7 Tips for Preventing Depression

Today I’m going to switch hats just a little and put on my “counselor hat”.  (For those who don’t know, I’m not only a personal trainer, but I also have a Master’s degree in Social Work and professional counseling experience). 

I was talking to a friend of ours yesterday, and he was mentioning how he has had two major depressive episodes in his life.  The first one left him without even a will to live.  Fortunately, he was treated and now knows the symptoms to look for and what to do when he starts to feel them. 

I started thinking about how depression is so insidious because it attacks every facet of your life… physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.  Physically, you usually have problems with appetite, sleep, energy, motivation, and sex drive among others.  Emotionally, you may feel weepy or just plain apathetic.  You tend to isolate yourself from others.  Your attitude is usually negative, and you just can’t seem to pull yourself out of it.  You will probably struggle with issues of self-doubt, self-esteem, and fear (ex:  fear of inadequacy; fear of intimacy; fear of failure).  Mentally, you tend to believe all kinds of horrible things about yourself.  You might obsess on the negatives you see all around you (if this is the case – don’t watch the news!)  Spiritually, you just feel depleted and drained.  You lose your purpose in life and start wondering why you were even put on this earth to begin with.  Satan would like nothing better for people to be in this state, and if you look around you – you probably know plenty of people who are. 

I started thinking that depression is just like most diseases… it’s probably easier to prevent than to cure through intentional, proactive choices.   Granted, some people might be more likely to suffer depression due to a family history of depression; child abuse or neglect; traumatic experiences; etc.  However, it is my opinion that if you are not depressed now, then it would be very wise for you to take measures now in order to prevent becoming depressed in the future.  Depression can hit any of us any time as is evidenced by the fact of such an astounding number of people on anti-depressant medication in this country. 

Here are some tips to help prevent depression:

1)  Take care of your physical health by engaging in regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, avoiding drugs and alcohol, and getting plenty of rest.  Studies show that people who exercise regularly are less likely to get depressed than people who don’t. 

2) Watch your thought life.  There is actually a scripture verse about this:  Phil. 4:8 says “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things”.  This is so wise!  It also includes avoiding things that send you negative messages.  I am very careful about what I put in my mind through the media…. I’m careful about the books I read, the movies I watch, television shows, etc.  The old saying “garbage in, garbage out” is completely true.  If you fill your mind with garbage, then guess what comes out!!! 

3) Pay attention to the messages you tell yourself.  We have so many thoughts during the day, and we tell ourselves so many things that we’re probably not even conscious of.  A lot of these messages are things we’ve internalized from our parents or other significant people in our lives from when we were kids.  Unfortunately, a lot of it is also negative.  Try to catch yourself in these thoughts… when you do; intentionally reframe that thought so that it conforms to what is actually true (most of the time we end up believing complete lies about ourselves).  Your thoughts follow your beliefs; your emotions follow your thoughts; and most of the time, your actions follow your emotions.  If you believe the truth about yourself, then you will think positive thoughts, which will lead to positive emotions, which will lead to positive attitudes and behaviors. 

4) Spend time with God every day.  God loves you and has a plan and purpose for your life.  He’s just waiting for you to come to Him and to enjoy your relationship with Him.  Jesus died for you so that you can freely experience this. 

5) Write out your mission statement and review it regularly.  This will remind you of your purpose on this earth and how you are unique and especially gifted to fulfill a special role in this universe.  Only you can be you and do what you do.  Your life is meant to positively impact the lives of those in your circle of influence. 

6) Keep a journal.  This will help you process your thoughts and emotions.  Over time, you will see patterns emerge, and hopefully growth as you overcome challenges and obstacles in your life. 

7) Enjoy the simple things in life.  Don’t get so busy that you forget to notice the little things like the welcome breeze blowing in your face on a hot summer’s day; or a baby’s smile; or the smell of a flower.  That may sound cheesy, but sometimes it’s the simple things in life that help put everything in perspective. 


Sunday devotional thought

One of my clients copied and pasted this quote from Joel Olsteen and sent this to me this week.  This is a great spiritual motivator to take care of your physical health.  I figure since today’s Sunday, it’s a great day to share what the word of God says about taking care of your physical body.   

Today’s Scripture
“Dear friend, I am praying that all is well with you and that your body is as healthy as I know your soul is” 3 John 2 (TLB).

Today’s Word from Joel and Victoria Osteen
All of us have prioritized our lives in some form or fashion, whether consciously or unconsciously. Maybe you don’t do it purposefully, but you organize your life based on a hierarchy of needs and interests. The Bible makes it clear that maintaining physical health should be one of the highest priorities for us. God created you to be active, healthy and ready for what He has for you. God has great things planned for you, but you won’t be able to accomplish them if you’re unhealthy and unprepared. The apostle John wrote to a close friend and made sure that he knew physical health was just as essential as spiritual health. Being physically health is not just a good idea – it’s a good spiritual idea!

