Weight gain and depression go hand in hand. While depression can cause weight gain, being over weight, or gaining weight can cause depression. This circle means that until we take charge of either the depression or the weight, both have the potential to intensify.
I am neither a nutritionist, a dietitian nor medical professional. The information in this article has been researched and sourced at the end of the post if required. All medical issues or questions regarding your health or symptoms should always be brought to the attention of a medical professional for clarification, assessment, advice and treatment.
How Eating and Depression are Associated
When someone is depressed, they often seek comfort in food. These comfort foods include sweet, sugary foods, or starch-heavy items like breads and cakes (complex carbs). Consuming these foods will create a spike in your blood sugar levels . When this sugar rush happens you feel an energy boost. That sugar rush provides us with a temporary mood elevation. Unfortunately, the sugar high comes to an abrupt end. This is known as crashing. When we hit the bottom of the crash, we feel drained and tired. The only thing that seems to provide comfort, or another high, is to consume more of the same complex carbs.
Eventually, the calories and fat from these foods add up and the weight gain continues. When we are discouraged by the weight gain, feelings of depression escalate.
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How Do We Stop the Cycle of Eating and Depression?
Start by Getting Moving
A good place to start is exercise. Activity offers a variety of ways to reduce weight as well as elevate your mood. When the body is active it releases endorphins which directly impact and uplift mood. Along with increased endorphins there is an increase in serotonin levels which also have a positive impact on mood.
Begin with a simple routine. A daily walk is always a good place to start. Fresh air is good for mental and physical health. Combine that with the exercise benefits of walking and you are heading in the right direction. If you prefer to stay in, you can do some stretching or walk on the spot. You can even try some chair exercises if walking or standing is an issue. When you feel the results of your workout you will be happier and feel successful. You may even be encouraged to increase your activity level even further.
Once you have taken command of your activity levels, you may notice that you have also taken control of one part of your life. You have made positive advances. Your confidence will escalate. This can motivate you to take the next step – changing the way you feel about food.
How Being Active Can Help Control Eating and Appetite
Exercise will help to stop excessive eating. Studies have shown that aerobic exercise will affect hormones that will actually reduce hunger. This will reduce the amount you eat and ultimately help with weight loss.
Aside from the scientific part, keeping busy is a great distraction. As long as you are focused on your workout, you will be less likely to be searching through the pantry or the fridge. Boredom is detrimental to good eating habits.
When exerting yourself, you should be drinking more water. Water is great for many aspects of your well-being, and weight loss is definitely one of them. Consuming water will fill you up and reduce the amount of food that you feel like eating. It will also flush the toxins and waste from your body. This allows your digestive system to process and dispose of food in a timely manner. This reduces bloat and discomfort that might otherwise cause you seek that sugar high we discussed earlier.
Healthier food choices will also contribute to better mood. When you eat for fuel your body has more energy. You will feel satisfied. You will feel stronger, both mentally and physically.
Your healthier lifestyle will help you to sleep better. Although sleep deprivation doesn’t necessarily cause depression, it does not help the symptoms. Increasing your physical activity will encourage proper sleep. Avoiding the high sugar foods will stop the vicious circle where sugar highs decrease sleep, and exhaustion causes sugar cravings.
It all starts with taking one step. Often, when trying to lose weight, we will set unreasonable weight loss or fitness goals. This usually results on failure and we become discouraged. It is crucial to set bite size goals that are attainable.
Once you begin your journey you will begin to see subtle differences in your day to day life. Build on each step to inspire the next. Each of these changes is a sign of progress that will improve your mood and raise your spirits.
NOTE: If you suspect that you have any signs or symptoms of depression, seek professional medical attention immediately. You should never self-diagnose or self-medicate.