Beer and me

This post contains swear words. You have been warned.

Talking with friends

Friends and empty glasses, oh dear...

They say to write about what you know, because that is the easiest place to write from. Disturbingly that would mean lines on depression, fitness and masturbation. Sorry I couldn’t resists that laugh! But in honesty what I write about is based on my experiences with depression and fitness, so maybe “they” aren’t wrong. Well here goes...

Last week I was struck by how fragile one’s progress with mental health improvement can be, (so much so that I’ve become the Queen). Last Friday I met up with a few friends i hadn’t seen in months to enjoy a small quantity of beers and some deep conversation. The latter was most certainly aided by the former as we delved into the foibles of the human mind and its ability to be a bit of a cunt. The simple beauty of connection and discussion that evening was however to be short lived.

After a restless nights sleep I woke in a mood that was “off”. I wasn’t hungover despite what you might think from the above, I was reaso

nably sensible and ate food with my beers for once. Despite having a great evening with mates the night before though, that good feeling I’d experienced had evaporated. In its place I found a gremlin in my skull and a hole in my pocket (damn you tasty fried chicken!) By the time evening rolled around I found myself cliff side at Coogee with a box of chips and a somber head, the sign of a particularly vicious episode of mind shittery.

You see the ocean and nature have always been a place of calm and reason for me. As a teenager I would go out on my bike or for a walk to clear my head or shout at the sky, a form of extremely effective therapy. In later years when I’ve lived near the ocean I’d find a cliff and sit appreciating the enormity of the ocean, the power of the waves and the transient nature of life itself. It has never failed to help quell feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide. Strangely when actually faced with death from cliff top flying, or drowning by crushing waves those life ending thoughts have been easily neutralised.

Naturally the next day on my roller coaster ride of emotion I felt on top of the world! All had been forgotten and I had a fantastic day. Fortunately I had not forgotten what I feel brought this on in the first place, beer.

Beer and me

Fitness and Guiness. It's good for you!

You must’ve started to wonder “when is he going to talk about beer?!” Well don’t worry I hadn’t forgotten. Sadly as tragic as it is for me to admit I don’t think beer is my friend anymore. It probably never has really been my friend per se, more of an easy way to numb feelings and overcome social anxiety on nights out. However if it was a friend it would be one of those mates that encourage you out with false promises of having “just a couple” and then guilt trip you into staying out til 3am when you try and sensibly leave at midnight.

In truth I don’t think it’s just beer that is a problem for episodes of depression (no I’m not thinking of alcohol). In a recent blood test for food intolerances I found out that gluten isn’t helpful for my body. This is not the Eastern Suburbs wanker in me saying this, many of us don’t do well with dairy or gluten. Both of these food sources can often cause an inflammatory response in our guts, leading to water retention, headaches and lethargy amongst other things. If you’ve had a look at some of the recent research on the link between the gut and the brain you may even believe that what you eat can cause depression or aggravate other mental health conditions.

Now I do love food but I’ve managed to reduce my gluten intake over the years because of various different diets I’ve tried as a personal trainer. I don’t eat a great deal of bread, I don’t eat pasta and I don’t drink/drink beer like I did in my twenties. Obviously if I go out for a meal that is when I will eat those things, I’m no bloody saint! However it is always when I’ve had beers that I feel depressed the next day. There’s this correlation I’ve seen over the last few years between drinking beer and episodes of depression that interests me. Despite this usually occurring at the end of the week when I don’t have work to think about and am free to enjoy my free time. (Cue a longer blog post about how depression is biological, psychological and environmental in varying degrees.) It’s not just alcohol alone either, I’ve had many a night where I drank wine and gin like an 19th century naval captain about to sail into the battle of Trafalgar, without a sniff of next day depression. Nor is it the Sunday “fear” that so many of us experience after a good session of socialising over a weekend prior to returning to work on the Monday. No this is vigorously tested Tom style, which means it’s all in my mind and is in no way concrete evidence of a causal link between beer and depression.

So many of you at this point would say “why don’t you stop drinking Tom?!” To which I’d say “because I enjoy a few beverages”. Also it is an easier step to begin by giving up beer than to stop alcohol consumption altogether, a prospect that has failure written all over it. For me I can live without beer as the resultant feelings of hopelessness and doom that arrive post consumption aren’t worth the prior enjoyment. No I’m much better off sticking to red wine, gin and tonic and whiskey instead!

I still have options!

What the waffle?!

The reason for all this waffle is to say that everyone has to find what works best for them. It’s what I am trying and failing at repeatedly to eventually learn what works for me. However I wouldn’t tell you to stop drinking or eating a certain way, because it isn’t an effective intervention tactic for one, but also it’s up to you as individual to find your own balance. In today’s society we hear so many conflicting messages, from government guidelines to corporate advertising. We get bombarded everyday via social media, news and even the people around us. But what may be good for most isn’t necessarily what’s right for you specifically.

My opinion/advice has always been to treat life as an experiment, systematically and scientifically testing different nutrition, health and fitness strategies. The systematic strategy means to avoid switching back and forth from one fad health focus to another, but to test one over an 8 week period. The scientific method would be to test your bloods, body fat and health vitals with accurate measurements and then retest after that 8 week time frame. The good side to the modern age and all the information out there is that there are a variety of tools available to help you find your balance. Just take things step by step and have patience with what you try.

Here’s to discovering what works for you.

Tom :-)