Every so often, a celebrity will announce that they cured their depression with diet, exercise, and vitamins (or some other combo of “natural” methods). We tend to witness frustrated or even angry reactions, particularly from those who have fought their own battles for years. And that’s understandable. The last thing anyone wants to hear is a wealthy famous person chirping about how easy it is to solve your problems!
But at times, you might wonder if there is any truth to the statement. Depression can originate from a variety of causes, so a one-size-fits-all answer probably does not exist. Having said that, the International Journal of Obesity published an analysis* of 31 different studies on the relationship between diet, exercise, weight loss, and depression. The results might surprise (and motivate) you.
Within over 8,000 participants across the various studies, it was discovered that weight loss interventions did indeed improve the symptoms of depression. Diet was found to be effective, as well as exercise programs. But, perhaps not surprisingly, lifestyle modification programs involving both components of weight loss consistently showed the best results in relieving symptoms of depression.
We know that depression can lead to a decrease in energy, sleep problems, and cravings for unhealthy foods. But the opposite is also true! Often your weight can lead to fatigue, so then you don’t exercise, and the cravings can aid in weight gain. Then, cycle repeats all over again the next day… and the next… and the next. It can be difficult to break out of this pattern. So, what can you do?
We recommend a multi-faceted approach. First, come see us for nutritional counseling and a weight loss plan. We can screen you for underlying disorders that can contribute to weight gain, and for conditions that might make exercise difficult or dangerous. With the all clear to exercise, we can then get you started on a realistic plan. No one becomes a fitness competitor overnight, but most of us can do something! Your energy levels and endurance will increase gradually over time.
Third, we can refer you for counseling if needed, so that you can receive the ongoing support that you deserve. When you address your physical and emotional health from a holistic perspective, getting healthier in one area will translate into improved health in another.
**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)