When you’re struggling with depression, your eating habits often suffer. Some people overeat and gain weight, turning to food to lift their mood. Others find they’re too exhausted to prepare balanced meals or that they’ve lost their appetite.
"Whether you're overeating or not eating enough, you may be using food to feel better or to cope with difficult feelings," says Susan Albers, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Wooster, Ohio and author of 50 Ways to Soothe Yourself Without...
Here are some eating tips for anyone recovering from depression.
Choose a moderate, sensible eating plan. Do the obvious. Watch your calories and fat intake. Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, and grains. But you can allow yourself the occasional treat.
Stay away from extreme fad diets. Avoid diets that radically restrict what you can eat. Cutting out entire food groups is a bad idea, whether the foods being eliminated are carbs, fats, or sugars. While extreme diets may help you lose weight at first, they’re very hard to stick to in the long run and are not generally healthy as an ongoing food plan. And “failing” at a diet will just make you feel worse.
Get on an eating schedule. Eat at the same times each day to keep your day predictable. It’s best to eat three meals a day with two snacks in-between. Don’t skip meals.
Follow your doctor’s advice. Of course, if you have a health condition -- like diabetes, heart disease, or Celiac Disease -- that requires dietary restrictions, you should stick to them. Just make sure that you talk to your health care provider and understand what you can and can’t eat.
Avoid alcohol and drugs. Alcohol and many illicit drugs can cause depression and interact with antidepressants, affecting how well they work. Also, many people who are depressed have problems with substance abuse. If you think you have a problem, you need to get help. Addiction or abuse can prevent you from fully recovering from your depression.
Cut back on caffeine. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it can make you anxious and keep you up at night. So cut back on -- or eliminate -- soda, coffee, tea, and chocolate.
Ask your health care provider about omega-3 fatty acids. There is some evidence that omega-3 fatty acids -- a kind of fat found naturally in some fish, walnuts, soybeans, flaxseed, and other foods as well as in supplements -- can help with mood. However, the evidence is not conclusive. Ask your health care provider for advice.
Talk to your doctor about changes in your appetite. Depression, or the treatment of depression, can sometimes cause a weight gain or loss. If you’ve noticed a change in your appetite, your doctor can help.