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The Link Between Weight And Mental Health

Diet Change

It has been found that people who suffer from anxiety, depression or other mental health issues are more likely to put weight on and even become obese over time. This has been revealed in a new study. Some 4,000 civil servants in the United Kingdom were studied over a period of nearly 20 years. The study, which examines how mental health impacts obesity, is the longest of its kind.

The study demonstrated that people who have repeat or chronic episodes of mental health issues, most notably anxiety and depression, are at a greater risk of becoming obese than those without such problems. In fact, it was revealed that those who suffered from at least one mental disorder at least three times in the 19 years of the study doubled their chances of becoming obese.

The more times mental health symptoms were reported, the greater the risk for becoming obese by the end of the study. This points to a dose-response association between mental disorders and weight gain.

This clearly shows that those who suffer from depression or other mental health conditions have to be particularly vigilant about their weight. Some scientists suggest that people who do suffer from depression are more likely to be obese because they develop an unhealthy relationship with food and because they often don’t care about the results of overeating or eating foods that are bad for them. However, it then becomes a vicious cycle, because being obese and overweight also increases the chances of becoming depressed as a result of developing a negative body image. This is now so much of an issue that depression and obesity are completely intertwined and scientists are calling for efforts to be made to teach people how to develop a healthy relationship with food.

Eating something unhealthy is much easier than fixing the problem or dealing with what’s causing us to feel unhappy. Teaching people how to deal with unpleasant moods other than by eating would certainly cut down on emotional eating and would certainly lead to significant weight loss.

Exercise is equally important. Studies have demonstrated that taking part in cardiovascular exercise three times a week for 20 minutes is as effective at reducing depression as what taking 150mg of Zoloft (an anti-depressant medication) daily is. Not just that but engaging in 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise every week also contributes towards weight loss and doesn’t have any of the negative side effects that Zoloft does.


Foods to Lift the Mood

Eating healthy and engaging in regular exercise, clearly, are good for fighting depression and, as a side effect, help deal with obesity as well. However, there are also certain foods that seem to have been grown by Mother Nature herself to help us feel good and happy, inside and out. While chocolate certainly is one of those foods, as are carbs, those are two that you will need to avoid if you are also trying to lose weight. Fortunately, certain fruits and vegetables work even better than chocolate and carbs combined and they are good for you as well.

Studies have shown that antioxidants in fruits and vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids in fish are associated with lower risk of depression. Folate, a B vitamin found in beans, citrus and dark green vegetables like spinach, affects neurotransmitters that impact mood. It’s possible that the protectiveness of the whole-food diet comes from a cumulative effect of these nutrients.

Food and Depression


One of the key biological processes to understand with regards to the problem of depression is serotonin. This is also known as the ‘happy hormone’ and people who have depression tend to have too little of them, or the neural pathways in their brains struggle to absorb it properly. This is why, if you are suffering from depression, you should search for foods that actually help to boost serotonin. But you also have to make sure that those foods are wholesome and healthy. Since most people with mental health difficulties turn to food for comfort, it is even more important that these foods are healthy ones.

Serotonin is a hormone, which means that it isn’t found naturally in food. This is why so many people turn to anti-depressants, as these basically offer a synthesized version of the hormone itself. While anti-depressants have played a very important role in combating the depression epidemic that is plaguing the nation, they aren’t helping when it comes to the obesity epidemic. In fact, weight gain is a very common side effect of taking anti-depressants. To understand how food can help, it is important to first comprehend the natural process through which serotonin is synthesized in the brain.

Serotonin is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan. The relationship between tryptophan and serotonin is part of what’s commonly considered the food-mood connection. Serotonin isn’t found in foods, but tryptophan is. Foods high in protein, iron, riboflavin, and vitamin B6 all tend to contain large amounts of the amino acid.

Unfortunately, you cannot simply eat lots of healthy foods that contain tryptophan and ditch the anti-depressants. You have to eat the right things in the right combination in order to get the best results. Scientists suggest that combining tryptophan foods with carbs is one of the best ways to achieve that. However, you have to use those carbs and convert them to energy. As such, that would be a good diet choice before you do your 20 minutes of cardio three times per week.

Scientists also suggest that you should combine it with protein. Protein will not make you put on as much weight if you don’t use it as what carbohydrates do, but you should still try to use it. Protein is particularly good if you are engaged in muscle building activities. Eggs are particularly good sources of both protein and tryptophan. Make sure you include the yolk, however, and always opt for free range eggs if you can, as this means you will have as much goodness in your egg as possible.

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Written by Ingrid Macher

Certified Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Motivator - I have a passion for helping people change their lives. I started out helping my friends and now I give advice and tips to perfect strangers who have now become my friends. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change my life even if I could. This kind of happy is truly a gift and I’ll do whatever it takes to be able to give this gift to others.

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