Weightloss and Depression: The Vicious Cycle and How To Break It
So you cringe every time you stand on the weighing scales. Not all dresses look good on you. Your body mass index is more than 25. To sum it up, you are overweight. Numerous attempts to lose weight have been met with little or no success because your weight is just not a physical issue for you anymore. It has gotten to your head. Your mind has this one corner that bashes you for being fat and this other corner which just shuts everything out to enable you to eat, and when i say eat, i mean stuffing yourself to the point where you have stuffed down every memory which was making you sad. You zone out. You can feel nothing, taste nothing. Not even the food which you are so reverently gorging on. If this describes your life situation, even partially then you, my friend, are suffering from an eating disorder. AND weight problems.
A recent study conducted in America revealed that a shocking 8 million Americans have an eating disorder. And 7/8 of those are women. So there. Now you know you’re not alone.
The disorder in discussion is EMOTIONAL EATING. It is a basically a broad term which sums up Binge Eating Disorder (BED), night eating syndrome (NES), “mindless eating,” frequent snacking on high calories foods, overeating, unhealthy eating patterns, and well, anything which involves you worshipping food and/or having a love hate relationship with what’s on your plate.
But why do we indulge in emotional eating? The answer is simple enough. The most common psychological problem associated with obesity is depression. There is interplay between depression and obesity and they feed on each other in a cycle. In simple words, being fat makes you sad. This triggers a defence mechanism in your body which has you reaching for high sugar foods to numb out feelings. According to medical research, eating foods rich in sugars and simple carbohydrates triggers the body’s natural neurotransmitter “serotonin” which instantly uplifts your mood. But this is shortlived as it is followed by feelings of disgust, self loathing, rejection , isolation and even suicide. (the part where you look at your empty plate and wonder if it will ever end). Many feelings or occurrences trigger emotional eating. Though the triggers vary widely among individuals, there are some very obvious triggers like , poor coping or problem-solving skills and low self-efficacy, anger/frustration, low self-esteem, grief, relationship problems, loneliness, having unrealistic weight goals, impulsive dieting etc
Not surprisingly, repeat dieters often begin to lean on food to cope with their emotions. Polivy and Herman (1987) contend that dieting often results in distinctive personality traits such as “passivity, anxiety and emotionality.” It is interesting to note that these are characteristics often used to describe women in stereotypical ways. More often than not, when people become occupied with their weight and diet, they are usually running away from a more pressing emotional issue. Unfortunately, emotional eating dos not fix emotional problems, it gives you a temporary refuge yes,but only makes the problems more severe than they already are.
Linda Papadopoulos was quoted in an article for the daily mail saying “food really is a metaphor for all that we feel and, many times, all that we can’t quite say.” A little dramatic, yes,but definitely true. Our relationship with food is one of the most emotionally charged, satisfying yet guilt ridden of our relationship. emotional eating actually stems from feeling powerless over your emotions It is astonishing, the amount of power food has on our emotional wellbeing. So the solution is simple enough, if food looses this power of molding your thoughts, then the vicious paradoxical cycle of emotional eating will break. Most emotional eaters feel powerless over their food cravings. When the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about. You feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now! Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think. So now that you know what you’re up against, inculcating some simple lifestyle habits for the next 12 weeks in your life should set you up on the path to recovery.
Recognize Your Trigger
By identifying what triggers our emotional eating, we can substitute more appropriate techniques to manage our emotional problems and take food and weight gain out of the equation.
Embrace Your Cravings
When a craving hits, instead of scrambling to find sugar and carbs, stop! Take a deep breath and acknowledge that slight burning sensation just below your diaphragm. And remember that it is fictitious and temporary. Because you must have heard of the ancient tradition of looking your enemy in the eye before battle. Then open your eyes and walk away from the chocolate stall. There are plenty of things you could like calling a friend, going on a walk, listening to good music, playing with your pet etc, to take your mind off your craving.
Clean your work space and living area
Research proves that living in a clean area has a soothing effect on the mind of an individual as opposed to living in a cluttered and dirty place. This automatically reduces the chances of a craving being triggered by making you calm and happy.
Get rid of all unhealthy snacks
Being very clear, remove all the unhealthy snacks from your house. All of it. And a trick that has always worked for me is stocking up on those wierd tasting multigrain digestive biscuits so that if you absolutely have to eat something in the middle of the night, you can snack on those. Also before going on your grocery shopping trips, have a nice meal. This will prevent you from buying the unhealthier snacks and going for their healthier counterparts because people always make rational decisions on a full stomach.
And when i say exercise, i don’t mean climbing the stairs instead of taking the lift or walking to work every morning because you have already tried that. I mean the kind of physical activity that has you sweating like crazy after every session. The kind which makes your muscles quiver with exhaustion afterwards. This kind of an exercise has the potential to make you euphoric. The dopamine that your body releases after an intense physical workout is far more potent than any amount of serotonin provided by simple carbs to make you happy. Play a game. Join kickboxing or aerobics. Or hire a trainer that kicks your butt.
Have 5 small meals a day
Replace starch and sugar by lean proteins and complex carbohydrates on your plate. Also ensure that atleast one meal consists of a lot of fruit. Pick a favourite fruit and gorge on it endlessly. (unless it’s banana because that has like 1200 calories which is definitely not a happy option for someone who has a habit of calorie counting as im sure you’ve had for a very long time now). This will ensure that your stomach is full most of the time. So no cravings!
Cut back on sugar
Drastically reduce sugar from your diet. Eliminate it if you have to, because sugar breaks down easily in our body and causes our blood sugar level to rise and fall erratically. This spike is responsible for triggering food cravings.
Drink plenty of water
Start by drinking 4 litres a day. Increase it upto 6. Drink water when cravings hit you, before meals, after meals. Whenever. Because water flushes out toxins from our body thus accelerating our metabolism system. Also it can make your craving go away by fooling the brain into thinking that the stomach is full.
Deal with your emotional issues
Recognize the fact that you will have to put a little extra effort to get in touch with your emotions than most people. Allowing yourself to feel uncomfortable emotions can be scary. But the truth is that when we don’t obsess over or suppress our emotions, even the most painful and difficult feelings subside relatively quickly and settle quietly in the background. You need to get out there more and make new friends.your life will be richer when you open yourself up emotionally.
Just remember, Don’t see food as the enemy but, likewise, don’t see it as some divine experience. No diet will ever work as long as you are feeding your emotions and not you stomach. Our acceptance of who we are should be unconditional, not based on calorie intake or dress size. It is only when this happens that we will be able to value ourselves enough to eat healthier and to lead a happier, more positive lifestyle.
Author Bio: Jaspreet Sidhu is an avid reader and an upcoming blogger. If you are in your teens, she’s is the one you’d want to follow!