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We all know that some of the symptoms of depression – lack of motivation, sleeplessness, lethargy, and food cravings – can lead to weight gain, but could the opposite be true? Could weight gain also lead to more depression? And more importantly, could losing weight help to relieve the symptoms of depression? Indeed, all signs point to a close relationship between weight and mood, and the two seem inexplicably tied together in a cycle that can be difficult to break.
A study published in the International Journal of Obesity* sought to address this very issue. The authors of the study conducted an analysis of 31 studies with nearly 8,000 participants, and found a consistent relationship between weight loss interventions and relief of depression. In particular, lifestyle modification programs were found to carry slightly more benefits to depression as compared to exercise-only programs or dietary counseling alone. In other words, a holistic approach which addresses your health from multiple angles is better for relieving depression than one which focuses solely on one element of weight loss.
If part of your weight loss goal includes an overall improvement in your general well-being, take a multi-faceted approach including the following lifestyle changes:
- Diet – make an appointment with a physician who specializes in weight loss, and talk about your nutritional goals. It’s safer and healthier to lose weight under the advice of a physician, and he can advise you on the right foods for optimal weight loss. A healthy diet has also been shown to promote a healthier mood, especially when simple carbohydrates are limited.
- Exercise – again, before beginning any exercise regimen, consult with your doctor. Exercise burns calories and promotes weight loss, but it’s also a great mood booster.
- Consider counseling – a holistic approach to weight loss addresses more than just your body’s physical needs. It will also address the reasons you gained weight in the first place, which are often emotional and psychological. Healing your psyche will impact more than just your weight.
- Celebrate your success – it goes without saying that as you lose weight, the pride you feel in your accomplishments will fuel a lighter mood. Encourage these feelings by treating yourself to a nice outfit, getting a new hairstyle, or planning a beach vacation for the summer. Acknowledge milestones along the way, because you should be proud and happy about your new healthy lifestyle!
*Fabricatore AN, Wadden TA, Higginbotham AJ, Faulconbridge LF, Nguyen AM, Heymsfield SB, & Faith MS (2011). Intentional weight loss and changes in symptoms of depression: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International journal of obesity (2005)