Depressed About Fast Food?

The other night, my wife and I were enjoying our dinner together at home. We were discussing the results of a study that was recently published that confirmed a link between fast food and depression. As we interacted about the subject, my wife who has been my best helper and supporter during my 25+ years in law enforcement, and who has been researching wellness issues in the public safety profession made this statement:

“It is a vicious cycle, when people are depressed they don’t have… the energy, the motivation or sometimes the money to nourish them properly. Eating the high fat, sugar and salty foods, that many cops eat, may be temporarily comforting and this expands their dilemma. Their bodies feel like crap and they get more depressed while they keep eating more unhealthy food”.

This woman makes an amazing observation. Years ago, I experienced this same behavior cycle. I ate crap and I felt like crap. I felt disgusting and my appearance and demeanor were the same.

The Public Health Journal reported a recent study which indicated that eating fast food is linked to a greater risk of suffering from depression. What types of fast food? The usual suspects: commercial baked goods, cakes, donuts, croissants, pizza, hamburgers and hotdogs. The classic part of a law enforcement officer’s basic working diet.

The study indicated that the participants who eat the most of these fast foods and bakery items are most likely to be single, less active and have poor dietary habits. Smoking and working 45+ hours a week are part of these group’s characteristics. Once again, take a guess which group may fit this category? Police officers and other law enforcement professionals.

Several studies conducted by the University of Navarra: SUN Project demonstrated these results:
• Previous study: 8,964 participants that had never been diagnosed with depression or taken anti-depressants. After a 6 month assessment: 493 were diagnosed with depression or started taking an anti-depressant.

• The 2011 study: 12,059 participants never diagnosed with depression or taking anti-depressants after a 6 month assessment. The results: 657 new cases of depression.
The conclusions find that eating fast foods increases the risk of depression. Depression and other forms of emotional and mental illness affect many public safety professionals especially the LEO.

The study also concludes that eating fast foods have other implications to our health such as weight management, heart disease and other emotional and physical issues. Another study from Australia found that eating high fat, processed foods contribute the risk of age-related macular degeneration.

What is a Law Enforcement Officer to do?
Police officers and other law enforcement professionals need to learn how to take care of themselves with proper nutrition to improve their emotional and physical health and overall wellbeing.

Make the changes you need to take care of your emotional and physical well-being.
Eat good nutritious whole foods including omega-3 fats, a multi-vitamin with minerals supplement and water.

• Pack your own meals in a cooler bag. Take it to work, extra private detail duty or in the cruiser on patrol.

• Choose takeout foods wisely. Look at vegetable salads (easy on the dressing), cut up veggies at supermarkets, low fat cheese sticks, low fat plain yogurt, small bags of nuts, fresh or canned (no added sugar) fruits are some healthy choices when you don’t have your own cooler bag meal. Plain oatmeal or shredded wheat cereal are great instant meals with low fat milk.

• Fill that water bottle. Fill your thermos bottle with a hot beverage you enjoy (watch your sweeteners) especially during the overnight shifts when these beverages are limited.

• Exercise is a very important daily activity for an cop. Stress reduction, flexibility, muscle strength and endurance along with cardiovascular improvement are great benefits. Exercising is great mood boosters.

Our well-being is in our own hands. We choose what foods we will eat, how we will take care of our bodies and minds. We have the ability to read and study on better ways to improve our emotional and physical health. We must prepare ourselves for the unexpected negative situations we face daily in our profession.

Situations on the job expose us to some mixed emotions including depression. When we take care of ourselves through proper eating, exercise and other wellness techniques, we build our resiliency to endure. To endure and bounce back is the key to officer survival.

This is very important: If you feel down, sad or depressed, reach out to a professional clinician, department chaplain, peer assistant or your EAP. Don’t suffer in silence, it’s confidential.

Use the Emergency 24-7 HOTLINE: SAFE CALL NOW at (206)-459-3020.

If you see a peer in this situation, reach out and guide them to some assistance.
Do it for yourself, your loved ones, your peers and your community that you serve.
Stay safe and be well!
Mark St. Hilaire

CopsAlive is written to prompt discussions within our profession about the issues of law enforcement career survival. We invite you to share your opinions in the Comment Box that is at the bottom of this article. was founded to provide information and strategies to help police officers successfully survive their careers. We help law enforcement officers and their agencies prepare for the risks that threaten their existence.

We will help your agency create the kind of place that supports and protects officers so that they can do their jobs better, safer, longer and survive to tell their grand kids all about it.

We do this by Helping Law Enforcement professionals plan for happy, healthy and successful lives on the job and beyond. We think the best strategy is for each officer to create a tactical plan for their own life and career. We call this Tactical Wellness planning.

The Law Enforcement Survival Institute (LESI) works with individuals and organizations to help them create and sustain success in their lives and careers as law enforcement professionals. It is the primary goal of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute to become the preeminent source for training, resources and information about how to create and sustain a happy, healthy and successful life and career while providing superior law enforcement service to your community.

At The Law Enforcement Survival Institute we train law enforcement officers to cope with stress and manage all the toxic effects and hidden dangers of a career in law enforcement.

We provide stress management and Tactical Wellness for police officers and other law enforcement professionals.

CLICK HERE to read more about The Law Enforcement Survival Institute.

CLICK HERE if you would like to contact us to learn more about training for your organization.

I’m John Marx, Founder of The Law Enforcement Survival Institute and the Editor of Connect with me on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

About Mark St. Hilaire

Sergeant Mark St.Hilaire has 25+ years as a police officer and is currently serving as a Patrol Sergeant in a suburb of Metrowest Boston, Massachusetts. Mark is continually training as a police peer assistant, and serves as a volunteer member of a regional C.I.S.M. team. He is committed to educating public safety professionals about the benefits of good health,developing our relationships and emotional wellness to improve our quality of life on and off duty.
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  1. Pingback: Power Food For Law Enforcement | Cops Alive | Police Wellness and Resilience to Stress - Career Survival

  2. Hey,

    Sounds great! Thanks for your input and I really like the water, water, water!

    Maybe you could write an article on your ideas that we can post on

  3. I went vegetarian about 2 years ago and had been a low meat/fast food consumer before that. I feel so much better and everyone comments on how healthy I look. I am 47, look 10 years younger and physically perform the same as a 25yo female. Garbage in, garbage out. I wish that our jail would improve the quality of food we serve inmates as it would reduce behavior issues and medical costs (improved health). Our officer obesity rate is 85%. You read it correctly- 85%. Not 8.5. My co-workers complain about being tired and having no energy. I tell them to go eat some fresh raw foods, like a mixed greens salad with veggies and nuts or fruit. They order fried food from our Food Shack. Todays menu for me is high fiber mixed cereal with almond milk and dried berries, organic coffee, grapes, mixed greens salad with veggies, roasted red tomato soup (organic) with a sprinkle of romano cheese and greek yogurt, whole wheat crackers, water, water, water, fresh corn on the cob and home made low sugar/fat cookies. I never feel tired anymore!

  4. Howard "Jake" Jaquay

    This is real good advice, particularly on carrying your own food with you. I carried a small cooler for most of my 32 years in law enforcement. I can recall many times when I would not have had anything to eat, healthy or otherwise, for a shift which could have ended up being 15 hours if we were particularly busy. Thanks again for this forum on taking care of ourselves so that we can continue to take care of those we serve.

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