I have a friend who loves malted-milk balls.

The girl can eat a half-gallon carton of Whoppers and not gain a pound. Me, I eat Whoppers and you can literally see my butt expand: Whopper size fat dimples all over my hind quarters.

She tells me she has always been this way – able to eat anything she wants without gaining weight. A perpetual size 2. She says she has a fast metabolism. I don’t know what it is but she doesn’t have to work at it. Me, I gotta work at it and work at it and work at it.

I realized yesterday – while staring at the muffin top puffing over the waist of my jeans – that some of us have to work just as hard at our mental health as we do our physical health. Other folks are lucky. They don’t have to work at it – just like my friend who can eat Whoppers with muffin-top impunity. Stress, anger, sadness, jealousy don’t trigger a chemical reaction in their brains that makes them curl up into a fetal position or rage against the machine. They deal with it and get over it.

Not me. I gotta work at it and work at it and work at it. Just like I have to watch what I eat, I have to watch what I think, how I feel and what I do about it. Just like I have to avoid Whoppers, I have to avoid toxic people and situations.

Sometimes I can stay physically fit on my own: a run a few miles or ride my bike. Sometimes I need to go to the gym and take a kickboxing class. Sometimes I need a personal trainer. Same with my mental fitness. Sometimes I can stay mentally fit on my own: I take my meds and get plenty of sleep. Sometimes I need support group or 12-step meeting. Sometimes I need one-on-one with my therapist.

I don’t feel any more shame in needing a therapist than I do in needing a personal trainer. A 12-step meeting is like a kickboxing class for my stinkin’ thinkin’. Somehow, this makes it easier for me to stay mentally fit. Just like I have integrated physical exercise into my life, I have done the same with mental exercise. I don’t always do it well, but I have placed both mental and physical training on the same playing field. I have to be mentally and physically fit to run with the ball.

Sometimes I still want to pull the covers over my head and eat Whoppers. But I think it through: If I indulge my depression and cravings with isolation and Whoppers, I’m going to fall into a deep depression and have a butt with Whopper size fat dimples.

Truly depressing.