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3 Food Traps to Avoid When You're Depressed

Learn how depression can affect your eating habits and what you can do to start making healthier choices.

2. Eating Too Little

Many people find their appetite decreases when they’re feeling low. In some cases, they end up unintentionally losing weight. “They have less desire for food and they start skipping meals – often, they’re sleeping through meals,” says Marjorie Nolan, MS, RD, a registered dietitian in New York and a national spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.

Albers says that you may feel like you don’t have the motivation or energy to eat when you’re depressed. Also, stress can play a role in reducing your appetite. “Food isn’t as appealing when you’re anxious, worried, or feel hopeless,” she says.

But not eating enough can make you more irritable and sensitive, which can worsen your depression.

3. Eating Whatever Is Easily Available

Shopping for and preparing healthy meals can seem daunting when you’re depressed and lacking energy. As a result, you may reach for foods that are convenient but that aren’t particularly nutritious and you may not get enough variety in your diet.

“Depressed people often wind up eating fast food or whatever they have on hand in their kitchen – such as their last box of cookies,” says Sudeepta Varma, MD, a psychiatrist in private practice in New York City and clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the NYU Langone Medical Center.

It’s also easy for people with depression to get into a rut of eating the same foods all the time. “It’s so hard for them to function that they’re looking for routine and structure. They may stop and get a bagel and cream cheese every morning and never try anything different,” Nolan says.

Another factor, Varma says, is that depressed people often have difficulties with concentration, memory, and making decisions. “This can make simple tasks seem overwhelming, so they might eat a bowl of the same type of cereal for three meals a day,” she says.

Getting Help

Experts say you should seek treatment for your depression before you try to change your eating habits. “Attempting to go on a diet, for example, can be frustrating and counterproductive if the depression hasn’t been addressed first,” Albers says.

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