Depression is one of the most common mental illnesses, and more than 264 million people experience it at any one time worldwide. In America, around 6.7% of people were depressed in 2017. This condition often coexists with anxiety, and there is some overlap between the symptoms of both disorders.
The symptoms of depression can make it difficult to lose weight and causes some people to lose motivation to take care of their bodies. However, recent research suggests that tackling obesity at the same time as depression can be beneficial. In this article, we’ll explain how to get motivated to lose weight when depressed.
What is Depression?
Depression is characterized by abnormal transmission or low levels of specific neurotransmitters, leading to low mood.
Depression has various causes, including abuse, stress, or a traumatic life event. Some people cannot pinpoint the event or circumstances that led to them becoming depressed, and some are more genetically predisposed to become depressed than others. Certain health conditions or medications can also cause depression. Symptoms include:
- Feelings of sadness or emptiness
- Anxiety and irritability
- Feeling guilty or worthless
- A sense of helplessness to change your feelings or situation
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Trouble focusing and memory difficulties
- Sleeping too much or too little
- Increase or decrease in appetite leading to weight changes
- Suicidal thoughts
- Idiopathic pain (no apparent medical cause)
Many people with depression experience only a few of these symptoms, and severity varies from person to person. Some people only feel depressed sometimes, while for others, it becomes a chronic condition.
How is Depression Treated?
If you want to figure out how to get motivated when depressed, the first step is to seek help and support. Support from others and medical or psychological treatment are crucial if you want to know how to lose weight with depression. It can make you feel better and reduce feelings of tiredness and helplessness, making it easier to do the things necessary to get your body slim and healthy.
When you’re depressed, you may feel hopeless and that nothing you do can make a difference to how you feel. It’s important to remember that you don’t need to face depression alone. There are plenty of services and support groups available for people with depression to get you on the road to recovery. Feeling depressed is not a sign of weakness and is nothing to be ashamed of. Many people experience this distressing condition from all walks of life, and it’s not a sign that you are to blame.
One of the best starting places to get help if you’re depressed is your family doctor. Your doctor can talk through your symptoms with you and provide self-help advice and treatment options. They may also recommend a talking therapy like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or antidepressant medication to help ease your symptoms.
It’s vital to get help if you are having suicidal thoughts. If you believe that you or someone you know is at immediate risk of taking their own life, you should call the emergency services on 911.
There is good evidence to suggest that exercise can effectively treat depression symptoms. Regular exercise can prevent or improve health conditions associated with depression, improve mood, and help you sleep better. However, it’s not always easy to get active when you feel low. In the next section, we’ll tackle how to get motivated to work out when you’re depressed.
How Do You Lose Weight When Depressed?
Many people with depression find that getting motivated to exercise is the hardest part of figuring out how to lose weight when you are depressed. It can be tempting to curl up on the couch when you feel sad and low, but exercising can actually help treat your symptoms and get you on the road to feeling better. It also burns calories, allowing you to slim down.
So, here’s how to get motivated to exercise when depressed and get the drive you need to eat healthily.
1. Start with Small Steps
When you feel depressed, getting started with weight loss can feel daunting. If the task feels too enormous, it can be easy to decide it’s not worth the hassle. If you want to know how to lose weight when depressed, our best tip is to start small and build up gradually.
Starting small makes the challenge of losing weight appear less intimidating and is more sustainable and enjoyable than going on a crash diet and hitting the gym hard right from the off. It’s also healthier to build up your physical activity gradually if you’re unfit. Extreme diets tend to be low in essential nutrients and don’t contain enough calories to make you feel healthy and energetic. This could make you feel even worse.
