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Comfort Foods and Depression (i.e.- Self-medicating with donuts…it’s tastier than Prozac)

I thought that given my current state and the past post that brought about a lot of discussion regarding eating and Pain, this would be a good follow-up post.

If you are anything like me, you know that sometimes an episode of depression, whether induced by physical or emotional pain, can lead to eating!  After all, I didn’t get to my highest weight of almost 300 pounds last year because I was happy with life!  But, eating when you are depressed doesn’t help because you are not getting to the root of the problem with food.  As a matter of fact, an episode of depression can lead you to consume thousands of extra calories that may give you a much-needed mood boost, but sadly, it is short-lived and can lead to a cycle of overeating.

Despite having lost a significant amount of weight, I know that it is not easy to avoid reaching for comfort foods!  I admit that, although I have changed my eating habits significantly, I still crave, and occasionally indulge in comfort foods.  My weaknesses are peanut butter and chocolate ice cream, donuts and those cheap sugar cookies from the supermarket that have about an inch of sickeningly sweet icing on them.

It turns out there is a reason that our bodies crave comfort foods, usually ones that are rich in carbohydrates, when we feel down.  According to an article on, the craving for such foods could be the result of low-levels of serotonin, the neurotransmitters that are associated with depression.  Eating carb-rich, sugary foods can actually trigger a release of serotonin, thereby tricking your brain into thinking that these foods are a “cure” for your depression. In short, those donuts I crave so much when I feel sad, are a way of ineffectively self-medicating my depression.

So, what do you do when the desire for comfort foods means a break in your diet is inevitable?  The key is learning to find healthier options for the comfort foods your mind and body crave.  Protein-rich foods are much healthier and more-filling than carbohydrate-rich foods.  My physical therapist advised me to start drinking protein shakes to get the protein my body needs.  Anyone who has ever tasted those protein shakes knows they are really hard to choke down.  So, I am on a mission to make this shake taste as good as possible by adding in healthy ingredients to yummy-it up.  This recipe is my version of a Peanut Butter Banana Protein Shake, which honestly tastes like a milkshake.

smoothiePeanut Butter Banana Protein Shake*

½ scoop “Elite XL Chocolate Brownie protein powder**

1 small frozen banana (you can peel them and put them in a bag in the freezer)

1T. Peanut Butter or 2T. “PB2” (greatest thing ever- dehydrated peanut butter, low-cal, low-fat)

1t. honey

1T. Non-Fat Greek Yogurt (optional, adds to creaminess)

4 ice cubes

8 oz. water


Combine ingredients in a blender, or Magic Bullet (despite the name it is not a toy for the bedroom, it is a mini-blender and a mega-time-saver…you can find it at ( and blend together for approximately 1 minute, until it is the consistency you desire.


The PB2, despite being a powder, will thicken the drink, as will the yogurt and honey.  If you like more of an ice-cream consistency, you can add more ice.  If you want a more liquid consistency, you can use skip the yogurt and use less ice and more water.


I cannot give an exact calorie count (mostly because I don’t want to be blamed if I am off by a few calories and I cause you to blow your diet), but it has approximately 225 calories.  It is high in protein and potassium, low in fat and it tastes super-delicious!


I am playing with my protein powders and will post more healthy protein shakes as I create them.  Trust me, if I come up with a healthy, guilt-free donut, I’ll be sure to post that here too.


* Please note I am not claiming this shake is 100% my idea, there are a hundred recipes out there, this is just what I combine to make a healthy shake that I like.

** due to the other ingredients, I am not using a whole scoop of protein powder as I am trying to reduce the calories and I don’t want to overdo it on protein…moderation is the key! I am using Elite XL because that is what the muscular man at Vitamin World suggested.  It has time-release protein to help with appetite and other physical fitness stuff that is over my head.

***I am in no-way associated with any of the products noted on this page, nor do I endorse them.






Comfort Foods and Depression (i.e.- Self-medicating with donuts…it’s tastier than Prozac)

Tracy Rydzy MSW, LSW

My name is Tracy and I am a licensed social worker. I was working as a Social Worker, when an emergency spinal surgery 2 years ago changed my life and my career. I live with chronic pain and, as a result, I have taken my social work and writing skills, and made them into this blog. This blog is a humorous, informative, no-holds barred honest look at life with chronic pain, depression and disability.”

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APA Reference
Rydzy MSW, T. (2013). Comfort Foods and Depression (i.e.- Self-medicating with donuts…it’s tastier than Prozac). Psych Central. Retrieved on April 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Sep 2013
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