Depression and Weight Gain

Anxiety and Weight Gain
By Heather Hamilton, PhD., LMHC, NCC, DCC  |  ©2022BreakThrough!

Aspects of Depression

When suffering from depression it may be difficult to get excited about diets and weight loss even though eating healthy is significant to our recovery.

Depression can be situational, seasonal, psychological, or caused by other physical conditions (physiological). Sadness, flatness, disinterest, and unhappiness with ourselves are common symptoms of this mood disorder. Depression varies for everyone. It’s probably best measured by how it affects our day-to-day functioning, as well as how long it lasts. It can range from mild to severe as well as duration – short-term to life-long.

If you feel as though you’re suffering from depression, you’re not alone! Depression is estimated to affect more than 350 million people worldwide and it’s the most commonly reported psychological condition (WHO, 2012). An imbalance of neurotransmitters or impairments to systems that regulate healthy brain functioning causes depression.

Dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine, and hormones are important to regulating mood states in the brain. Depression may cause deficits (or low activity levels) in the brain that cause us to feel down. Ultimately, this imbalance can lead us to crave foods that stimulate brain activity and improve our mood.

When we’re depressed most of us get to a point where we want to change how we feel – even if it’s only temporary!

Sugar Withdrawl and Depression

Some people turn to drugs and alcohol, some shopping or gambling, but most of us turn to comfort food. This makes perfect sense. Sugar – glucose – provides our brain with a quick boost and increase in neurotransmitter activity. We feel that rush of energy and for a little while…we feel better.

Unfortunately, shortly after we consume sugar, we enter a state of withdrawal. This state then gives rise to more cravings and we chase that original high with more sugar or carbs. The thing is – that after the first rush in the brain, the rest of our organs and circulatory systems kick in to rid our bodies of the food/energy and we never regain that initial rush or sugar high. In part, this is key to understanding the phenomenon of binge eating behavior. So we eat to feel better which works temporarily but then withdrawal causes cravings for more high-energy foods. We get upset with ourselves for eating things we know are unhealthy but do we stop? Not usually. We give in to cravings and we perpetuate a cycle of chasing moods with food.

Session 4 of BreakThrough! discusses depression and weight gain in-depth and provides members with helpful tools to work through sadness and ultimately begin to develop the resilience to overcome emotional eating behaviors.


      We hope you have enjoyed this article from The BreakThrough! Program.

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