Coping with Low Appetite from Depression and Diabetes

a large bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
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I have recurrent episodes of mild depression. Long before I had diabetes, I had bipolar disorder type II. It’s gotten a lot better over the years. I have coping skills to deal with the mood swings and they have fortunately been pretty mild in recent years.

However, I still have episodes of depression and the appetite related symptoms are really annoying.

When I’m feeling depressed, I often don’t have much of an appetite. I have less motivation to do any kind of meal planning. When I am hungry, I desire comfort foods and sweets at a higher rate than my normal happy self would want that stuff… But mostly when I’m depressed I’m not hungry and food doesn’t taste good.

So I go between wanting to eat high carb foods that aren’t good for me and not wanting to eat anything at all. Having diabetes adds another dimension of dealing with depression.

Low appetite and dosing insulin

Eating balanced meals is important for my diabetes, and I use an insulin pump, so I need to administer a bolus dose of insulin with each meal. I’m supposed to count the carbohydrates in the food I’m about to eat, and program that number into the insulin pump. The pump then determines the dose based on that number.

What if I decide halfway through the meal that I’m not hungry?

I don’t have to eat more than I want to eat, but I do have to get the amount of insulin correct. Therefore, if I’m uncertain of my appetite and what I’ll end up eating, I’ll sometimes only dose for part of the meal… And then when I’m done eating, I’ll dose for the rest. Yes, it’s better to always dose insulin beforehand, but sometimes you just don’t know how hungry you’re going to be… I do often eat high fat meals which work better with this strategy since the fat slows down the action of the carbohydrates. This would not work well with a large amount of fast acting carbs.

Planning ahead with meals and snacks I like

My depression is cyclical, so fortunately, I’m not always depressed. I try to spend some time on the good days planning ahead. I write out meal plans and go grocery shopping, and I make sure I have the following kinds of food on hand:

Quick Meals

I make sure that I stock my pantry with quick meals that I will eat, even when depressed. I don’t feel like cooking when I’m depressed and I’m not interested in trying new things. So, I try to stock my cupboard and fridge with easy things.

I’m also not inclined to go to the grocery store when depressed.

For example, hot dogs and mac ‘n cheese is a comfort meal for me.

Sometimes it’s just hard to think up something to eat when depressed, so having a list of meal ideas to pick from can be helpful.

Do you have favorite go-to foods? Stock up on them and make a list of potential meal ideas!

Treats

Yes, I do keep treats on hand to help me feel better and also to help with low blood sugar.

Chocolate helps my mood. And a pudding snack cup is a fun way to bring my blood sugar up.

Juice, or Soda…

If you are an insulin dependent diabetic like myself, then there’s a good chance that not eating will cause low blood sugar. I like to keep juice or soda on hand for treating low blood sugar. It works very fast and I can tolerate drinking something when not hungry…. Way better than having to eat!

Snacks

Sometimes I’m just not hungry for a meal but I will eat a protein bar or some cheese and crackers. A snack instead of a meal is OK. I look for snacks that have protein in them, as this helps keep my blood glucose stay more stable. An added benefit to a snack is that it often comes in packaging that says exactly how many carbohydrates are in it, which means that I can easily dose the correct amount of insulin. Snacks are small and easy. Snack 6x a day if that works for you!

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