Depression and weight gain in women are very common. In fact, women are twice likely to develop these as compared to men. Hyderabad-based Kavita, a practicing psychologist, tells us the reasons and methods of combatting these, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Clinical depression is a serious disorder. It causes feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness. It can be mild to moderate with symptoms of apathy, little appetite, difficulty in sleeping, low self-esteem, digestive disorders, difficulty in concentrating, remembering, making decisions, persistent headaches, decreased energy, excessive crying, and low-grade fatigue. It could also be more severe.
Why is Depression More Common in Women?
Before the onset of puberty, the rate of depression is about the same in girls and boys. As puberty sets in, a girl’s risk of developing depression increases dramatically to twice that of boys. Experts believe this may be related to changes in hormone levels that occur throughout a woman’s life. These changes are evident during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause. In addition to these, giving birth or a miscarriage also plays a part.
The monthly cycle has hormonal fluctuations which contribute to the premenstrual syndrome or PMS. This is characterised by severe mood swings that occur before the onset of the cycle and interferes with normal functioning of daily life.
What Increases the Chances of Depression in Women?
According to research, factors like, reproductive, genetic or other biological factors; interpersonal factors and certain psychological and personality characteristics, are responsible for an increase in depression among women.
- Family history of mood disorders.
- Loss of a parent in childhood.
- Loss of job, relationship stress, separation or divorce.
- Physical or sexual abuse as a child.
- Certain medications.
Measures to Combat Depression
- Setting a daily schedule can help you get back on track.
- Set goals to accomplish, as this will push you towards achieving it. Start small and increase it slowly.
- Physical exercise is very important to release the feel-good chemicals called endorphins. Encourages a positive outlook on life.
- Watch what you eat. Eating healthy promotes a sense of wellbeing.
- Get enough sleep and rest. Go to bed early and get up at the same time every day. Try not to take naps.
- Learn a new skill as it keeps you occupied productively.
- Take on responsibilities as it will give you a sense of accomplishment.
- Make time for what you enjoy. Be it music, dancing, a walk in the park, catching up with friends, reading, writing and the like.
Women and Weight Gain
Most women have struggled at one time or another with their weight and recent research suggests that weight gain in women differs from that of men. Here are a few causes:
- Pregnancy: Women tend to gain weight during pregnancy as they consume too many calories, under the idea of “eating for two.”
- Menopause: The hormonal changes during menopause may cause an increase in appetite and lead to weight gain.
- Diets and fads: When women do not eat enough, the metabolism slows down and the body begins to store fat.
- Low-Fat foods: These often contain as many calories as the normal food items.
- Lack of Fiber: This leads to fiber deficiencies leading to ill bowel health. Fiber gives you a feeling of fullness, which helps you eat less.
- Stress: The demands of managing work and home may result to gain weight. The body slows down and begins to store fat.
- Less Sleep: Your body cannot function well, to the best of its ability, if you are sleep deprived. It begins to store fat.
- Depression: Many women use food to comfort themselves, when in blues. This expands their waistlines.
- Diseases and Illness: A number of diseases and illnesses can cause weight gain. Problems with the liver, heart, and kidney can be a few areas.
- Birth Control: This may be one of the reasons for weight gain. It’s a common side effect.
A few other reasons could be, an underactive thyroid, diabetes treatment, Ageing, Use of steroids, Stress and mood swings, Tiredness, fluid retention, polycystic ovary syndrome.
Menopause can be the main reason in weight gain. The hormonal changes can cause weight gain around the abdomen, hips, and thighs. Muscle mass typically diminishes with age, while fat increases. Genetic factors can also be considered a valid reason of weight gain. Stress such as children leaving home, the death of a spouse, loss of job and the like can cause weight gain.
Measures to Control Weight Gain
There are many ways to watch your weight.
- Exercise: It is important to increase muscle mass. Experts recommend strength training a few times a week. You need to be physically active every day. A walk, jog or yoga can help immensely.
- Eat smaller meals: Care has to be taken to eat smaller portions and breakfast is not to be avoided at any cost. Irregular eating habits have to be avoided. Eating extra, leftovers is strictly avoidable.
- Drink water: water is a natural thirst quencher and should be the choice instead of aerated drinks and colas.
- Eat Fresh food: Drink fresh fruit juices and cook fresh meals. Packaged food should be avoided.
- Seek support: Talk to friends or relatives who have succeeded in achieving their ideal weight. Consult a dietician or a physical trainer. Get your family’s support while eating healthy food. Choose health over taste.
Remember, successful treatment of depression and weight loss at any stage of life requires permanent changes in lifestyle and diet habits. When you commit to these changes, you can enjoy a healthier you.
Photo from the internet.
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Kavita Panyam is a Counselling Psychologist by profession and a freelance writer by passion. She has won competitions in various magazines for slogan writing, reviews, and several blogging competitions. Her work has been published in reputed magazines across India and abroad. She writes for several well-known ezines and for print magazines. She also features as a guest contributor for various websites.