The Depression Diet, by Benjamin Hart

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Summer has come and gone and you’re left with the same pot belly and love handles you had in May. You can try low-fat smoothies and a workout regimen, but did you know that severe depression can be just as effective? Here’s how your creeping sense of dread can help you look better naked:

When you wake up at 3:30 AM, after three fitful hours of sleep, you probably won’t be able to muster anything resembling an appetite; you’ll be too busy replaying the throwing error that cost your 7th grade team the little-league title. Painfully intense memories of this kind will help you avoid snacking at odd hours, which is a surefire way to add unwanted pounds. In the unlikely event that a moment of optimism compels you to raid the fridge, log on to Facebook instead and check the status of your ex-girlfriend Sarah for the 17th time today. She recently posted photos of her honeymoon to Spain and, according to a comment from her younger sister Meredith, she and her new husband Tim look “so amazing!” together on the beach in San Sebastien. And you dumped her because her emails weren’t grammatically sound. Could that have been the defining moment of your life?

Your stomach will be tied up in knots by the time the alarm mercifully goes off three hours later. For breakfast, skip your usual waffle with butter and syrup and opt for water and self-recrimination instead.

Offices can be a minefield; around 11am, while you resignedly glare at the apple you packed, stop obsessing over Sarah and start obsessing over your soul-sucking profession. So far today, you’ve sat through a meeting about something called “social-media aggregation,” then spent a solid seven minutes watching a video of a cat trying to escape from a laundry basket. Digital consultant? Even you don’t know what your job title means. Use that malaise to your advantage: offer the apple to a coworker, with a transparent explanation about how you forgot you didn’t like apples.

For lunch, both as a form of exercise and as a way to tamp down your appetite by comparing yourself to those around you, walk around the block for 20 minutes. You think that banker guy in the blue shirt ever thinks about little league? Just a quick glance at him eating his sandwich, clearly blissed out on his own dull competence, will be more than enough to forestall any hunger pangs. Oh, and now he’s making a phone call. Probably to his nurturing (yet sexually adventurous) wife, so they can talk about how great it is to eat a sandwich.

At this point in the day, you may begin to feel faint. If you find yourself at the vending machine, just remember the time you didn’t make a move on Caitlin Weiss on the last night of camp, and that she made out with your best friend two hours later. You thought you’d gotten over that years ago, but it seems you haven’t. Mmm! That not unpleasant taste is your own bile, which packs plenty of natural flavor and is considered a delicacy in some Pacific atolls. Think of it as Mother Nature’s horseradish.

After work, you have a birthday dinner for Dave, your friend who just got promoted at Google. The whole table is ordering steak. Just say you forgot you didn’t like steak.

For dessert, instead of ordering your old favorite molten chocolate cake, try stumbling to the bathroom and splashing water across the worn face you barely recognize anymore.When you return, mumble something about needing to get up early to watch a European soccer match, drop a 20 on the table even though you didn’t eat anything, and rush out of the restaurant without saying goodbye.

You’re home, it’s almost midnight, you’re starting to hallucinate, and there’s a pudding cup in your fridge that seems to be singing to you (possibly part of the hallucination?). Ignore it. Just turn on the TV and hope you can peacefully drift to sleep.

Hey look, Friends is on. God, you’ll never have an apartment that nice.

Shockingly, Benjamin Hart is a writer who lives in Brooklyn. Follow him on Twitter, if you’d like.

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