“If only I weighed less, I’d be happier.”
Is this a thought that has ever crossed your mind? It might have crossed my mind once or twice during the past two decades, just maybe. However, I intellectually know that the two are not connected....or are they?
Last week I found an article in the journal Obesity in which researchers explored the relationship between obesity and depression. They examined a population-based sample of US women who participated in the 2005 or 2006 National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES). Basically this means that the researchers looked at data which had already been collected by the survey and analyzed potential relationships between various measures of depression and weight classes.
To determine the presence of depression, the nine-item Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ-9) was used. You may have answered this simple survey at some point during your tenure as a patient. I know I have. Rather than reproduce the PHQ-9 here, you can read more about it, view a sample, and learn how it is graded by health professionals, on the Macarthur Initiative on Depression & Primary Care website.
Go ahead and check it out, then come back here to continue reading.
To determine degree of obesity (or lack there of), height, weight, waist circumference, and Body Mass Index were determined. The BMI in this selection of patients ranged from 13.4 to 76.1. Wow, for someone of my height, this would represent a range of weight from 80-458 pounds, a full spectrum indeed. BMI categories were defined using the following cutoff points, i.e., BMI <18.5 for underweight, BMI 18.5–24.9 for normal weight, 25.0–29.9 for overweight, and BMI ≥30.0 for obesity. The obese category was subdivided into three levels of severity: obese class 1 (BMI 30.0–34.9), obese class 2 (35.0–39.9), and obese class 3 (≥40.0).
With my current BMI of 40.9 (that is until I lose another 6 pounds), I would be in the Obese Class 3 group. However since patients who were taking antidepressants or other antipsychotic medications were excluded, my data would have been excluded from the study since I currently take antidepressants. Just to be clear, I did not participate in the 2005-2006 NHANES nor this study. I’m just talking hypothetically.
I’ve been on antidepressants sporadically for 20 years and continuously for the past 10 years. And since I’ve weighed more than 180 pounds during the majority of that time, I would be considered chronically obese. With this background, perhaps I might have something to say about obesity and depression. Let me think.....
Actually this is a huge topic and one which cannot be thoroughly explored in just one little Sharepost, however here are my initial thoughts based on personal experience.
During the college years:
- When I was depressed or bored, I ate more. One of my favorite go-to foods during college was Doritos chips and pimento cheese. I loved this combination. Well, that and serial crunching of M&M’s.
- When I started to feel better after starting antidepressants, food started to taste better and life became somewhat more enjoyable. Then I REALLY liked the taste of those chips/cheese and started to indulge in sweet deserts such as cheesecake and pie.
- Based on both of these situations above, I gained weight. Note that I was depressed first and overweight second.
Since the onset of two incurable chronic illnesses: