Category Archives: Wellness


Is Depression Wrecking Your Weight?

Depression and weight problems often go together. Here are tips for handling both.

They are both heavy burdens – weight problems and depression. And they often go hand in hand.

Some people gain weight when they’re depressed. Others lose weight, to an unhealthy degree.

Which comes first? And how can you untangle the link between depression and weight — especially if depression has sapped you of your energy to make changes? Here’s what experts say you need to know.

Depression Wrecking Your Weight

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Depression and Weight Gain

A March 2010 review of 15 studies, published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, linked obesity to a greater risk of developing depression – and vice versa.

But do people gain weight because they are depressed? Or do they become depressed because of the excess pounds they are carrying? No one knows.

“It’s a chicken and the egg phenomenon,” says psychologist Leslie Heinberg, PhD, who directs the Bariatric and Metabolic Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. “But we do know that depression has lots of symptoms that can worsen obesity – appetite disturbances, lack of energy, lack of motivation to do things.”

In 2009, researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham reported that depressed people tend to gain weight faster than people who aren’t depressed.

The bulk of those extra pounds was concentrated around their waists. That’s not good. Belly fat is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure.

Depression, of course, comes with its own set of risk factors, including suicide, social isolation, drug and alcohol addiction, and anxiety.

Whichever comes first – depression or overweight/obesity – it is a very unhealthy combination. Often, it is a self-reinforcing combo as well.

Eating Yourself Blue

“Some foods, especially foods with high sugar and/or fat content, make you feel better, if only briefly,” says psychiatrist James Gordon, MD, author of Unstuck: Your Guide to the Seven-Stage Journey out of Depression.

“That good feeling makes you want to eat more, which in turn makes you feel bad about yourself,” Gordon says. “That leads to deeper depression, and more eating, and greater amounts of weight gain. It’s a vicious cycle.”

Getting out of that cycle can be a real challenge.

“When you are depressed, it is much harder to get out of bed, much less pay attention to what you are eating,” says Edward Abramson, PhD, an emeritus professor of psychology at California State University at Chico and the author of Emotional Eating: What You Need To Know Before Starting Another Diet.

For doctors, it’s less important to know which came first: the patient’s depression or the weight problems. The question is, which one should get the most initial attention?

“If someone comes to me who is severely depressed and overweight, the depression is going to be the primary focus,” says Abramson.

However, he continues, an eating disorder that causes a patient to binge might need to be addressed first: “If their eating is out of control, that becomes the primary focus.”

At the beginning of therapy, that usually means walking. Abramson recommends picking up a pedometer before hitting the sidewalk. By measuring the number of steps they take each time they walk, they can monitor their progress. And, says Abramson, “small victories equal positive thoughts.”

Heinberg often prescribes walking as well. She likes to focus on her patients’ depression for the first six to eight weeks of therapy, introducing low-key exercise only to keep weight steady rather than bring it down. Once the depression is under control, she says, it becomes easier to address weight problems.

Be Active, Make Choices, Feel Better

Exercise is a key part of treating overweight and depression, in part because it allows patients to play an active role in caring for themselves. In fact, Gordon maintains that exercise is the best prescription for treating mild to moderate depression, as well as being helpful for severe depression.

“People feel good about doing things for themselves – that, in itself, is therapeutic,” Gordon says.

Gordon also recommends taking a break from fast food and other unhealthy eating habits; instead, he says, make time to cook a meal for yourself.

“It goes beyond just preparing something healthier to eat than fast food,” says Gordon. “People get engaged in their own care, and that’s crucial to dealing with weight.”

Gordon, who is the founder and director of the Center for Mind Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., includes alternative and complementary treatments in his practice. Key among them is meditation.

“You have to become aware of what and how you eat, through mindfulness,” says Gordon. “Very often, if you are anxious, you are going to eat more. But if you are in a state of relaxation, you won’t be eating frantically or mindlessly.”

Don’t be discouraged if therapy does not provide positive results right away. Treatment takes time. And keep in mind that treating depression and weight problems will likely require more than just a pill and a one-size-fits-all diet plan.

“It is important to have a comprehensive program,” says Gordon, one that addresses all aspects of a patient’s problems and prepares him or her for the hard road back to health. “I don’t have a magic bullet, and you are going to do most of the work.”

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4 Wellness Tricks I Learned In Japan That Helped Me Lose 40 Pounds

When I arrived in Tokyo 40 pounds overweight, I told my new Japanese share-mate about my weight concerns. She said, “Maybe you should take a hot bath tonight. That will help.” A hot bath? What could a hot bath have to do with weight loss? Clearly, I was missing something.

I was yoyo dieting for years and was struggling to lose my goal of 20 pounds. I had the mentality that if I put in more effort, I would reap more reward, so I had been doing intense exercising from ice hockey training, to weight lifting, to high intensity workouts up to two hours per day. I also tried to cut down on dessert, but wound up having moments of binging, followed by justification because I had worked out so much. But simply changing my approach to body care led me to effortlessly lose 40 pounds as a side effect.

