoholism on top of our illness. If you feel this area is a problem for you, absolutely seek help. Alcohol may trigger bipolar disorder symptoms and react negatively with our medication. Make sure to ask your doctor if you are able to drink on your medication. I myself decided to heavily limit myself when it comes to alcohol. For me, it just isn’t worth it. Alcohol is a depressant. The morning after having more than one drink, I will find myself feeling down.
With alcohol, I have found that my true loved ones and friends accept me for who I am. They are comfortable with the fact that I don’t drink very much. If someone makes you feel like you need to drink to be in their life, maybe rethink the relationship with them. That would be a great place to set some boundaries which we will discuss later.
If I want to wind down with a drink at the end of the night, I will make an iced chamomile tea. Chamomile relaxes the body and mind naturally. When thinking about drinking alcohol to bring down manic symptoms, think about talking to your doctor first. Ask if it is okay to take melatonin supplements or they may prescribe you something different. Melatonin can be bought over the counter.
Another chemical of choice by many of us is caffeine. I love coffee. Coffee keeps me going especially as a parent and as an author. Sometimes I plan on sleeping until eight o’clock but wake up at five. So, yes caffeine plays a role in my life. However, too much caffeine can be bad for anyone. Caffeine can have an effect on the mood. The fact that bipolar disorder is a mood disorder makes this area important. Be careful with caffeine. Talk to your doctor about a safe amount for you.
I personally know how some medicine can make us tired and out of it. I make sure to rotate coffee with tea, juice and almond milk. Also, caffeine too late in the day can make it hard to sleep at night. Also worth mentioning, a lot of caffeinated drinks contain a lot of sugar which can lead to weight gain. It seems like sugar is hidden everywhere. Make sure to read labels and keep track of sugar intake. Women can have twenty-five grams of sugar a day and men can have thirty-seven.
It is important for us with bipolar disorder to eat! We should eat whole foods and enjoy food. Cooking and learning new recipes can make us feel better. However, when we are feeling down or low on energy, it’s a great idea to keep healthy and easy meals on hand. Also, have restaurants in mind that offer healthy options for when cooking isn’t an option. Increasingly, there are more restaurants and grocery stores offering delivery options. These are great for planning ahead or last minute meals.
Keeping fresh snacks like nuts, apples and bananas is a good idea too. I keep nuts and fruit in my purse and car at all times. It helps with stress from traffic and I find myself staying away from fast food more. These foods are good for us, help with mood and maintain a healthy weight. Keeping a schedule for eating is good too. Make sure to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner. Add two or three snacks in between. I make sure to eat a healthy snack when I take my medicine. I will do a yogurt and banana at night. Sometimes, medicine can upset our stomachs if we don’t eat enough or eat the wrong thing. Make sure to check with your doctor about any foods that can react with your medicine.
Most importantly, enjoy food that you love! Two or three times a week, make sure to treat yourself with a favorite meal or snack. Go out with friends or loved ones and enjoy food. It is important for our mood to have a healthy relationship with food. Stay away from fad diets and don’t limit your calories too much. We need our brains and bodies working at an optimal level. Starving ourselves is not the answer. Also, weight loss pills and supplements can have a bad reaction for us. Some of them contain high levels of caffeine or other harmful chemicals. It is important that we treat our bodies well because it impacts our brain and vice versa.
Here is an example of a typical daily meal plan with a medication schedule:
9:30 a.m. Breakfast
1 hard boiled egg
1 cup of oatmeal
1 glass of orange juice
1 cup of coffee
11:00 a.m. Snack
½ cup of almonds
12:30 p.m. Lunch
1 black bean or chicken taco
1 side salad
1 cup of low-fat milk or almond milk
3:30 p.m. Snack
Tea, coffee or juice
1 protein bar or oatmeal
6:00 p.m. Dinner
6 ounces of salmon
1 cup of broccoli
1 cup of mashed potatoes
9:30 p.m. Snack
Choose 2 or 3:
At night, I will have a snack with my medicine and read a book or listen to music. Sometimes, those of us with bipolar disorder have trouble falling asleep at night. We will talk about that soon.
On the weekend or on a date night, I will enjoy fried food or pizza. I get treats with the kids on occasion also. Nutrition does coincide with fitness, stress and relaxation. Learn more in: Bipolar Disorder: Thriving, Triggers, Love & Relationships.
About the author:
Author of Manic, The Anxiety Warriors and 10 Ways to Thrive with Bipolar Disorder
Amy Perez has a Master’s Degree in General Psychology. She has worked in Miami, Florida with people living with various mental illnesses. She has spent many hours inside mental health facilities with a first hand patient perspective. Amy lives in Florida with her family and orange tabby. She enjoys reading, writing, cooking and spending time in nature.
Facebook Group: Mental Health Encouragement
Writer: The Patient Next Door
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this post are the personal views of the author. They do not necessarily reflect the views of PatientNextDoor. Any omissions or errors are the author’s and PatientNextDoor does not assume any liability or responsibility for them.