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Maintaining a Healthy Weight to Fight Depression



  1. Depression can cause weight gain or weight loss
  2. Exercising regularly can help you maintain a healthy weight and boost your mood
  3. Eating a well-balanced diet is essential to your physical and mental health

You may think of depression as a purely mental condition. But it can have many physical symptoms and side effects too, including changes in weight.

Because each person experiences depression differently, the relationship between weight and depression can vary. If you’re overweight, your risk of developing depression is higher. It’s also common to gain weight when you’re depressed. While it’s less common, unintended weight loss can also result from depression.

Practicing healthy habits and following your doctor’s recommended treatment plan may help you get or stay at a healthy weight, while relieving your depression too.

Depression and weight gain

Depression can raise your risk of weight gain in several ways. You may use food for comfort or to help you avoid depressive thoughts. For example, you may cope with negative emotions by choosing to eat higher calorie, or less-healthy, comfort foods. The lack of energy and motivation that often accompanies depression can also lead to physical inactivity. This makes weight gain more likely.

Fortunately, one activity that prevents weight gain can also benefit your mental health. Regular exercise is essential. A consistent exercise routine can help you maintain a healthy weight, relieve stress, and improve your mood.

A well-balanced diet is also key to managing your weight. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, lean meat, poultry, fish, and beans can help you maintain good physical and mental health. It’s important to limit processed foods, saturated fats, and refined sugars. Reducing your junk food intake can help you shed excess weight and may ward off depression.

Speaking to a mental health professional can help you manage your weight, as well your depression. They can help you understand and change unhealthy habits.

In some cases, weight gain is a side effect of antidepressant medications. If you suspect your weight gain is caused by your medications, speak with your doctor.

Depression and weight loss

While it’s less common than weight gain, some people experience weight loss as a complication of depression. As a symptom of depression, you may lose your appetite and interest in eating. Getting help from a mental health professional, eating a well-balanced diet, and maintaining a healthy exercise routine can help you manage your weight.

In some cases, switching antidepressants may also help. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) help modulate your brain activity and improve your mood by regulating your levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. Serotonin also affects your appetite. Improved serotonin levels can help improve your appetite.

What the expert says

“Significant weight change is one of the most common symptoms of depression,” says Dr. Jacqueline Cleland, a licensed clinical psychologist who practices in Leesburg, Va. “Getting regular exercise and watching what you eat will help you maintain a healthy weight whether you take an antidepressant or not.”

If you suspect you’re experiencing depression, make an appointment with your doctor. Discuss any symptoms or complications that you’ve developed, including weight gain or weight loss. They can help you develop an appropriate treatment plan. They may recommend lifestyle changes, medications, counseling, or other treatments.

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