WEIGHT LOSS AND WEIGHT GAIN: TWO DIFFERENT SIDES OF A DEPRESSION PROBLEM
There is a link between depression and weight management issues, and this link has baffled doctors for years. Does depression lead to weight management issues or do weight management issues (particularly obesity) lead to depression?
This is a question which may not be getting any answers anytime soon. But the reality is that the relationship between weight problems, be it obesity or weight loss, and depression is a two-way street. The presence of one usually intensifies the presence of the other.
A recent study sought to find out why depression and weight problem issues are so intertwined and came out with a ground-breaking scientific discovery, and this is it; The portion of the human brain that is responsible for our emotions is also the one charged with controlling our appetite. As depression is basically a disruption in the emotional part of the brain, when this happens, the appetite gets disturbed as well.
This also works vice versa. When you are having appetite issues (whether you are overeating or undereating), your emotional balance also goes out of whack.
To compound the issue, weight management issues can be of their own self very depressing. Most overweight people tend not to like their bodies very much and often make statements such as “I hate my body”. This gets such people into a certain kind of thinking pattern which plays very well with depression.
Finally, some of the medications that are used to treat people who are diagnosed as being clinically depressed usually have weight-related side effects. While some users gain weight while on the medication, some lose weight they did not intend to lose.
So, depression and weight problems work together in a cycle that seems to be from hell itself.
Some basic definitions
Before going ahead, it is important to understand what we mean when we talk about depression and weight problems. Here are some basic definitions.
Depression: This is defined as feelings of severe despondency and dejection. When it is officially diagnosed, it is called clinical depression which is then defined as a “mental health disorder characterized by persistently depressed mood or loss of interest in activities, causing significant impairment in daily life.”
Weight problems: Weight problems are the problems associated with a person’s inability to maintain an ideal weight. While the more common of the weight problems is being overweight/obese, an inability to gain an ideal weight (weight loss) is also a critical weight problem that besieges many.
Depression and weight gain
Obese/overweight people’s road to depression differs from individual to individual. While some become overweight as a result of being depressed, some become depressed because of being overweight.
But irrespective of the individual’s backstory, depression has a proliferation of symptoms that can make obesity worse. These are:
Appetite disturbances: Depression causes people to eat foods with high fat and sugar content because these foods tend to make us feel better, even if it is for just a short while. The temporary buzz gotten from that experience makes you want to eat just a little more, and then you feel terrible about yourself for giving in to the temptation to eat just a little more. This leads to a deeper level of depression and yet another bout of uncontrolled eating. The end result of all this is even more weight gain.
Lack of energy: Depression robs you of your energy. It is much harder to get out of bed, much more harder to follow an exercise regime, and incredibly difficult to pay attention to what you are putting into your mouth. It is common knowledge that maintaining an optimal/ideal weight requires a combination of healthy eating and exercising. When depression makes you quit (or not even attempt) exercising and then causes you not to practice mindful eating, the result is more weight gain.
Lack of motivation: Depression takes the color out of everything and leaves the sufferer unmotivated more often than not. You just want the day to be over and done with, so you can crawl back into bed. And unmotivated people do not exercise, do not care about their eating habits, and do not care about anything in general.
Depression and weight loss
Even though weight gain is the weight problem most commonly associated with depression, losing weight when depressed is also a problem for some.
This happens because depression causes some individuals to lose interest in anything pleasurable, including eating. It is important to understand that losing pleasure in everything is a hallmark of clinical depression.
The most common way that depression leads to weight loss is when it affects your sleep, even if you are eating a lot. A greater number of calories are burned when we are awake than when we are sleeping, a study finds, and if you are spending more time awake because you are depressed, the extra calories burned during that process eventually contribute to a caloric deficit, which leads to weight loss.
It is also important to note that depression may also accompany an eating disorder. When someone suffers from anorexia and consciously avoids food, the brain becomes starved and the sufferer starts to exhibit symptoms of depression.
Why you should get help today
Depression is a disease that comes with a peculiar set of risk factors, including social isolation, suicide, anxiety, and drug and alcohol addiction.
Depression and weight problems is a very unhealthy combination, and a self-reinforcing one as well, so it is important that you get help for them.
To treat depression, therapists often apply a multi-faceted approach which incorporates talk therapy, exercise, a healthy lifestyle, medication in some cases, and other lifestyle changes.
Whatever your physician prescribes, never forget that you can also manage your depression by committing to a lifestyle of exercise.
Start with walking, if that’s all you can do. Remember that exercise releases endorphins in the human body, which not only helps to manage pain, but that also trigger positive feelings.
So, go on, get active.