4 Wellness Tricks I Learned In Japan That Helped Me Lose 40 Pounds

Photo From: Carles Monzo

In the US, women speed walk in their yoga pants with 2 liter bottles of water tucked under their arms. They shun carbs like the plague, go to intense workouts like CrossFit and describe themselves as being “good” today or “bad” today. But in Japan, I would see slender women eating rice and noodles, going to yoga classes and not drinking any water with their meals.

It seemed to me like the information available about weight loss in the US was valid with scientific back-up, but what’s missing and confusing is the application. How can we intuitively approach a healthy lifestyle when we can’t even sense protein, carbs and calories with our tongues?

If I was to tell women in the US that walking could give them more results of a slender body than high intensity training, they’d think I was crazy. But the thing is, when it comes to your body, more effort doesn’t necessarily mean more reward. If anything, being able to calm yourself allows you to listen to your body and can lead to naturally craving less, and that’s not something you can feel when you’re forcing yourself to get a certain result.

It’s not uncommon for dieters in the US to think that the only way to be healthy is to eat bland grilled chicken with steamed broccoli. But if we’re not training for the Olympics or entering a body competition, then what is it we’re working for? We want to look hot and eat cake, too. And I know it’s possible.

It has been seven years since that first conversation with my Japanese share-mate, and now I’m a health coach with a background in eastern and western lifestyle ideologies. Here are four things I learned that you can implement into your lifestyle to get healthy without being extreme:

1. If you train like a sumo wrestler, you’ll look like a sumo wrestler.
The first moment I realized it’s not about what you do, but how you do it was when I saw a sumo wrestling tournament for the first time. Sumo wrestlers skip breakfast, spend all morning doing intense training so they can lift and push their heavy components. They have a big lunch, followed by a nap and then wake up and repeat in the evening.

Likewise, I had been exercising like crazy and it made me feel ravenous. Regardless of how healthy my meals were, I would eat more than I needed without realizing it. Then I’d feel tired from the workout and warm from the meal, so I’d go to bed. On one hand, I was building muscle and stamina, but I was also adding a thick layer of fat on top of all of the muscle.

One way you can tell if you’re overdoing your workout is if you find yourself hyperventilating. Calm breathing indicates to your body that “everything is OK,” so it’s geared towards targeting the fat on your body for energy. But if you’re stressing your body out, as indicated by gasping for breath, then you’re likely triggering your body to use quick energies in the form of sugars. So, those times when you go home and tell your loved ones not to talk to you until you’ve had something to eat because you’re so hungry you could practically eat your arm off? Those are good indications that you’re overdoing it.

2. Keep your body warm.
A cold body is a dead body. A warm body is a living body. There is a concept called food energetics that isn’t really studied much in the US. Basically, it’s about how the direction in which food grows gives it a certain kind of energy to foods, which is then transferred to us when we eat. Foods that grow in the hot summer weather are considered cooling, so they help your body acclimate to the heat. And foods that grow in the winter weather (like root vegetables) are considered warming and calming to the body.

Raw foods are considered healthy and eaten frequently as part of a healthy diet in the US. Foods like raw salads, raw vegetables, smoothies made with raw fruits and raw greens all fall into this category. These are healthy and detoxifying, but at the same time, if you are eating too much, it can be considered too cooling to the body. It’s not uncommon for people to feel fatigued, as a result.

Have you ever gone to a Chinese restaurant and ordered a raw salad? Probably not. That’s because in the East, their diet doesn’t consist much of raw foods because you want to keep your body warm. If you hate having raw salads, then making sautéed, boiled, stewed or baked vegetables are fantastic contenders.

3. Don’t drink water with meals.
In the US, every café or restaurant you go to will serve you ice water. There’s two reasons this would be looked down upon in the East: First, because it’s cold and you want to keep your body warm. The other reason is that water “douses your digestive fires,” which makes it difficult to digest your foods. In the world of science, this means that water will neutralize the PH of your stomach acid, which makes it really hard for your body to break down foods.

In Japan, most people will have soup with meals. And even if they don’t, they will usually not drink with their meals. It is common, however, to have some warm tea after a meal.

In the US, I constantly see dieting advice urging people to drink more water, but instead of thinking of drinking more glasses of water, you should be thinking of having more foods that are hydrating in your diet. This could mean adding soups with your meals, or having steamed bread instead of baked bread. It also means taking out anything dehydrating, like caffeine from coffee and black teas. So, while it is true you need to stay hydrated, save having water for between meals instead of with them. Stick to hydrating foods during meals instead.

4. Take hot baths.
In addition to releasing tight muscles, hot baths can improve circulation, which helps with digestion and detoxing through your pores. In Japan, people will take a “half bath,” which means you fill the tub until it meets just under your heart area if you were to be sitting in the tub. If you fill the tub above your heart level, it can put pressure on your heart. So, they avoid it.

Temperature is also important. Most people soak in a bath that is between 100 to 107 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature is enough to improve your circulation without overbooking your body. Hot baths also relax you before bed, so soaking in a hot tub can improve the quality of your sleep.

If you have only ever thought that weight loss comes from calories in vs. calories out, then these tips might sound a bit odd. But when entire nations of people are eating well and having balanced bodies as a result of these tips, while you’re counting calories and killing yourself at the gym, it can’t hurt to give it a try.

This article is written by Katheryn Gronauer from