A Prayer for Today
God, I know that my physical health is of importance to You as well as my spiritual health. I want to dedicate my body to Your service and glory, so please help me to be in the best physical condition possible. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.


Emotional Triggers That Can Lead to Weight Gain

I mentioned in my blog a couple of days ago that the main reason people gain weight is from overeating.  Now, it is possible to overeat when you allow yourself to get TOO hungry (hence the reason you need to eat something every 3 hours).  I think we’ve probably all done that… you reach the point that you’re absolutely starving, and then you raid your whole house eating everything in sight. 

However,  I want to explain a few of the emotional reasons people overeat.  1)  Anger.  When you are very angry, sometimes this can make you feel like eating.  I know I’ve done it… I just get so frustrated either with myself or someone else (usually my husband… but fortunately that doesn’t happen too often anymore) that I just want to eat because I don’t know what else to do!  Indeed, you do need to be prepared with some anger management and coping skills to avoid overeating in times like this.  Try venting your anger through exercise; journaling; counting to 10; deep breathing exercises; do something else until you can calm down enough to think rationally.  2) Loneliness.  Sometimes food can become your one and only trusted friend… it’s seems like it’s the only thing that’s always there and loves you unconditionally.   This is where my relationship with God comes in.  I know that HE is the only one who truly loves me unconditionally, because humans are fallible creatures.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He loves me and accepts me for who I am – even with my weaknesses and frailties (and He loves you, too…  I promise He does!).  However, I also seek to cultivate and nurture my relationships with friends and family.  If you are lonely, do something about it.  Seek out others with like interests; I’ve recently found a website called www.meetup.com that helps you find others who share your same hobbies and passions.  Give that a try.  3) Feelings of shame and/or inadequacy.  When people struggle with issues of self-esteem, it is very easy to give in to these feelings, and say “what’s the use?  I might as well just eat this bag of chips, carton of ice-cream, etc.”.  Don’t do it!  If you listen to the messages you tell yourself, you might find something interesting… do those messages sound familiar?  Who used to tell you those things about yourself growing up?  Usually we internalize messages we received as children from our parents, grand-parents, or other trusted adults.  We’ve repeated those messages for so long that they have become a part of us and our reality.  It’s time to change those tapes!  Tell yourself the truth (i.e. you are acceptable, worthwhile, unique, special, loveable, good at things, etc.  I know these are true about you, because they are true about everybody… you just have to remind yourself of it often).

There are many others I could mention, but I wanted to just give you an idea of what I’m talking about.  If you struggle with emotional eating, overeating, or binge eating, then I would suggest you begin journaling your thoughts and feelings.  Start to recognize repetitive patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behavior.  By the way, your feelings and behavior always follow your thoughts; your thoughts always follow your beliefs.   So, in order to change feelings and behavior patterns, you must start with identifying your beliefs, choosing to believe the truth (if you are unsure what truth is, a great place to start is with the Bible, because that’s the source of absolute truth), repeating the truth to yourself daily and even moment by moment if necessary.  Pretty soon you will find that your feelings and behavior will follow suit, and you won’t need to overeat to cope with negative emotions.

How I lost weight, maintained it for over 5 years, and transformed my body

I would like to share my personal weight loss story with you.  I figured out how to not only lose weight, not only maintain my weight, but completely transform my body inside and out!  It all started with my 30th birthday, which was almost 6 years ago (my birthday is October 18th).  Before that time, I was pretty much like everyone else… always trying to lose those stubborn 10 to 15 pounds.  I was a size 8 and had been for about 10 years.  (I graduated high school wearing a size 12, actually).  I finally got to the point that I just accepted my size 8 self & decided that I would focus on my health instead of my weight.   I read a book called What the Bible Says About Healthy Living by Dr. Rex Russell.  He’s a doctor who struggled with his own health issues & disease.  He decided to go back to the Bible and to God for the answers.  Since He’s the One who created these bodies, He’s the One who should know how to fix them.  Sounds logical to me.  Anyway, this was my first real exposure to whole foods.  It completely changed the way I view food, eating, and my body.  Another book I read at that time is called Sculpting Her Body Perfect by Brad Schoenfeld.  This is the first real book I had read that teaches proper strength training technique.  So, armed with these two resources – my life changed… one meal at a time; one workout at a time.  At first I didn’t see too much difference, but since I wasn’t really looking for any dramatic change right away – I was patient.  I was more into doing this for my health sake and for aging better than for being “buff”.  However, lo and behold, somewhere between 3 to 6 months into it… EVERYONE noticed!!  I remember going to the mall and trying on shorts.  A size 4 fit me perfectly!!!!!  I could have sworn I came out of the womb a size 8, so there are no words to express my complete shock! 