Instead of focusing on weight loss initially, instead focus on getting your body strong and healthy again. If you start to build up healthy habits, weight loss is likely to follow. Perhaps pick just one or two straightforward new healthy habits to begin with and then add to your routine when they’ve become second nature. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Take a gentle 15-minute walk five times a week, or increase the duration if you already do this
- Try to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day
- Add a portion of nutrient-rich fruit to your breakfast
- Cover at least half of your plate at each mealtime with colorful vegetables
- Swap fatty and sugary beverages for water
- Try a soothing yoga class to relax while building strength and burning calories
- Join a group exercise class once or twice a week
2. Get Support from Others
When you feel depressed, you may end up avoiding socializing because you feel low. You may even worry that your mood may upset others around you. However, there is decent evidence to show that socializing and maintaining positive relationships and friendships is good for your self-esteem and could help make your depression better.
If you want to know how to motivate yourself for weight loss when depressed, getting support from others can really help. Confiding in family and friends that you’re trying to lose weight and asking them to help motivate you when you feel rough can keep you on track. If you have a supportive friend, partner, or family member, you could ask them to join you for a walk or other healthy activity for company.
Alternatively, you could try forging new social connections while losing weight by joining a weight-loss club or exercise group. This is a great way to make new friends and meet other people in a similar situation to keep you on track. Getting out and about with others is also an effective depression treatment for many people.
3. Find Exercise You Enjoy
Depression can make you feel unmotivated, and you’re less likely to stick to a weight loss exercise plan if you find it unpleasant. Conversely, it’s far easier to find the drive you need to get active if you pick an activity you like.
While high-impact workouts like HIIT are great for losing weight quickly, any activity that raises your heart rate will help you slim down. If you like intense gym workouts, then great, but they’re not the only options. There are plenty of fun and sociable ways to get active, so it’s worth trying a few to see what you enjoy.
Our favorite fun ways to exercise for weight loss include:
- Dance classes
- Ice skating
- Hiking and heritage walks
- Wii Fitness
4. Eat for Maximum Wellbeing
Feeling low can make you feel like reaching for sugary and fatty comfort foods, potentially scuppering your weight loss efforts. However, evidence shows that eating a healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats decreases your risk of depression. It can also improve your overall physical wellbeing and make it easier to slim down.
When you first start dieting to lose weight, it can help to focus on eating for health to motivate you if you have depression. Once your body is healthier, you can start thinking about managing your calorie intake and portion sizes for weight loss.
There’s no specific diet available specifically to treat depression, but experts agree that certain things can help. Fortunately, the measures you can take to improve depression are also great for losing weight. Here are some dietary changes that can help improve depression:
- Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish, nuts, and seeds
- Take a vitamin D supplement and include natural sources in your diet such as fish, liver, and eggs
- Consume antioxidant-rich foods with plenty of vitamins A, C, and E, such as colorful fruits and vegetables
- Boost your vitamin B-12 and B-9 levels by eating plenty of protein such as meat, eggs, fish, chicken, and dairy
- Take a probiotic supplement or eat probiotic foods like kefir, yogurt, and sauerkraut
Cutting out or significantly reducing the number of refined foods you eat is essential for weight loss and improving depression. Processed foods like fast food contain high levels of fat, sugar, and calories with less nutritional content than whole natural foods. While you don’t need to eliminate them entirely, keep these foods as an occasional treat.
5. Be Kind and Reward Yourself
One of the symptoms of depression is feeling useless or guilty, but you should feel proud of making an effort. When you first start losing weight, you will mess up from time to time, and that’s fine!
If you have a day when you don’t exercise or overeat, don’t beat yourself up about it, as this is a sure-fire way to lose motivation. Instead, focus on your achievements and congratulate yourself for trying to improve your physical and mental health.
As well as starting slowly and building up over time to make the task more manageable, we recommend keeping a record of your successes. Writing down what you’ve done well is an excellent way to prove to yourself that you’re doing your best and cope with feelings of wanting to give up.
