Overcoming weight gain due to depression

Obesity and depression are a two way street as both the health problems are closely linked, “Depression can manifest itself in so many ways, it often gets missed,”   Researchers aren’t sure whether depression leads to obesity or if excess body weight results in the mood altering behavior diagnosed as depression.

People experiencing depression are more likely to overeat or make poor food choices, avoid exercising, and become more sedentary. Researchers have found that depressed people with decreased levels of the hormone serotonin also have a tendency towards obesity — they tend to eat, Because food can take the focus off, of anger, resentment, fear, anxiety, and a host of other emotions we’d sometimes rather not feel, and is often used for this purpose as well to restore their serotonin levels to normal.

Depression leads to low serotonin levels which compels them to consume meals high in carbohydrate. Some foods stimulate serotonin production while others stimulate dopamine production. Satisfying these cravings by eating things that are sugary or contain caffeine can lead to a vicious cycle of highs and lows, which cause you to eat even more.

Some people are particularly sensitive to the effects of a high sugar diet which aggravates mood instability and depression. Elimination of sugar and refined carbohydrates not only boosts mood, but is a powerful trigger to release body fat from storage. It’s rare to find somebody stuck in depression who has lots of energy. Most people in depression feel sleepy or exhausted. When you’re depressed, sometimes you feel like you just can’t do the simplest of tasks.

Experts believe that one of the big reasons we’re seeing more obesity in our society these days is that people are too stressed and busy to make healthy dinners at home, often opting to get fast food as take away.

Prolonged stress can alter your blood sugar levels, causing mood swings, fatigue, and conditions like hyperglycemia. Too much stress has even been linked to metabolic syndrome, a cluster of health concerns that can lead to greater health problems, like heart attacks and diabetes.

Stress can bring on increased levels of cortisol, known as ‘stress hormone’, which can cause a slew of problems in the body. Among other things, cortisol can cause muscle to be broken down and used for energy. Because muscle is a metabolically active tissue, loss of muscle mass slows the body’s metabolic rate, creating fatigue and decreasing the number of calories that are burned each day.  It also causes tissues to become insensitive to insulin which can lead to an over secretion of this hormone.

High levels of insulin stimulate fat synthesis and inhibits the breakdown of fat. It also decreases the effectiveness of thyroid hormone which further slows the body’s metabolic rate. Over time this process can lead to an overall loss of muscle mass.

Depression may also lead to erratic sleeping habits – sleep loss leads to increased ghrelin and decreased leptin. Ghrelin, a peptide secreted by the stomach, stimulates appetite, its   level increases before meals. Leptin is the hormone that conveys feelings of satiety letting our bodies know when we are “full”. A deficiency of leptin is associated with constant hunger and a strong tendency to overeat.

Insufficient sleep has also been shown to:

a) Cause an increased release of cortisol

b) Create insulin resistance

c) Reduce levels of growth hormone

All of which contribute to increase in body fat.

A deficiency of leptin is also known to cause carbohydrate cravings. Carbohydrates stimulate the secretion of insulin. It is a hormone that is needed for glucose or blood sugar to enter the body’s cells where it is utilized for energy. But insulin also causes the synthesis of fat and inhibits its breakdown. So it’s not hard to see how insufficient sleep can make it difficult to lose weight.

Weight gain and depression are just two common manifestations of a congested, overworked liver.  Sluggish liver can contribute not only to fatigue and malaise, but also to weight gain, especially around the abdomen, cellulite, and water retention. Cellulite is cause by inefficient removal of wastes from the body. As toxic materials collect between the cells, they are held by hardened connective tissue where they build up to create pockets of water, toxins, and fat that give the skin the orange peel effect.

Steps to improve health and promote wellbeing are:

High-fiber foods are very important to the overall function of your liver. A diet rich in fiber will help to quickly pass toxins out of the bowels, which gives them less of a chance to re circulate back to the liver. Fiber-rich foods include apples, avocados, bananas, blueberries, cantaloupe, oranges, peaches, raisins, strawberries, bran cereal, bread, pasta, rice, beans and nuts.

Foods that are high in sulfur are excellent for maintaining a healthy liver. Sulfur helps the liver by detoxifying pesticides, medications and other environmental toxins. This  takes some of the strain off of your liver, which is especially important if it is diseased and struggling to function properly. Foods that are high in sulfur include onions, garlic, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, collard greens, brussels sprouts, asparagus, coconut, avocados, watermelon, parsley, sweet potatoes and bananas.

Deep breathing also improves the digestive process. When the digestive organs receive adequate amounts of oxygen, food is assimilated well and nutrients are properly absorbed by the body. Increasing your oxygen levels through deep breathing helps to keep your body cleansed of toxins.

Exhalation from the lungs is one of the methods that the body uses to clear out toxins from your body, and elimination of waste, debris, toxins, and body pollution is a major function of oxygen. Keeping your body free of these substances helps to keep the metabolism revved. More oxygen will stimulate your lymphatic system too – another important factor in eliminating waste.

Meditation: has been used by many people to relieve stress in the body and mind. It’s a great technique to use before bedtime because it induces  sleep easily – it relaxes the body, clears the mind, and creates inner peace.

Progressive Muscle Relaxation (PMR) is a technique where you tense and release all of your muscle groups, leaving your body feel more relaxed afterward. PMR is one of my favorite techniques, as it can be done by just about anyone, and with practice you can fully release virtually all the tension you’re feeling.

Create the habit of adequate sleep, early to bed and early to rise is the simple mantra.

Drinking sufficient water and keeping the body hydrated, increases fat burning and reduces muscle break down.

Exercise can be a great stress reliever in itself, as it helps you blow off steam and releases endorphins. Taking a walk when stressed can bring you the benefits of exercise–both short-term and long-term, and it provides the bonus of getting you out of the stressful situation in your body in a matter of seconds!

It is an established fact that one’s mental condition affects physical health and one’s physical condition affects the mental health. While food and exercise can assist you to improve physical health, lifestyle  changes , behavior modification will help you tackle the mental health which in turn helps improving overall health.

Salima Lalani
The author is an Expert Health Consultant at VLCC

Image: tobyotter