 I am still wearing a size 4.  I’m 5’6″ and usually weigh somewhere between 123 and 128.  I continue to work toward sculpting my muscles, which is now my hobby and passion.  My other passion is helping others (I do have a Master’s degree in Social Work, which is called “The Helping Profession”).  So, this is how I became a trainer and why I want to help others be free of their life-long struggle with weight.  It really is not as hard as everyone makes it out to be.  For me, the answer was found in shifting my focus from weight to my health and taking care of my body for the right reasons.   I hope it inspires you to do the very same thing.  For more about me, visit my website at www.fitnessforwomeningeorgia.com.

Excusitis, the Failure Disease

You’ve seen it before.  You’ve probably been victim to it at some time in your life.  Ok, it’s not a REAL disease, but it might as well be.  Excusitis is the main cause of failure in any endeavour, especially health, fitness, and weight loss.  According to Dr. David Schwartz, PhD in The Magic Of Thinking Big “the more successful the individual, the less inclined he is to make excuses”.  People who are mediocre could probably write a book of all the reasons why they didn’t accomplish their dreams and goals.  Why are we inclined to make excuses?  To save face, of course.  We like to blame our failures on numerous things like traumatic childhoods, lack of money, lack of time, too old, too young, too tired, too busy, etc.  The bad part is that once we claim something as our excuse, we hold on to it for dear life.  This excuse (or lie) seeps into our subconscious mind and becomes embedded there.  Repetitive thoughts – either positive or negative – become more and more ingrained so that they become deeply rooted beliefs.  (Incidentally, this is why I’m such a fan of positive thinking, especially when your thoughts conform to the absolute truth which comes from the Word of God).  So, the “treatment” for excusitis is obviously to avoid making excuses in the first place.  Take responsibity for your goals, dreams, and decisions.  When it comes to exercise and weight loss, it is always a good idea to look at your current lifestyle and then rationally assess how much time you have in your schedule; whether you are truly motivated to do the work of exercise and proper nutrition; and whether or not it is truly a priority for you.  If it is, then set some realistic goals, establish a plan, try your plan on for size, modify it as needed, and persevere even when it gets hard.  This is the secret to health and fitness, but it’s also the way to succeed with just about anything in life. 

From my heart to yours…

 It absolutely grieves me to see how so many people live their lives: running from this place to that; eating in the car; skipping meals; irritable; depressed; stressed out; lacking quality relationships; feeling lonely; addicted to sugar, caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, or illicit drugs; trying to cover up that gnawing feeling of emptiness; and ultimately feeling little purpose in life.  At some point, you really do have to just STOP and ask yourself “Why?”  Why am I living this way?  Why am I doing this to myself?  Why am I even walking on this earth?  Is there really any meaning or purpose in life? 

 I love to read books by Stephen Covey like The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People or First Things First (which I’m reading now).   I made a very intentional decision about 7 years ago to work no more than 20 hours a week; all other time would be devoted to taking care of myself; maintaining my home; nurturing my relationships with my husband, family, and friends; and serving in my church and community.  I can’t tell you how my life has changed since then.  In fact, it was in 2001 that I lost nearly 20 pounds and 2 sizes in clothes, since I had the opportunity to actually FOCUS on my health, fitness, and overall wellness.  I have started my own business.  I have a much more clear direction as to the purpose of my life, which incidentally is to encourage others to do the very same thing I did (focus on health and wellness).  I have a very fulfilling relationship with God, my husband, and my friends.  I live with an overwhelming sense of peace and joy every day.  I wake up each day excited about the opportunities I have.  Every morning I say “this is the day the Lord has made – I WILL rejoice and be glad in it” – and then I do.  It’s such a different lifestyle than what I see all around me.

It’s time to challenge the status quo, and “swim upstream” in a culture that seems to be going to hell in a hand basket.  I promise you there is so much else to life besides chasing money.  When you reach the end of your life, what do you want people to say about you?  What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?  It’s so easy to miss the forest because of all the trees blocking your view.  I encourage you to take a break every so often and reflect on these things.  Instead of working that dead-end job – take courage to follow your dreams.  Do you even have dreams anymore? 

I know this sounds different than regular fitness/nutrition blogs, but I am determined that I want to address the needs of the WHOLE person – not just the physical ones.  Life is so much more than food and what we look like.  However, without good health and fitness it’s really hard to enjoy and really LIVE life to the fullest.  That’s why I’m here… I hope I can help you stay inspired to truly become A BRAND NEW YOU