Dr Edward Abramson, a Phd professor in psychology at California State University said, “When you are depressed, it is much harder to get out of bed, much less pay attention to what you are eating”.
He couldn’t have said it better. He goes on to say, “If someone comes to me who is severely depressed and overweight, the depression is going to be the primary focus.”
Well said, doc! It doesn’t matter which one came first. What matters is which one gets the priority of treatment. The answer is depression.
“But how does depression cause weight gain?”, you may ask.
The reasons are both psychological and biological. Let’s talk about psychological
The Psychology Behind Weight Gain
You see, depression is the death of motivation. As pointed out by Dr. Edward, getting out of bed when you’re depressed could be a task in itself. Depressed people are in an extremely lethargic state and aren’t driven enough to take action.
They are so focused on the reasons for their depression that they lose perspective of what’s best for them. Eventually they stop doing the things that benefit their health. As a result of which,They Stop exercising. They fixate on their problems instead of placing their focus on solutions. They binge on unhealthy content on TV as an escape from their current reality. They Stop eating healthy. Instead, they consume foods that are high on fat and sugar – Food like ice cream and pizza that provide them with temporary dopamine spikes of happiness but also lead to higher fat storage and promote weight gain.
They neglect their sleep. Instead they sleep at odd hours and end up disturbing their body clock.
In a nutshell, they stop thinking about what will benefit their health which eventually takes a toll on their fitness and manifests itself as weight gain or obesity.
However, the psychology is just one side of the same coin, the other being the biological reason for weight gain through depression.
The Biological Culprit Behind Weight Gain – Cortisol
Cortisol is a critical hormone with a variety of functions in the body. However, Cortisol is usually secreted with the body is under physical or psychological stress and is called the “fight or flight” hormone. But what exactly is the correlation between depression, Cortisol and weight gain? Let’s find out. Depression causes stress.
Stress causes the body to release the infamous fight or flight hormone – Cortisol.
A rise in cortisol levels in turn causes a rise in insulin levels to move sugar to the muscles, which in turn causes our blood sugar to drop and creates the perfect environment on our body to store “visceral fat”.
A continuous secretion of Cortisol and the consequential storage of fat over time leads to significant weight gain and obesity.
Now, whether your weight gain is due to psychological or biological reasons, the solution stays the same. To add to it, the measures you can take to eliminate both depression and weight gain are simple and easy to understand. Here are some –
- Exercise – Exercise is the best way to burn calories as well as synthesise biochemicals that counter the effects of cortisol. Exercise also raises our dopamine levels, which uplifts our mood and makes us feel better instantly.
- Balanced Diet – Opt for 6-small meals as opposed to 3-large meals everyday. Besides balancing blood sugar levels, it also prevents over- secretion of insulin which is responsible for weight gain as detailed above.
- Adequate Rest and Relaxation – 7-8 hours of rest keeps your cortisol levels in check. Other forms of relaxation like meditation and deep breathing creates a sense of calmness and stillness within the body which is responsible for combating depression.
- Vitamin Supplements – Stress is a killer of vitamins such as B-complex and Vitamin C. Other minerals such as magnesium and calcium counter cortisol and enhance the process of burning fat. Therefore, supplementing your body with such nutrients will speed up weight loss.