When you achieve a goal like losing a few pounds, sticking to your exercise plan, or managing a few days eating a nutritious diet, reward yourself. This reinforces the behavior and makes you more likely to sustain it over time. However, beware of rewarding yourself with fatty or sugary foods, which could set your weight loss back. While nothing is forbidden, and you can enjoy these foods in moderation, there are plenty of calorie-free ways to reward yourself for a job well done. Here are a few ideas:
- Treat yourself to a massage or beauty treatment
- Buy yourself something you wouldn’t normally, like a special item of clothing
- Take a bubble bath with luxuriously scented products
- Go for a day out somewhere you’ve always wanted to busy
- Invite a friend or family member for a meal at your favorite restaurant
- Treat yourself to a movie night or a book you’ve meant to read
6. Be Mindful Around Alcohol
Many people with depression misuse alcohol as a way of self-medicating. While a drink can make you feel better in the short-term, it can make you feel worse over time. Drinking too much alcohol changes your brain chemistry, which could worsen your depression.
If you binge drink, you could end up with a terrible hangover, which is associated with feelings of anxiety and guilt. It can also make you more likely to comfort eat or skip exercising. If you regularly drink alcohol, it can also cause problems at work and in your personal relationships, worsening your mental health. There’s a risk that drinking alcohol can make you more likely to self-harm or take your own life.
Drinking too much alcohol is also bad news for weight loss because it contains a whopping seven calories per gram without much nutrition. It can also slow down your metabolism, making it harder to shed fat. Therefore, limiting your alcohol intake is an excellent way to cut calories when you’re trying to lose weight.
The occasional glass of wine or beer is safe and could even be healthy as long as you don’t overdo it. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommends no more than one alcoholic drink per day, and it’s a good idea to have at least a couple of alcohol-free days per week. If you drink more than this or are concerned that you use alcohol as a crutch for coping with your feelings, it’s a sign that you should consider cutting down. This will also help you lose weight.
If you believe that your alcohol use is out of hand, you may have an alcohol addiction, also known as alcoholism. Symptoms include a compulsive urge to drink, losing control over your drinking, and feeling depressed, anxious, or angry after consuming alcohol. It can also cause physical symptoms such as nausea and lead to relationship problems.
Most people need help to recover from an alcohol addiction from their doctor or a specialist support service. If you drink very large quantities of alcohol, quitting cold turkey could be dangerous. Asking for help is a crucial step to start recovering from alcohol addiction.
Q: How do I get motivated to lose weight when I’m depressed?
A: Setting small, achievable goals is the best way to motivate yourself to lose weight when you’re depressed without feeling overwhelmed. It may help to concentrate on improving your overall wellbeing instead of fixating on weight loss. Taking a gentle walk most days and eating a nutritious diet can help improve your depression symptoms while slimming you down. Seeking support from your doctor to treat your depression is also essential for many people. Once your depression eases, you should find it easier to start a more focused diet or exercise routine.
Q: Is there an antidepressant that helps with weight loss?
A: The antidepressant bupropion sometimes causes modest weight loss as a side effect. However, you should only take this medication if prescribed by your healthcare provider. It’s intended to treat depression and not as a weight loss aid.
Q: How can I get motivated to exercise when depressed?
A: Finding an exercise you enjoy can help motivate you to exercise when depressed. Fun activities like dance, hiking, and swimming are all great for burning calories. Sociable exercise could also help you build friendships, which is helpful for people with depression. If you find it really difficult to motivate yourself to move when you feel low, even a gentle 15-minute walk every day is a great starting point.
Q: Can losing weight affect your mental health?
A: Losing weight can improve your mental health if you’re overweight or obese. However, it’s essential to ensure that you lose weight at a healthy pace of around 1-2 pounds per week and consume plenty of nutrients, or you could make yourself feel worse. The tips in this article can help you lose weight while improving your depression symptoms.
The Bottom Line
While motivating yourself to lose weight when you’re depressed is challenging, it’s not impossible. In fact, losing weight if you’re overweight or obese can improve your mental health. It’s essential to focus on health when you’re depressed and trying to lose weight by eating nutritious meals. Seeking support from others and finding fun ways to exercise can also be beneficial.
Don’t suffer in silence if you’re struggling with depression. Your doctor can help you find a suitable treatment to improve your quality of life and direct you towards local support groups.