It’s important to be comfortable with your own body. Self-love is essential for happiness and mental health. But have you been gaining weight lately? Do you feel bad that your clothes don’t fit anymore?
There may come a time when you stare at yourself in front of the mirror and feel bad about the weight you gained. So does being overweight cause depression?
Many published medical articles online have discussed the relationship between obesity and depression. According to studies, obesity does cause depression, and they can go hand in hand and feed off each other.
In this article, you’ll learn how obesity and depression are related. It will also outline ways to deal with both.
Am I Obese? Know Your Body Mass Index (BMI) to Find Out
Gaining excess pounds and obesity are different. So how do you know if you’re obese? You find out by measuring your body mass index (BMI).
BMI is an excellent way to determine if you are underweight, within the normal weight range, overweight or obese. Your body mass index also determines if your weight is in proportion to your height.
Obesity increases the risk for physical ailments like heart disease, high blood pressure, fertility issues in women, and increased blood sugar levels. In addition to a higher likelihood of developing certain diseases, your mental health can be at stake, too.
Click here for the BMI Calculator.
Obesity and Depression: What Is Their Relationship?
How can obesity cause depression? What is the mechanism that’s responsible for this?
Fat cells are the major contributor to the problem. Medical evidence shows that fat cells secrete cytokines that cause inflammation in the brain.
Fat cells secrete substances called cytokines that cause inflammation. Chronic brain inflammation, which is often found in people who are obese, is also found in those struggling with depression. Research data shows that cytokines have a link to the development of idiopathic major depression.
Brain imaging evidence shows areas of the brain impacted by obesity are the ones involved in appetite regulation and self-control. If these brain regions do not function optimally, then a person becomes vulnerable to overeating and giving in to cravings, leading to weight gain.
People who feel depressed tend to have increased activity in the brain’s limbic region, which is involved in setting the emotions. This increased brain activity leads to stress. Obesity and depression feed off each other, and it’s a vicious cycle that may be hard to control for some individuals.
Obesity Causes Depression
An education journal stated that obese individuals are 25% more likely to experience depression or mood disorders than those who are not. Obesity can cause low self-esteem, poor self-image perception, and the development of contributing factors that lead to depression.
In addition, overweight people may find themselves stereotyped, ostracized, or discriminated against. Individuals carrying extra weight also experience chronic joint pain, hypertension, and diabetes, which all have a link to depression.
Depression Can Cause Obesity Weight Changes
People with depression could gain weight, too. One of the symptoms of depression is changes in eating and sleeping patterns. A depressed person may binge eat, love to eat sweets, and may not sleep enough.
All of these can lead to obesity. However, some depressed people lose their appetite and, therefore, also lose weight.
A study conducted on a group of young adults shows that teenagers experiencing depressive symptoms are more likely to be overweight the following year. They are likely to eat more, eat junk foods, become sedentary, and avoid exercise.
Also, researchers found that people with depression have decreased levels of serotonin. Low serotonin levels can lead to carbohydrate cravings, thus leading to weight gain.
Antidepressant Medications Can Lead to Weight Gain
People with depression are advised by their doctor to take antidepressants and may experience weight gain for this reason. Gaining excess weight while taking antidepressant medication is a common side effect. Antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications interfere with serotonin activity. This leads to the craving for carbohydrate-rich foods and sweets.
This side effect is not found in some individuals, depending on their body type. Ectomorphs do not usually gain weight even when taking antidepressant medications.
Tips on How to Deal with Depression and Obesity
Knowing the link between depression and obesity should convince you to lose a few pounds to take care of your mental health. Getting your emotions and feelings under control could help with weight management.
You can start by tweaking your diet and being more active. This does not mean you have to exercise three hours a day or eat like a rabbit. To get the best results, seek medical advice from your doctor if you need treatment or advice on the lifestyle changes you have to make.
Here are some tips on dealing with obesity to lose weight and and get rid of depression. Remember that making a lifestyle change does not happen overnight. It’s a process that needs consistency, motivation, and discipline. Here are some tips:
1. Exercise and Stay Active
If you live a sedentary lifestyle, this is something you need to change. If you’ve not been physically active for a long time, build up your activity level. Maybe start with doing more chores around the house, walking around the block at least 30 minutes a day, or signing up for a dance class.
Exercise is an instant mood booster, revs your metabolism, and is important for weight loss. Physical activity stimulates the neurotransmitters in the brain, especially serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, improving mood.
People who are overweight and depressed can benefit from physical activities that involve aerobic exercise while socializing. This is hitting two birds with one stone: weight loss and avoiding isolation. Similar activitiities would be joining dancing classes, team sports, or cycling classes.
2. Eat Healthily
Eating healthily is an important factor when losing weight. Physical activity and a clean, healthy diet go hand in hand when losing weight. Start with cutting down on junk foods, sweets, and sugary drinks. Skip the late-night snacks, drink a lot of water, and don’t skip breakfast.
Don’t forget to eat healthy fats. Studies also show that low levels of omega-3 fatty acids are associated with depression and weight gain. Increasing omega-3 levels in your diet can help with obesity and improve your mood.
Omega-3s also decrease body fat, curb the appetite, stop cravings, and reduce symptoms of depression. Good fats that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids are:
- Green leafy vegetables (Brussel sprouts, broccoli, spinach)
- Fish (Tuna, wild salmon, trout, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, halibut)
- Flaxseeds, chia seeds, hempseeds
- Dark chocolate
3. Be Motivated and Consistent
The journey to weight loss needs consistency and motivation. A good place to start is to set a realistic and specific goal. This involves asking yourself specific questions that would help you achieve your goal.
How much weight do you plan to lose? What are the healthy foods you need to eat? What type of exercise interests you the most? How can you fit exercise into your schedule?
No matter how hard it is at first, do not get too overwhelmed. Resolve to stick to your exercise and diet regimen. As time passes, you’ll feel like the changes are becoming more habitual and, therefore, a more natural part of your lifestyle.
Track your progress in a journal and think of ways to do better. Keeping a positive attitude that you’ll reach your goals is also important.
4. Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
Plenty of research shows that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with depression and obesity. Sixty-six percent of the adult population in the US has low vitamin D levels. Increase your vitamin D levels to successfully deal with depression and obesity.
Regular sun exposure for at least 10 minutes a day between 7–9 am is a good source of vitamin D. You can also eat foods rich in vitamin D like seafood, mushrooms, and egg yolks. Consult with your doctor as well if you can take vitamin D supplements.
5. Talk to a Mental Health Professional
If you’re suffering from depression, it is best to talk to a counselor. It is important that while you’re taking care of your physical health, you should look after your mental health. You may be overwhelmed by your emotions, so it’s nice to have a professional help you sort out your feelings.
Therapists usually use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy to address depression. Therapy can help you look at your negative thoughts and how they affect your mood.
During therapy, you can learn how to make positive changes in your life. This includes being optimistic, which enables you to reach your goal more easily. There may be bumps along the way, but your therapist can help you get over that hurdle.
Do not let depression affect your brain health because this can cause you to gain more weight. Do not stress out if you do not see changes in the weighing scale because there are other things you can try.
Schedule an Appointment with a Therapist
If you’re from Kentucky or Ohio, you can schedule an appointment with a counselor in your state. Thanks to the telehealth care services of Kentucky Counseling Center, you can now talk to a therapist from the comfort of your home.