Obesity and Depression

Happiness A major review reveals that research indicates people who are obese may be more likely to become depressed, and people who are depressed may be more likely to become obese. The solution to this is to be happy. We know we cannot become happy by just triggering a switch. Still it is possible. It is in your hands. We know, happiness is stubborn; hard to find, difficult to augment. Circumstances under our control (employment, education, money) account for only about 10 to 15 percent of our "subjective well-being," the technical term for how good we judge life to be. Happiness is largely due to personality traits and temperament; the torments or glories of fate don't make a huge difference in how we feel. When it comes to subjective well-being, "you don't get a big bang out of the real world," says Alex Michalos of the University of Northern British Columbia. But if you're determined to optimize that 10 to 15 percent that's in your control, you can be happy. Enjoy the little things; being pleased frequently has more influence on well-being than being intensely happy once in a while. Take on your eating and activity patterns with the mindset that you are exploring a new interest—wellness.

To understand the potential links between obesity and depression, researchers led by Sarah M. Markowitz, M.S., examined the correlational data that suggest a connection between the conditions and found evidence for causal pathways from obesity to depression and depression to obesity.

People who are obese may be more likely to become depressed because they experience themselves as in poor health and are dissatisfied with their appearance. This occurrence was particularly prevalent among women and those of high socio-economic status.

People who are depressed may be more likely to become obese because of physiological changes in their hormone and immune systems that occur in depression. Also, they have more difficulty taking good care of themselves because of symptoms and consequences of depression, such as difficulty adhering to fitness regiments, overeating, and having negative thoughts.

Treatments such as exercise and stress reduction can help to manage both obesity and depression at the same time. Potentially, dieting, which can worsen mood, and antidepressants, which can cause weight gain, should be minimized. "The treatment of depression and obesity should be integrated," the authors conclude. "This way, healthcare providers are working together to treat both conditions, rather than each in isolation."

The link between obesity and depression belongs on the list of chicken and egg scenarios—which comes first? Americans adults and children have high rates of both obesity and depression. Researchers know obese people are more likely to feel isolated and have a harder time climbing the career ladder, regardless of their capabilities. Scientists also suspect a connection between mood and weight. And they know that obesity causes an imbalance in chemicals that regulate how you feel. Nevertheless, whether you believe that your weight is making you more depressed or your depression has been followed by weight gain, know that help is out there.

Losing weight is tough work and battling depression can seem hopeless. But you can do it! One of the first things to do is get a support system. Weight Watchers and Overeaters Anonymous can provide you with an instant core group of people who are struggling with the same issues that you are. Weekly Weight Watchers and OA meetings provide the structure and support that you’ll need to help shake those feelings of isolation and despair. Also you’ll receive information on exercise and healthy eating.

Change your relationship with food so that you do not feel deprived or guilty about what you eat.

For instance, choose more steamed vegetables like broccoli, spinach, carrots and asparagus at meal time. Snack on low-fat popcorn and fruit. Whole grain pastas and grains are more filling than their heavily processed alternatives. Choose dried peas and beans, lean cuts of meat and fish as well as low-fat dairy or soy products. Also walk your dog, take that Pilates class you’ve been thinking about or go out on weekends to dance the night away. In other words, find fun ways to incorporate physical activity into your routine—and get out more. (Be sure to consult your doctor and registered dietitian about the changes that you plan to make in your exercise and eating habits.)

happy The thought of making changes may be feel burdensome. Don’t take this on alone or try to change everything at once. Make gradual adjustments to your habits. Pair up with a friend who is interested in living and eating better, too. Talk to a skilled professional to help you deal with feelings of hurt and hopelessness. Your doctor may prescribe medications that can help you cope, too. Remember, becoming a size 8 shouldn’t be your goal. Take the emphasis off weight loss and focus on your well being. You don’t have to feel like you are carrying the weight of the world. Be happy, that is the secret.