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Obesity and Depression

obesity and depression


Obesity is also frequently accompanied by depression and the two can trigger and influence each other.

Obesity does have a sex predilection as major research in the western countries has revealed that women are slightly more prone to having an unhealthy BMI. However what is much more worrisome is the fact that women are much more vulnerable to the obesity-depression vicious cycle.

In one study, obesity in women was associated with a 40% increase in major depression. There is also a strong relationship between women with a high BMI and more frequent thoughts of suicide.

Depression can itself be both cause and effect of stress, which, in turn, may cause you to change your eating and activity habits. Many people who have difficulty recovering from sudden life changing events (e.g., loss of near relative, relationship difficulties, losing a job, or a serious medical problem) unknowingly begin eating too much of the wrong foods and/or forgoing exercise. Before long, these become habits and difficult to change.

Binge eating, a symptom often seen in association with body dysmorphic (dissatisfaction with the kind of body you have) disorders is also a symptom of depression.

How do I get out of this problem?

Dealing with obesity requires adopting new habits that promote a healthier lifestyle. However the damage of years cannot be undone in a day and you should not attempt any radical changes to your diet or activity patterns.
You are best advised to tackle this problem in a team approach that involves several qualified health professionals. Your physician will help you develop a safe plan for losing weight that includes both diet and exercise. A psychologist can help you with the emotional aspect of this problem by helping you devise strong defenses against the feeling of inadequacy and loss of control, stress, depression, or experiences that caused you to gain weight.

Here are some other things to consider in helping you or someone you know take action against obesity:

  • Think about what you eat and why.
  • Track your eating habits by writing down everything you eat, including time of day and amount of food. A good thing to do is to maintain an “Emotion Dairy”. Record what was going through your mind at the time?
  • Work persistently at cutting down on the portions of food you like.
  • Losing weight is always easier when you have the support of friends and family. Try to enlist the entire household in eating a healthier diet.
  • Don't fret over "bad days" when you can't help eating more of that delightful dessert.
  • Analyze your thoughts or feelings that caused you to eat more on a particular day, and how you can deal with them.
  • A psychologist can help you formulate an action plan for managing these uncomfortable feelings.

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