Is Depression Wrecking Your Weight?
Depression and weight problems often go together. Here are tips for handling both.
If You Move, You Lose - Pounds and Depression continued...
At the beginning of therapy, that usually means walking. Abramson recommends picking up a pedometer before hitting the sidewalk. By measuring the number of steps they take each time they walk, they can monitor their progress. And, says Abramson, “small victories equal positive thoughts.”
Heinberg often prescribes walking as well. She likes to focus on her patients’ depression for the first six to eight weeks of therapy, introducing low-key exercise only to keep weight steady rather than bring it down. Once the depression is under control, she says, it becomes easier to address weight problems.
Be Active, Make Choices, Feel Better
Exercise is a key part of treating overweight and depression, in part because it allows patients to play an active role in caring for themselves. In fact, Gordon maintains that exercise is the best prescription for treating mild to moderate depression, as well as being helpful for severe depression.
“People feel good about doing things for themselves - that, in itself, is therapeutic,” Gordon says.
Gordon also recommends taking a break from fast food and other unhealthy eating habits; instead, he says, make time to cook a meal for yourself.
“It goes beyond just preparing something healthier to eat than fast food,” says Gordon. “People get engaged in their own care, and that’s crucial to dealing with weight.”
Gordon, who is the founder and director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., includes alternative and complementary treatments in his practice. Key among them is meditation.
“You have to become aware of what and how you eat, through mindfulness,” says Gordon. “Very often, if you are anxious, you are going to eat more. But if you are in a state of relaxation, you won’t be eating frantically or mindlessly.”
Don’t be discouraged if therapy does not provide positive results right away. Treatment takes time. And keep in mind that treating depression and weight problems will likely require more than just a pill and a one-size-fits-all diet plan.
“It is important to have a comprehensive program,” says Gordon, one that addresses all aspects of a patient’s problems and prepares him or her for the hard road back to health. “I don’t have a magic bullet, and you are going to do most of the work.”