After my daughter was born in 2011 I can remember one word to describe how I felt her first year of life-EXHAUSTED. We were up with her several times every night; if she only woke up twice it was a GREAT night. We finally got started to get professional help when she was 10 months old. We started with a pediatric gastroenterologist (we thought she had stomach issues but she was completely fine). Then we saw a pediatric sleep psychologist and I started seeing a therapist who specialized in pregnancy, parenting and postpartum. The result from seeing the therapist was that I had postpartum depression; and that it was not the result of a chemical imbalance but from a lack of sleep. We started focusing on improving my sleep and within days I felt like myself again. I still saw this therapist regularly for the next year; and off and on for the next four years. My background is in Social Work and I have always seen the benefit of having a good therapist on your team. Even though I have a bachelor’s degree and even took a nutrition class in college; I did not have any sense to connect nutrition into healing my postpartum depression at this time-it was all about sleep.
During this time, I ate the Standard American Diet (SAD). My diet was heavy on meat, dairy, processed foods, white grains, sugar (CANDY!), oil and salt. I thought it was normal. As I got older something started to tickle my brain and I started to think that maybe I needed to ‘clean up’ my diet; but I was nowhere ready to admit it.
Fast forward to September 6th, 2011; the day we had our THIRD baby. To give you an idea of my diet; here’s what I ate during his birth.
- Steak, mashed potatoes and bread from Texas Roadhouse (I was super disappointed that they forgot the gravy and butter)
- Breakfast casserole (eggs, cheese, sour cream, hash browns, ham)
- Strawberry ice cream
- An entire salted caramel chocolate bar
- Twizzlers, crackers, apple juice
The word I would use to describe his first months of life is OVERWHELMED. I remember crying on the shower floor one day because I just didn’t know how I would get through the day. I would often beg my husband to come home early-which was very stressful for him. I was even asking him to take the entire month of December off of work (which would have been Leave Without Pay) because I just didn’t know how I was going to continue. We tried to focus on getting me more sleep; after all, that worked when we had our first baby and I felt depressed, and it didn’t work. I could not sleep well. Even when the baby slept, I had a hard time. I had not been seeing my therapist for the last 2 years (everything was pretty smooth emotionally after we had our second) so I went back to her. After a few months we decided that it was time to try an anti-depressant.
I tried Zoloft; the only drug I was told I could take while nursing. Two weeks in I knew it was not going to be my answer. My sleep was getting worse; not better. I did not like the way it made me feel. I was not fired up towards life, excited or engaged the way I wanted to be. Then one weekend, at the end of February, it all came together. I talked to several friends who ate diets very heavy in vegetables. One friend cured an autoimmune disease with her diet; the other friend cured postpartum depression. On Friday I was eating SAD (standard American diet); by Monday I claimed I was eating “Whole food, plant based” (vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds)
A Nutritarian Lifestyle
“Nutritarian” is a term coined by Dr. Joel Fuhrman; it simply means eating foods that are nutrient dense. H=N/C (your health equals the amount of nutrients you consume divided by the amount of calories).
Eating a Nutritarian diet means you try to eat the MOST nutrients in the LEAST amount of calories. The chart he created is the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index (ANDI). For example; kale, collard greens and mustard greens have a 1,000 rating (the highest you can get), peanut butter ranks at 51 and corn chips have a ranking of 7.
Dr. Fuhrman has written many amazing books, but the one I started with was How to Disease Proof Your Child. It changed my life. Because we followed his advice in that book our toddler no longer has a chronic cough or eczema. Our whole family is healthier and we are hardly ever sick. Before the diet change it seemed like we were getting colds constantly. And the biggest change is that my postpartum depression is gone. I stayed on the Zoloft for two more weeks, and then spent two weeks getting off of it. (I was on it for a total of 6 weeks). If I don’t eat to have a high ANDI score (like when I binge eat on dates, don’t eat leafy greens, or slip up and have straight up junk food) I feel tired and stressed again. That feeling is always fixed with getting back on track with eating, getting more sleep and reading an inspiring bookJ. The changes I’ve noticed since eating Nutritarian to cure postpartum depression
- Great sleep
- Positive mood
- Clearer skin
- 30 lb weight loss
- Cholesterol is no longer high
- HUGE increase in energy!
- No more colds
A Nutritarian Lifestyle means
- Eating mainly nutrient-dense foods: vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds.
- Eating few, if any, animal products (one or two servings per week at most).
- Eating no or almost no foods that are completely empty of nutrients or toxic to the body, such as sugar, sweeteners, white flour, processed foods, and fast foods.
Include in your daily diet
- A large salad
- At least one 1/2 cup serving of beans/legumes
- At least three fresh (or frozen) fruits
- At least one ounce of raw nuts and seeds
- At least one large (double size) serving of cooked green vegetables
Avoid in your daily diet
- Red meat and all barbecued, processed, and cured meats
- Fried foods
- Full fat dairy (cheese, ice cream, butter, whole milk, and 2% milk) and trans fats (margarine)
- Soft drinks, sugar, and artificial sweeteners
- White rice and white flour products
I know that may sound “Extreme” (at least that’s what people keep telling me); But the results are obvious in my life every day. Eating this way is doing more for me than the antidepressant could do. I’m not perfect, I still struggle sometimes and I have a lot to learn about this way of eating. But I am loving it; I feel great and my kids feel great. This is absolutely my cure for my postpartum depression.
Next Steps for you
I will forever be grateful to Dr. Fuhrman and all of his resources! So what do you do if you’re feeling how I was feeling? Are you tired, sick with colds and feeling discouraged? Start by adding vegetables and fruit to your diet immediately and get some sleep. Then pick up one Dr. Fuhrman’s books. Give it a try, and contact me at Nutriversity if you need some support.