Are you depressed because you overeat and are overweight, or do you eat because you are depressed? This is rather like a chicken and the egg question, but one that I have pondered after meeting many people who are struggling with overweight and are also depressed, some being on anti-depressants.
In my experiences with weight gain, weight loss, and overeating, there have definitely been times that I have felt depressed about the fact that I allowed myself to overeat and gain (or regain!) weight. This can quickly turn into an out-of-control cycle: you started eating over your emotions because you are an emotional eater and you use food to cope; whether you are upset, depressed, or just feeling down, you eat. You eat, not because you are hungry, but because you are trying to soothe your feelings.
Update 2013: Note the date on this article (10-8-2007), it’s over 5 years old. Why not read a current article to gain inspiration today? Here’s one of my inspiring permanent weight loss coaching clients who went from depression to struggle-free weight loss!
The problem that occurs is that you are feeding your body fuel when you aren’t hungry, therefore it will be stored as fat. It’s like putting gas in your car when the tank is full; it doesn’t get stored, but just falls on the ground (not a good thing with the price of gas!). It cannot be used as fuel and is wasted. If only your body worked that way, but we all know that it doesn’t.
So, you gained weight because you started overeating over some upset that you probably cannot even remember now, and you continue to overeat because now you are upset with yourself for gaining weight! You feel depressed about your weight gain, but feel like you just can’t stop eating because it’s the only thing that makes you feel better about your situation right now. You feel depressed about all of it, and maybe you did start overeating in the first place because you were depressed, but now you definitely feel depressed because you’re overweight!
What is the solution to this situation you’re in? Can you break the cycle, and are you really and truly depressed, or have these feelings been brought on by your overeating and subsequent weight gain?
Well, in order to determine if you are clinically depressed, a medical professional must help you with that. Strictly speaking from my personal experience, I’ve found that I’ve eaten for emotional reasons that were clear at that time (if I’d only looked at them), but by choosing to eat instead of examining (and feeling) my feelings, I covered them up with food and subsequently added the problem of overweight. I didn’t solve anything by eating in the first place, and afterwards could not even remember why I was so upset; instead I would just feel “depressed” and upset with the whole situation I’d gotten myself in to – overweight and unhappy about it!
What I’ve found has worked for me is consciously breaking the cycle instead of continuing to eat unconsciously. The first step is just to become aware of what drove you to overeat in the first place. You were upset about something and you overate, which continued for weeks, months, maybe even years. OK, so what. If you can forgive yourself for that, take responsibility that you created your overweight with your actions, then you can move on. You’ve got to start somewhere, and becoming conscious of your current actions and feelings is where it all begins.
Is it always easy to forgive yourself and let go of your past actions that created your current overweight? No, that’s why so many mistakenly try to put a band-aid on the symptom (overweight) and just turn to another diet and exercise program. The problem with this is that the cause of the problem isn’t being addressed, only the visible symptom, your overweight. Once you understand this, you can see why there are so many repeat dieters, always looking for the magic cure for their overweight. The cure isn’t in another diet, pill, or potion, it is right there within you. You are the one who has the answer, you are the one who knows why you use food to cope with life.
The answer to whether or not you are eating because you are depressed, or depressed because you are overeating might be different for you than it is for me, but I do understand how easy it is to become down about gaining weight from overeating. However, if you can forgive yourself for your past actions that have created your present, you can then focus today on creating a new, healthier future for yourself.