When your struggling with depression, your eating habits are often negatively affected. Some people overeat and gain weight, turning to food to lift their mood. Others find they're too exhausted to prepare balanced meals or they've lost their appetite. People can often get trapped in a cycle of feeling trapped and hopeless about life and their poor eating habits, which causes them to feel even more depressed.
In this blog I will look at the common links between depression and our eating habits and hopefully provide some useful tips on ways to address these. Common eating habits can include: Using food for comfort
People with depression often use food to self-medicate. They may eat to improve or avoid negative or uncomfortable feelings, like sadness, shame and self-loathing. Many crave carbohydrates or typical "comfort foods" and the reason for this is because foods high in carbohydrates and sugar increase levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that elevates mood. In the short term, you may feel calmer and happier, but a diet of comfort food can also lead to weight gain and increase your risk of heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems.
Eating too little Appetite can decrease for some people when they are feeling low. Because their desire for food is less they may start skipping meals which may lead to unintentional weight loss. Loss of energy and motivation experienced with depression can also affect us and could also lead us to skipping meals.
Eating whatever is easily available Shopping for and preparing healthy meals can seem daunting when your depressed and lacking energy. As a result you may reach for foods that's convenient but aren't particularly nutritious. You may end up eating fast food or whatever you find in your kitchen. Depression can also lead to difficulties with concentration, memory and decision making - which can make simple tasks like choosing or preparing a nutritious meal seem overwhelming. The first step in changing these eating patterns is to seek support for your depression. If this isn't addressed then any changes you try and make will be frustrating, hugely challenging and counterproductive. As your depression begins to improve, various strategies can then be put in place to help you eat better.
Helpful strategies can include:
Self-Soothe - Find other ways to comfort your body besides food. Examples could include having a bath, snuggling under a blanket and having a cup of tea.
Tune into your hunger - When you think your hungry, check it is definitely is hunger you can feel. Try having a glass of water to check you are not just craving a drink.
Eat a varied diet - Focus on eating a variety of food. A nutritionist could help if necessary.
Boost energy - Seek activities that give you energy such as listening to music or playing fetch with the dog. When we do things we like it brightens our outlook and improves or mood which means your less likely to overeat or make poor food choices.