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Depression and weight gain often go hand-in-hand in a vicious cycle that many find themselves trapped in – are we depressed because we are overweight, or overweight because we are depressed?
Defined as a feeling of deep sadness, inability to focus or find enjoyment in day-to-day tasks, and coupled with low energy, depression can often impact our general patterns of behaviour particularly when it comes to eating.
Those suffering from depression often reduce their physical activity and, whilst they might not be increasing their intake of calories, by not doing much, or any exercise, the kilograms tend to creep on.
In a similar way, feeling sluggish and tired due to depression can lead to sufferers eating more unhealthy foods in a bid to increase their energy levels and to facilitate a “good” feeling. Sugary energy drinks, simple carbs and sweet treats consumed in large doses lead to easy weight gain.
Fight or flight mode is a tactic used by your body to decipher a critical situation which can cause you to overeat because your body believes that your current feelings of stress and anxiety are causing you to lose too many calories. This leads to you wanting to eat more because your brain is telling you that you need to.
Seeking help for depression in the form of medication can also lead to weight gain as some forms of treatment have been known to cause weight gain. If this is a worry, it’s always best to chat in-depth with your doctor to find out which medication will work best for your lifestyle.
Understanding depression is incredibly difficult, especially when not personally experienced. A terrible disservice is to tell sufferers to “think positively” which is often not the correct approach. Medical practitioners would recommend that in some cases, medication is needed, as well as therapy, lifestyle changes and exercise.
It might be the last thing that anyone wants to hear when they feel depressed, but sometimes, gentle exercise can help. As a natural and effective means to relieve tension and stress, exercise boosts physical and mental energy by releasing endorphins that assist in making us feel happier and more at ease. Robert Wicks, a psychologist and author, advises that it may be a good start to be depressed, but be depressed outside. “Once your body is in motion, it’s much easier to keep it in motion.” Starting small, by taking just a 15 minute walk a day, you could be helping your mind to refocus on a positive act, thus reducing the symptoms of depression.
Acknowledging the link between weight gain and depression is the first in many steps to assisting oneself in breaking the cycle. Although the journey to recovery may be a long one, it is the beginning of an amazing achievement.