Exercise and a balanced diet are the key to weight loss and maintenance. We all know that right? But what probably wasn’t as well known is that mood can play a big role in how people manage their weight.
Depression is a diagnosable mental illness that has only recently gained the attention of the scientific community. Although PET scans and other neuroimaging are used mainly to rule out other causes for a medical condition (such as a tumour), the imaging from such scans do clearly show the difference between a normal, healthy brain and one suffering from depression.
So the next time someone tells you that they are depressed don’t just wave it off and tell them it’s simply a figment of their imagination – because it isn’t!
The link between depression and obesity. Is depression really the culprit for the fastest way to lose weight?
Perhaps not directly. It’s likely that it works both ways – with depression causing weight gain, and vice versa. But we cannot discount the apparent co-relation between depression and obesity.
An abstract published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) confirms a clear link between obesity and depression.
According to the study, culture seems to play a significant roles in this, which supports our suspicions that weight gain or loss due to depression is more behavioural (i.e. eating habits, unmotivated to exercise, etc.) than biological. However, age-related weight gain is another matter, which can be slowed through a healthy lifestyle.
Studies from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, further indicated that depressed people were likely to gain weight quicker than those who weren’t.
With so many different body types it’s difficult to understand what works for us and what doesn’t…
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Blame it on comfort food – depression and weight management is more important than many of us realize.
You likely have a family member or friend who digs into the candy bowl every time they are feeling down. Sugars and carbohydrates are known to cause the brain to release serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter attributed to happiness. Thus, people who seek out sweet snacks are subconsciously looking for these benefits.
Because the mood-boosting effect from sweet sugary foods is short-lived – more of it needs to be consumed on a constant basis. It is this reliance that leads to the self-fulfilling prophecy of depression-obesity fat gain.
And you never know: it could very well be your depression-induced eating disorder that’s making you fat, and simply finding a way to stay happy (and away from subconsciously munching on sugary snacks) and motivated to move around, or even exercise, could be the fastest way to lose weight.
Depression has also been linked to drug and alcohol addiction, anxiety, social isolation and suicide.
Why it is important to stay trim.
Losing that excess fat isn’t that straightforward, however. Our bodies have evolved over millions of years to naturally hang on to calories and fat in preparation for events where food is scarce. Unfortunately, being fat isn’t only bad for your confidence but is severely detrimental to your health.
For one, staying above the recommended BMI of 25 and 30 leads to heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes.
Excess fat in the body is also responsible for the over-release of inflammatory signals. Although essential to the immune system, too much of an inflammatory response leads to two kinds of chronic inflammation, which is the cause of osteoarthritis, pelvic inflammatory disease, etc…
How to not depressed: be happy!
We’re tempted to include eating sugary treats as a way to improve moods and being happy, but that would invalidate the first reason we’re here, and that is to lose weight. So the next time you’re feeling down; put down those sweet, sugary treats, and instead observe the following lifestyle changes:
Swapped out junk, sugary snacks for ‘complex’ carbohydrates – These include beans, lentils, peas, whole grains, starchy veggies, green veggies.
Avoid personal conflicts – Whether with others or otherwise, not getting riled up is a great way to improve your mood.
Visit a psychiatrist – Preferably as a last resort, psychiatrists can help patients overcome their depression through a variety of treatments including psychotherapy to medication, psycho-social intervention and electroconvulsive therapy.
Exercise and sports– While carbos cause the release of serotonin, exercise triggers another type of happy hormone called endorphins. Long-term exercise routines also seem to improve mood permanently through re-wiring of the brain for a more positive mindset. Sports have the added bonus of being fun while exercising.
Get enough sleep – Not getting enough sleep is the source of a frightening number of health issues, and depression is really one of the lesser ones. Nevertheless, as this article is trying to put forth: chronic depression is no laughing matter, either.
Find positive thoughts – the next time a problem is casting its shadow on you, try to re-examine the issue from a different perspective. Does nobody like you? Are you envious of the luck and good fortune that they take for granted? However, admittedly it’s not always easy to look on the bright side of things every time. You could try taking up some studies in philosophy.
Get a doctor’s expert advice before embarking on supplements – unlike prescription drugs, supplements have not yet undergone intensive clinical trials and their long-term side effects and benefits may be not well understood.
Try something new – doing something new is known to alter the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter governing reward, pleasure and learning centers in the brain.
Meet new friends – People are social creatures. Even the most introvert of us benefit from the companionship of our species from time to time. Participate in clubs or groups that interests you. If you’re extroverted you might be growing overly familiar with your current group of friends. See point 8. above: Try something new.
Get a pet – Humankind not up your alley? Animal companions, especially dogs and cats, are known for their magical therapeutic benefits. As much as we’d like to, cockatoos and parrots are not recommended for safety and social reasons.
- Surround yourself with bright colours – Seeing red?! As you might’ve heard, different colours can evoke different emotions within us. Cultural differences and personal tastes mean that which colours work to brighten your mood is subjective. Flowers almost always work.