Weight Gain and Depression - Overeating When Stressed

Merely Me Health Guide
  • As the winter months slowly darken the days our hibernation instinct begins to kick in and our thoughts turn to either sleep or food.  That is the way it is for me anyway.  And then you have the various holidays to contend with.  Halloween candy is still in your cupboard, Thanksgiving is coming and of course that is all about food and I don't even want to mention the other food focused holidays in December.  And by the New Year we are all as round as Santa Claus but not necessarily jolly about it.


    So who here has some issues with their weight?  Raise your hand.  I would place a bet that the majority of us on this site have battled some sort of problem with our weight either currently or in the past.  I am right there with you raising my hand too.  I have dealt with problems managing my weight for decades now.  And I am here to tell you something you already know.  Depression doesn't help matters.

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    My metabolism seemed to change right after having my two boys.  In high school I was skinny.  You could see my hip bones.  Looking for them now, nope they are gone.  At the height of my weight gain I was about 170 pounds and I am five foot two.  I barely recognized myself.  My boys were babies back then and I did manage to lose some of this weight through exercise and just very active parenting.  Carrying babies and chasing toddlers can help you to lose those pounds!


    But then an emotional bomb hit when my youngest son was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old.  It was then that I began a slow but steady course in self neglect.  My life centered on my kids and nothing else seemed to matter.  I was depressed but didn't realize it.  I remember doing a home video to highlight my son's progress with the particular therapy we were using called Floor Time.  As the name implies, you get on the floor and play with your child in way to elicit engagement and communication.  When I played back the tape I saw "it" meaning my behind.  There I was on the floor   and my big ‘ol butt basically took up the whole screen.  I had stopped looking into a mirror so I had no idea I had gotten so large.  It was then that I decided to do something.


    It was pretty much a yearlong transformation where I was exercising at least five days a week.  I was using old videos called "Abs of Steel" complete with 80's attired people with head bands and leotards telling you how good you will look both coming and going!  I joined a gym for the first time.  And I became conscious of my eating habits.  I never used to count all the food I "stole" from my kid's plates or the sneaking of McDonald's French fries from my kid's happy meals.  Let me tell you that it all counts.  The vast quantities of bread, sugar laden stuff, donuts, all were replaced with fruits and veggies and foods which give you energy instead of depleting you.  I had one bag of hershey's kisses in the fridge for emergencies for a little taste of something sweet. 


    For what I call "mouth hunger" when you are bored and just feel like you need to chew on something I bought sugarless gum, and popcorn (without butter), and pumpkin and sunflower seeds.  When I had cravings I waited ten minutes.  They usually pass but you have to wait them out and keep your mind occupied.


    Over the months people began to notice.  Neighbors would stop and ask if I had a makeover.  I had been used to wearing nothing but sweats to accommodate my ever expanding girth.  This is embarrassing to admit but I was even still wearing my old maternity clothes and underwear!  This all changed with my weight loss.  I bought jeans which fit.  I was so excited.  And for the first time in years I went to Victoria Secret and bought a pretty bra and not some matronly misshapen thing.  I went from feeling rather asexual to feeling like a woman again.  Yet although I was smaller I still had that mentality of feeling fat.  It was really hard to overcome that body shyness of wanting to hide.  I think sometimes gaining a lot of weight is emotionally insulating.  Losing it can feel like you are super exposed.

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    I was doing really well with maintaining my weight but then in 2007 another diagnosis bomb hit.  This time it was my turn.  I found out I had Multiple Sclerosis.  It seemed like the pounds just instantly went right back on.  In three months time I had gained twenty pounds.  When you are hit with these life crises it seems exercise and eating well goes right out the window.  I was having trouble walking let alone exercising.  How was I going to do this? 


    It has taken many months but I am re-discovering my body after my diagnosis of MS as far as what I can do and what my physical limitations may be.  If MS has taught me anything it is to listen to my body.  I have joined a gym and have taken classes like yoga to build up both my spirit and physical stamina.  I am not yet where I want to be with my weight but I am getting there.  The last ten pounds are so hard to lose!  But more importantly I am focusing more upon the health aspects of being at a good weight.  I want to be at my physical best for those times when I am less able to exercise.  Not to mention that exercise is one of the best and most natural ways to decrease depression.  It makes you feel physically and mentally well.  I know that for myself, if I stop exercising, I feel much more depressed. 


    So let's just call me a work in progress.  I think we all are!


    Now it is your turn.  Please share your stories about how your depression has affected your weight and any tips you can share about how to get motivated to exercise and eat healthy.  I am thinking about doing a weight loss challenge.  Let me know if you are interested and I will add this to my "Free Falling Friday" feature.  We can lose the weight together!



    Okay I know this is a very difficult thing to do, to lose weight.  So I am going to give you some Health Central resources to make this a little easier.

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    • Our Deborah Gray tells you "Five Ways to Stay Motivated" with your exercise routine.

    • Sometimes your antidepressant can contribute to your weight gain. Please read my article, "Will my Antidepressant make me gain weight?" to find out which antidepressants are notorious for making you pack on the pounds and what you can do about it.

    • Health Central is proud to have "Foodfit" as one of its sites where you can find information about healthy eating, healthy cooking, and exercise. Right now they have some great fall recipes including an Asian Pear salad which looks divine.

    • On My Diet Exercise you can find help to losing that weight and getting into shape despite the holiday season. They have a nifty Ideal Body Weight calculator  you have to try.

    • And last but not least, you may find up to date information and support at My Obesity Connection on Health Central.
Published On: November 09, 2009