When you think of depression, what comes to mind? For some, they think of someone who doesn’t stop crying. For others, they think of a person who lashes out for no reason.
Depression has a lot of symptoms. One of the lesser known ones is weight gain. This can make the disease so much harder to live with, because for many, it affects their self-esteem.
I personally have experienced this symptom in my own journey with mental health issues. One thing I want to make clear about this post is that the writer (me) is not making any judgments about body types. All people are beautiful in their own way. The purpose of this post is to explain how depression cause weight gain, and to offer some advice to correct the issue if that is the wish of the person reading it.
What is the link between depression & weight gain?
According to WebMD, there is a link between depression and anxiety, and weight gain. Studies show that people with these conditions are more likely to gain weight and become obese.
This can be caused by the condition itself, or by the medication that people take to treat depression. It can also be caused by “overeating, poor food choices, and a more sedentary lifestyle,” according to Healthline.
Stress is also a major factor. People with depression are more likely to find themselves stressed, since our minds are less capable of coping with life’s ups and downs. When we are stressed, what do we often do? Overeat. I am certainly guilty of that from time to time.
Medications & weight gain
There are definitely plenty of medications that are to blame for this weight gain. Some examples of this are:
- TCAs (tricyclic antidepressants)
- MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
- SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors)
Many people think that it is because these medications affect metabolism and hunger levels. These medicines affect serotonin, the neurotransmitter in charge of metabolism.
What can you do?
If you find yourself gaining weight due to depression itself or your medication, and you want to correct that, you can try one of the following tips.
There are a lot of benefits of beginning an exercise regimen. For one, it can help manage the weight gain you are experiencing. Also, it can help your brain manage the depression. When you exercise, your brain releases key feel-good transmitters like dopamine that make you feel more emotionally well. This can help prevent further depression-related weight gain.
Start slow. When you are depressed, it is important to avoid getting overwhelmed. If you decide to begin exercising, start by walking around the block three days a week. You can work your way up from there. Over time, after trying new things, you might find a particular workout that you really enjoy.
Have your meds adjusted
If the weight gain is really too unpleasant, you can speak with your doctor about having your medication adjusted. At that point, your doctor might do one of three things. They might decide to increase or lower your dosage of that particular medication. They might decide to wean you off of that medication and discontinue it. Or, they might decide to wean you off the medication and put you on a different one.
The most important thing to remember is to speak up for yourself. You have to be your own advocate because often, no one else will speak up for you. Even if you have an amazing support system, it is unlikely that a friend will call your doctor to discuss your treatment plan. HIPAA laws might prevent this anyway! For this reason, you need to speak up for yourself, and make sure that you are being treated appropriately.
It could be the case that seeing a therapist could help with the weight gain you are experiencing. They can help you work through the negative emotions that are causing you to overeat. They can also help you deal with any resentment you have about the weight gain itself.
A therapist is going to be able to offer a lot of coping strategies. You might even be able to see a hypnotherapist. Some people see this as junk science, but a lot of people see amazing results using hypnotherapy.
Better eating choices
I know it is easier said than done, but by simply making better eating choices when hungry, you can help reduce some of the weight gain or even reverse it. Instead of reaching for the carbohydrate filled foods you are craving, reach for some filling fruits and veggies, or a protein packed snack.
Try making smoothies! This is a great way to get a lot of nutrients in one sitting. Pick your favorite mix of whole grains, nuts, fruits, veggies, and yogurts and blend it into a delicious smoothie.
You can also start getting more creative with salads. One of my favorite healthy meals is a shell-less taco salad. In a bowl of lettuce, add lean taco meat and sprinkle shredded cheese on top. Skip the sour cream for a filling and tasty lunch.
Journaling might be able to help you deal with some of the negative emotions you are feeling. I recommend two things: recording your food choices and recording how you are feeling.
First of all, I recommend recording everything you eat. Seeing it written down on paper can help you realize how much you are actually eating. Also, if you record how you feel about yourself and about the eating, it can help you get those thoughts out. Often, simply getting the thoughts out of your brain is all it takes to make you feel a little bit better.
Find an accountability partner
This is is something I recommend for almost every mental health goal that you have. It really helps to find someone you are close to aside from a therapist to help you stay accountable to reach your goals. You can put a reminder on your phone to have a text check-in with them daily, weekly, or monthly. I always recommend checking in daily to start out with until you are more confident.
Again, the purpose of this post is not to dissuade anyone from looking a certain way. It is geared toward those who are depressed or anxious, and finding themselves gaining weight that they do not want to gain. There is a reason it is happening. By following the steps above, you can find a solution. It might seem hard at first, but it is absolutely possible.
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