Overweight and Depression – Interaction of Many Factors
Whether you are eating out of frustration, are a binge eater or you suffer from any other eating disorders, morbid eating behavior is widespread but not always visible. For many people affected, the disease starts in slow stages, and only months or years later serious problems and symptoms appear.
Particularly in connection with obesity and depression, unhealthy eating patterns are to be considered more closely in order to find causes and to be able to use treatment options.
According to federal health reporting, people affected by obesity tend to suffer 25 percent more often from a depressive disorder, while around eight percent experience single or recurrent depression.
Many more mental illnesses have been on the rise for years as living conditions, working environments and stressors have changed over the decades.
On the other hand, diagnostic procedures and treatment options have been improved so that diseases are detected earlier and patients can receive more targeted therapies.
The signs of depression are often difficult to spot. Yet, key warning signs are a lack of drive and squeezed mood over a long period of time. Even neglecting friends or usually popular activities can be a clue in the context of depression.
Why Being Overweight and Impaired Eating Behavior can be Warning Signs?
If one’s eating behavior changes to the negative and eating, or turning to food as a mean of comfort, is becoming more common, there may be numerous causes.
Being overweight does not have to be pathological, but health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular problems or indigestion will usually be discovered if sufferers are to check the root causes.
When hunger attacks, feelings of shame and guilt, social withdrawal, loss of activity and emotional problems occur in addition, the separation between eating problems and depressive moods or even depression is not always easy.
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Binge eating disorder (BED) causes people to consume large amounts of food and no longer have control over the content or timing.
The difference with obesity lies in an even greater pronounced dissatisfaction with the body, lower self-awareness and high weight fluctuations. Often the attacks happen secretly because the shame about one’s own behavior is very great.
Around half of most folks who suffer from depression tend to binge eat, thus, making it one of the main triggers of obesity. There are three factors that play into the genesis:
- Predisposing factors
- Triggering factors
- Social factors
For example, mental illness within the family, a negative self-image, childhood obesity, as well as difficulties in dealing with emotions, stressful life situations such as bullying, the pressure to perform and lack of or excess food supply, can be the trigger.
The vicious cycle of negative feelings, recurrent eating attacks and subsequent problems such as diabetes, high blood pressure, respiratory problems or vein diseases can be difficult to break.
Studies also found that teens who suffer from depression are twice as likely to start binge eating than other adolescents.
In addition, depression symptoms are twice as high if there is regular binge-eating involved. Health experts, therefore, propose not only to promote sports and healthy eating but also to take into account mental disorders and problems in order to develop an appropriate treatment.
Problem Case: Obesity and Weight Loss Linked to Depression
Often low self-esteem and negative self-perception are suspected of being overweight, although this does not always have to be the case.
Many people define themselves above the assessment by others. Particularly self-critical people and adolescents tend to find themselves incapable. They describe their own appearance as the main cause of their dissatisfaction. Controlling their own eating behavior and food consumption strikes them as a power with which to regain their self-esteem.
The problem develops during adolescent age
So many girls increasingly feel too fat. The older they get, and especially in adolescence, self-esteem in terms of body weight has dropped significantly. There is also a tendency for boys, but it is a little lower.
To feel comfortable in one’s own skin again, many try to lose their weight. Some do it partly through diets or dietary changes that aren’t always healthy. Over 40 percent of 14-year-old girls have already gone on a diet, with boys around 11 percent.
This shows the high presence of the desire for perfection. A healthy body image and well-balanced self-perception are generally good attributes. However, the above-mentioned numbers are worrisome, as it can lead to deep-seated psychological issues.
When people without severe depressive disorders finally achieve their ideal weight, they usually experience happiness and self-confidence.
Having a lean body is eventually associated with success, happiness, health, and strength in many Western cultures. Those who do not correspond to the aesthetic image, allegedly have fewer chances in the labor market or in the search for a suitable partner.
Obese people who lost weight, but generally suffer from depressive moods, can fall back into their old pattern after some time once the desired attention from others recedes.
In fact, the depressive basic mood can also improve as individuals draw their self-esteem from the successful diet and the well-established discipline; when a feeling of pride kicks in.
There’s help to escape this psychological imprisonment
Those who fail to reduce body weight despite many diets and well-intentioned advice can once again fall into the vicious cycle of grief and eating disorders.
In addition to regular endurance training, many therapies try to develop behavioral training to lift the basic mood. They do so without antidepressants, which can promote weight gain as a side effect.
Although a calorie reduction can help with weight loss, it can at the same time increase depressive symptoms, as dietary confirmation and feelings of happiness are often gained. Treatment measures include:
- Nutritional Training
- Sometimes Antidepressants
- Psychotherapy or Behavioral Therapy
- Self-help groups
- What is certain is that not every overweight person has to suffer from depression. However, with eating disorders and pathological behavior, depression can be a cause or consequence of obesity. In each case, doctors and therapists should investigate both ways to promote both physical and mental health.
How Can You Prevent Psychological Consequences of Being Overweight?
People with obesity who suffer from depression or some other psychological consequence of weight problems should fundamentally put their issues in the foreground and focus on their treatment.
A simultaneous change of diet towards a healthy and especially serotonin-rich diet (predominantly consisting of raw food) makes sense. However, one should only imply it if it does not degenerate into additional stress. If possible, one can supplement psychotherapy with nutritional therapy.
It is also important to find alternative behaviors to combat levels of mood as a psychological consequence of being overweight. Reaching for a chocolate bar is not ideal. Alternatives, for example, include:
- Creative employment
- Preparing a healthy meal to be shared with friends or family
- Body and mind should always be equally involved (think meditation or Yoga).
- To read more about how yoga can help you with weight loss and mindset read our article here.
- Your body and mind should always be equally involved (consider meditation or yoga). To learn more about how yoga can help you with weight loss and your right mindset, read our article here:
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Eat Foods Rich in Serotonin – A Healthy Selection
If there is a depressive mood, one can try to shorten this phase by serotonin-containing foods. Try to include the following foods into your diet:
- Nuts such as cashew nuts and Brazil nuts do not contain large amounts of serotonin themselves, but the amino acid tryptophan. This acid ensures the serotonin production within your brain. Also rich in tryptophan are curd, cheese and various cereals and grains, such as spelt.
- Exotic fruits such as bananas, figs, papaya, pineapple, and avocado contain serotonin. Even if these fruits are very caloric: The psyche takes precedence when overweight; especially when there is depression involved.
- Some less caloric but serotonin-boosting foods are salmon, fresh tuna, spinach (all green leafy vegetables), beets, green beans, asparagus, carrots, okra, squash, and eggs.
- Raw food also provides the body with more tryptophan, which can then be invested in serotonin production.
- Anyone suffering from serotonin deficiency, for example, due to depression, should also avoid stress. This prevents the production of serotonin and is the most common cause of the lack of this important messenger substance.
The most important thing here is to be a great support for those affected. Accusations, or pushing for certain activities, rarely help. Often depressed people can’t react to it at all because the disease prevents them from doing so.
And, while being overweight and its psychological consequences may be an important issue for the person concerned, it should not become the main focus of loved ones.
It is essential to find other topics in the conversation. If the family member wishes to speak about him or herself, however, then it is advisable to listen.
In general, every normal-weight person should help reduce the stigma of overweight people. The emergence of obesity can have so many different causes. Incorrect diet or convenience and laziness as the sole explanations fall significantly short.
Personal note to my co-creators
This particular article is very close to my heart, and I truly hope that it does not only reach many who wish to read about this topic but that it delivers the help and encouragement sought, as well.
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