Breaking the Cyclical Cycle of Depression & Weight Loss
Discover six science-backed ways to lose weight and promote mental health.
Depression can feel like a bottomless pit. And the struggle to lose weight can feel like climbing a never-ending mountain. Combined, the two can feed off one another, creating devastating health concerns that can seem impossible to overcome.
As doctors and researchers have begun to see how the two conditions are interlinked, they’ve begun to uncover natural solutions to support the recovery of both health conditions.
How Depression & Excess Weight Are Linked
Numerous studies have identified a link between depression and excess weight. A 2022 review published in Science Direct, showcased that, “Obesity increases the incidence of depression and anxiety as a function of the extent of metabolic dysfunction.”
Even more shocking and disheartening is to see how this correlation is affecting children. At the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in 2022, a study was presented showing that more than 50 percent of obese adolescents suffered from depression.
Health Risks of Being Overweight
The health risks associated with being overweight are vast. Excess weight puts patients at higher risk of becoming severely ill when infected with covid.
Excess weight can contribute to high blood pressure, which a new study revealed can have devastating health concerns for women as young as 40. Research shows that women who have high blood pressure in their 40s are more likely to suffer from coronary disease and death.
And the list of unwanted side effects just keeps going. Excess weight puts patients at risk of:
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Gallbladder Disease
- Sleep Apnea
- Difficult Breathing
- Bodily Pain
- Mental Illness
- High Cholesterol
Get Professional Mental Help
Depression may not be curable, but it is certainly treatable. And the treatments are successful, more times than not.
Jane E. Brody said, “Although persistent anxiety and depression are highly treatable with medications, cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy, without treatment these conditions tend to get worse,” in her New York Times article, ‘The Devastating Ways Depression and Anxiety Impact the Body.’
And to make matters worse, it’s not just depression alone that is the problem. It’s all the problems that depression can cause.
Dr. John Frownfelter in his opinion piece, ‘To Prevent Chronic Illness, Start With Mental Health
We often talk about depression as a complication of chronic illness. But what we don’t talk about enough is how depression can lead to chronic disease.
If you are suffering from, or think you are suffering from, depression, we strongly encourage you to get help. You are not alone. Depression is real. It doesn’t make you weak. And there is help out there.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration provides a hotline that can connect you with medical professionals in your area.
6 Science-Backed Ways to Lose Weight & Decrease Depression
In 2020, an estimated 21 million adults age 18 and older in the US had a least one major depressive episode. That’s 8.4% of the population. Furthermore, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), obesity prevalence in the US was 41.9% (a nearly 10% increase from previous periods.)
There is no denying the health crisis plaguing the US. But there’s also hope to be had and help to be received.
1. Eat Fruits and Vegetables
Research shows us a strong link between cognitive decline and depression. (Cognitive Decline is the worsening or more frequent confusion or memory loss.)
Reducing cognitive decline can help reduce depression and improver weight loss. And, diet can play a major role in supporting these goals.
The 2021 research study, ‘Long-term Dietary Flavonoid Intake and Subjective Cognitive Decline in US Men and Women,’ published in Neurology, found that a, “Higher intake of total flavonoids was associated with lower odds of SCD (subjective cognitive decline).
The study found that the following flavonoid-rich foods were significantly associated with lower odds of SCD:
- Citrus juices
- Brussels sprouts
- Winter squash
- Raw spinach
2. Skip Sugar
Feeling sad? Want to reach for that comfort food — pizza, donuts, chocolate? While we’re not here to say, “never indulge,” research shows that these ‘comfort foods’ can actually make matters worse.
In 2020 a paper by a team of scientists published in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry called specific attention to the link between microbe gun health and happiness. It said that, "A growing body of literature shows that the gut microbiome plays a shaping role in a variety of psychiatric disorders, including major depressive disorder."
This concern is supported by an earlier research study published in 2017 which concluded a strong connection between sugar consumption and depression. The randomized controlled trial, published in the National Library of Medicine, found that depression scores saw far greater improvement among patients who cut (or eliminated) sugar from their diet. This is a step that also is known to contribute significantly to weight loss.
3. Exercise (with a Coach)
The age-old adage of ‘runners high’ is one that’s beloved by some and cursed by others. Yet there’s no denying that those who are physically active are less likely to suffer from depression. Several studies have shown those who are active are less likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, as compared to those who live a sedentary lifestyle.
A 2011 randomized controlled trial published in the National Library of Medicine even found that exercise can be just as effective as depression medication for some patients.
But a new study published in 2019 suggests that reaping the most rewards may not be connected to a specific exercise or intensity. Rather, it may be connected to who an individual is working out with — namely a coach.
The study found that patients who were coached during a workout experienced an increase in endocannabinoid levels. Whereas those who were not coached saw no increase.
Endocannabinoids are self-produced psychoactive substances. They are created by many of the body’s tissues and bind to special receptors in the brains and nervous systems to help increase calm and improve moods.
4. Add Fermented Foods
A 2021 research study published in the journal Cell reveals that increasing the consumption of fermented foods can reduce inflammatory markers and produce a more diverse array of microbes in the gut. And it wasn’t pounds of fermented food that made a difference. Participants increased their consumption to just 6-servings a day, which can be achieved with just:
- 1 cup of yogurt for breakfast
- 16-ounces of kombucha at lunch
- 1 cup of kimchi at dinner
Why does improved gut health matter? Because it’s been linked to:
5. Incorporated Weight Loss Incentives
In a 2021 mega study published in Nature, researchers found that just a 9-cent financial reward could increase the likelihood an individual would show up to the gym for a workout. It suggests that the use of incentives could be the ticket to losing weight AND keeping it off.
And the incentives don’t have to be huge. (Hello, 9 cents!) A bouquet of flowers. A few minutes reading a new book. The key is to pick something that sparks joy.
6. Work with a Medically Supervised Weight Loss Coach
If weight loss were easy, there wouldn’t be a multi-billion dollar industry promoting miracle diets. Losing weight is hard, especially if you’re trying to go it alone or relying on a quick fix.
The key to sustainable weight loss is identifying lifestyle changes you can stick to and getting the support you deserve to help you stick to them. Research shows that a strong support system is pivotal to long-term weight loss.
While compliments and weight-loss buddies are certainly a step in the right direction, professional weight-loss coaching has been shown to have an even greater impact. A 2021 research article published in the European Journal of Internal Medicine found that patients who worked with a healthcare professional were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off.