Obesity and Depression
Carrying the weight of the world
by Keecha Harris, Dr.PH., R.D., for MSN Health & Fitness
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I have gained 30 pounds over the last two years and have also been depressed. Is there a connection? How can I shake these two issues that are taking over my life?
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.
Ditch the diet approach to weight loss. Take on your eating and activity patterns with the mindset that you are exploring a new interest—wellness. 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.)
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.
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Due to high volume, not all questions will be answered but we may select your question for publication on MSN Health & Fitness.Keecha Harris is President of Harris and Associates, a food systems and public health consulting firm based in Birmingham, Ala. (Read her full bio.)