Okay, so let’s say that you’ve made the Herculean effort to shower, take out the trash, and put away the clean dishes. At this point, especially if you’re depressed, you might be all wiped out. Kaput. No more spoons. So… how are you going to eat? Like, breakfast? Or lunch-dinner? Yikes. Even if you feel hungry, the thought of rising, going to the kitchen, and using the physical and mental energy it takes to rummage through the cupboards to find food might make you retch. Let’s talk about cooking during depression.
Cooking During Depression
Figuring out food strategies when you’re depressed can be… well. How do I describe it? I think listing some of my recurring depression meals might be illuminating.
- Mashing a stick of butter into some brown sugar.
- Sliced vegetarian sausage alongside a mayo and mustard mixture.
- Four bowls of macaroni and cheese.
- A carton of cookies.
- A $70 DoorDash order.
- Cold pizza leftover from yesterday’s depressed eating.
I am a big fan of the Healthy at Every Size movement. I believe that we should eat when we want to eat, and that we should eat what we want to eat, and that we should eat the amount we want. Eating should be as simple as opening the fridge and saying “What looks good?” and letting our bodies run the show after that.
But when we’re depressed, we’re chemically hijacked. It makes sense that our bodies might very well want MOST carrots and apple slices and raisins and Havarti cheese, but we don’t have the energy to wash produce and cut the cheese.
So we reach for a pizza pocket instead, because that’s what we can handle right now.
Prewashed and Sliced Produce is a Big Help
It’s much easier to grab a handful of apple slices from a bag than it is to wash an apple, find a cutting board and a clean knife, and slice it. I know that pre-prepped produce is widely decried as a false economy taken on only by fools and simpletons. This is nonsense. When you’re depressed, you need all the accommodations you can get. And pre-prepped healthy food is a very logical and helpful accommodation.
When you shamble into the kitchen during a depressive episode, finding a big bag of baby carrots and a bottle of Ranch dressing can be a Godsend. Here’s what I keep in my kitchen:
- Pre-sliced apples
- Washed baby spinach in tubs
- Bag Romaine lettuce
- Mountains of baby carrots
- God’s own supply of frozen broccoli and blueberries
This way, if my poor depleted body is crying out for something nutritious in Romain lettuce, I can accommodate her instead of sighing regretfully and making a tuna fish sandwiches.
I am not knocking pizza pockets, tuna fish sandwiches, and even the occasional butter-and-brown-sugar party. I believe in trusting the body’s wisdom. If your body cries out that it needs a particular food, there’s some kind of nutrition in there that you need, so eat it. And you can’t eat it if it’s too hard to make. So make it super easy to eat a variety of foods.
Individually Packed Leftovers Save the Day
When I have leftovers, I pack little plastic tubs with them. I layer the rice or potatoes on the bottom and the sauce and meat on top. Then I put them in the fridge. The next day, when breakfast or lunch rolls around, all I have to do is nuke the leftovers for two minutes or so and then I have a hot meal.
Sandwich Fixings Make it Super Easy to Eat
I can usually make myself a sandwich when I’m depressed. I keep a sandwich fixings bin in my fridge right next to the condiments bin. I can whip myself up a cheese and lunch meat sandwich with mayo and sliced pickles in a heart beat, then sigh as I sit down to feast at my kitchen table. I also make sure to keep peanut butter and jelly sandwich supplies around.
Here’s what I keep stocked:
- Sliced cheeses
- Sliced lunch meats
- Barbecue Sauce
- Sliced pickles
- Thinly sliced roast beef
- Cans of tuna
- Plenty of bread
But what about when you actually want to cook?
Dude. PASTA. Boil noodles and put stuff in them. You can make a super easy pasta – which my boyfriend calls “bachelor chow” by mixing boiled noodles with butter and shreds of Parmesan cheese. You can sautee some diced veggies and toss them in. Or you can throw in cherry tomatoes and some dried thyme. If you have access to a whole chicken, those things are super easy to roast.
- Think roasts.
- Think pasta.
- Think salads.
Did you know that “salad” literally means “a mixture of three or more ingredients?” That’s why we have marshmallow, Jello, and grape salad out there.
And never forget the quick and easy heartiness of eggs. You can scramble an egg and toss it over just about anything. Make some rice in the rice cooker, and, when it’s almost done, fry an egg. Put it on top of a bowlful of rice.
Or put it over a bed of aforementioned Romaine lettuce. Or put it on toast. Or over a steak. Mmmmm. Steak.
And all the while, you’re staying consistent with Maxim 1. Good work, O, Depressed One.
Here’s your homework
Buy some healthy convenience food this week. Canned tuna. Grapes. Baby carrots. Sliced cheese. That kind of thing. Prepare yourself for whatever kind of blasted episode might be looming on the horizon, or perhaps sustain yourself through one that has already hit. I like Instacart for shopping these days, can I can usually order groceries online even when I’m depressed or hypomanic.
What’s your experience with cooking during depression?
Do you find it mindful? A horrible drag? A lost cause? A way to feel better? Sustaining? Draining? Share your experience, share your tips, and help the community out. The more knowledge we can pull together, the better. See you tomorrow!