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Food and Depression

Updated on March 2, 2008
(Photo by Marinka van Holten)
(Photo by Marinka van Holten)

When you're depressed, everything feels out of whack. And while it affects everyone differently, many people's eating habits change for the worse, either while they are falling into depression or once they are already there.

Unfortunately, though, the road to a healthful, happy life includes good eating habits (as well as healthy sleeping habits and regular exercise). Whether we like it or not, whether we choose to medicate or not, depression is a physical ailment. With psychiatric care and a healthy lifestyle, you can boot depression out of your life.

So let's take a look at what depression will do to your eating habits and what you should do about your eating habits to feel better.

Comfort Eating

Many people take comfort in certain foods. If your mom made great mashed potatoes, eating mashed potatoes just the way she used to make might help you feel good when you're feeling "down," so many people resort to this type of eating when they're depressed.

But ice cream from the carton will not make your depression go away; it probably won't even make you feel much better at all, even in the moment. And overeating will probably make you feel worse, but not just because you'll feel worse about yourself. In fact, junk food makes you feel worse in this situation from the inside.

Sugars will give you a momentary high, which -- in the grand scheme of depression -- probably won't feel too great anyway. But after you've digested the sugars, you'll get that crash, which you will feel: when you're depressed, feeling even lower just makes everything seem exponentially worse.

And heavy, saturated fats -- while they may taste delicious -- will weigh you down. They're harder to digest and can make you feel sluggish, making it even harder to feel motivated to do anything.

The Opposite Habit

Of course, since depression affects everyone differently, plenty of other people find themselves eating nothing.

Whether it's because of sleeping all the time, not feeling motivated enough to eat, or simply forgetting, plenty of people who are depressed with starve themselves.

I think the health issues here are self-evident, but beyond that, being undernourished will drain you even further and just make life much harder.

Effects of Medication

For those of us who seek medication for our depression, this adds a whole new layer to our eating habits. Some medications increase appetite while others decrease it just as much.

It's important to remember not to beat yourself up for these side-effects, though, and try to maintain healthy eating habits.

Depression and Weight Gain - Raw Food

Healthy Eating

So the best thing for your health and for healing your depression is to eat well. There are plenty of rumors about specific foods that will "cure" depression: potatoes, fish oil, and I've even heard about cottage cheese.

But what's far more important than that is making sure your body has all the nutrients that it needs -- and none of the ones that it doesn't -- to ensure that it can run as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Then, you can work on any psychiatric problems or other habits that may be adding to your depression.

  • Eat regularly. This is vital! Whether you choose to have three or four or five meals a day, schedule them at regular times, and stick to the schedule! Your body is out of whack, so you have to get it back to "normal."
  • Avoid saturated fats. As I already said, they'll only slow you down because they feel heavy and are harder to digest.
  • Eat a lot of fruits and vegetables. I know it sounds like a broken record, but this is more important for a depressed person than for anyone else. The fiber, natural sugar, vitamins, and antioxidants in fruits and vegetables cannot be found as efficiently anywhere else. You will feel better, and fruits like berries can be a great snack food or dessert.
  • Get some "good" bacteria and fats into your body. Instead of eliminating these "bad" things from your life, make sure to eat things like yogurt with bacteria and things like fish with unsaturated fat.
  • Drink plenty of water. A well-hydrated body is like a well-oiled machine: it runs smoother and with less friction. When you find that you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. So drink up!

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Relax!

Don't do it all at once or put pressure on yourself to be perfect. Know that depression is an illness just like the flu and can be just as debilitating, so cut yourself some slack. You can and will get better.

A great resource for more information about food and depression can be found at the Jared Story site.

I also highly recommend looking into the Law of Attraction. It's an incredibly positive way to live life and has helped with my depression symptoms dramatically.

Remember, if you are feeling so depressed that you are suicidal, there is always someone to talk to at 1-800-SUICIDE. Even if you're just considering it, someone there will have great advice for you.

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    • Sue1226 profile image

      Sue1226 8 years ago from Dallas, Texas

      Great article I have to watch all the time because if I didn't I would be eating and gaining again. And now that I'm down and wearing pretty clothes I know I don't want to go back where I was. So that means watching how much I eat and finding other things to do to get me through the low times.

    • helenathegreat profile image
      Author

      helenathegreat 9 years ago from Manhattan

      Hi Deborah. You've brought up a great point; for many people, food is something beyond just nutrition, it's comfort. For those people, they will need to find the comfort that food brings in something else. For many this is exercise or knitting or some other productive activity. I, too, am a huge sugar freak, and I satisfy that by eating a small piece of chocolate or something similar at the end of every meal. Then I feel full, and I still have that great chocolatey after-glow.

    • profile image

      DEBORAH BERRIDGE 9 years ago

      I THINK THE ARTICLE IS QUITE GOOD. MOST OVERWEIGHT PEOPLE WILL HAVE A HARD TIME FOLLOWING THIS FOOD PROGRAM FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME. THEY WILL STILL HAVE MANY SUGAR URGES. I AM VERY SLIM, BUT I AM A SUGAR FREAK. I EXERCISE AND ALSO EAT A LOT OF VEG/FRUITS BUT I STILL CRAVE MY SUGARS-JAMS/PIES/CAKE/ BREADS/MUFFINS ETC. I CONSTANTLY FEEL I AM ON A DIET. yOU SEEM TO GET NO COMFORT FROM THESE FOODS, EVEN THOUGH MY STOMACH IS FULL I DON'T FEEL SATISFIED, I SEEM TO BE MISSING SOMETHING.

      DEBORAH

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