If you are among the 68 percent of overweight Americans, diet can seem like your gateway to happiness. The media promotes headlines about the continuous increase in the weight of the population and the risks associated with this. Maybe your doctor gives you understanding or heart-to-heart looks every time you step on the scale. And do not forget the billboards, movies and magazines that praise the latest diet techniques, in particular a list of celebrities recognized for their slender thighs or washboard abs.
"Yes", you can think: "if I get rid of the pounds, I will achieve health, happiness and all my dreams".
But not only are most diets ineffective, according to the National Association of Eating Disorders, but they often cause anxiety, chronic depressive moods, increased stress and low self-esteem.
When people are dying of hunger they become very anxious, tired and depressed.
Sondra Kronberg, registered dietitian and nutrition director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative.
Losing weight, gaining depression?
In a study published in "Psychosomatic Medicine" in 2010, 121 women consumed a restricted-calorie diet or a non-restrictive diet for three weeks. The researchers found that participants who consumed a restricted diet at no more than 1200 calories per day yielded significantly more cortisol, a hormone associated with the abdominal weight gain that the body releases in response to stress.
Another study, published in "Obesity" in 2009, showed an increase in suicidal tendencies and depressive symptoms among the 194 obese participants who followed a weight loss program, with or without medication, for one year.
Fortunately, much can be done to avoid and reduce the "slumps" associated with diet, according to Judith J. Wurtman, co-author of "The Serotonin Power Diet," a research based on an approach to helping people lose weight while taking antidepressants.
Knowing where these emotional symptoms come from, and why they occur, can lead you to making better and more wise lifestyle decisions.
So, how and why?
Like the rest of your body, the brain depends on food as fuel, for its proper functioning and energy. Knowing this, perhaps it should not be surprising that depressive symptoms related to diet can start there.
"Depression, anxiety, insomnia and anger associated with diets are caused by decreased serotonin [brain chemistry] after several weeks of avoiding carbohydrates or eating carbohydrates only in combination with proteins ", according to Wurtman."Since serotonin can be generated only when carbohydrates, except fructose, are eaten with little or no protein, even a diet like Weight Watchers can cause serotonin depletion."
On the other hand, people who diet and seek results of rapid weight loss or "quick solutions" can opt for severe calorie restriction, which affects, among other functions, blood sugar.
"When blood sugar levels drop, you put your mind into a state of fatigue because the brain uses glucose as a food source," said Sondra Kronberg, a dietitian, director and spokesperson for the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative. and National Eating Disorders Association. "Next, you will have a poorly regulated brain, then you will see symptoms such as fatigue, anxiety or depression."
Another thing to consider is the fact that consuming fewer calories than your body requires for normal functioning puts your body in survival mode, which is the beginning of starvation.
"When people die of hunger," Kronberg explained, "they become very anxious, very tired, very depressed."
The survival mode decreases your metabolism, too, to make way for weight gain and mood problems. You may also experience stress and anxiety about social or work events that involve food or in response to increased appetite or food cravings that your diet forbids you to comply with. And you may miss the foods you normally tune in to find emotional satisfaction.
"Most dieters cut a large amount of their comfort foods," said Kronberg, who is usually carbohydrate-based. "They tend to be unregulated when they do not get foods that make them feel better. emotionally or in their behavior. "
It is true, however, that diet can instill a sense of control and proactivity when other aspects of your life go wrong.
"Maybe they're getting divorced, [having] problems with children or finances are not very good," Kronberg said. "You feel like you have a meaning and a purpose [on a diet], and that's not necessarily false, but it is not a cure for everything. "
Five simple ways to feel great while getting in shape
Swap white carbohydrates completely. Most Americans consume less than one of the three or more servings of whole grains a day recommended, according to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University. When buying breads, cereals, rice and pasta, choose those that list whole grains as the main ingredient or are on the top of the list.
Go fishing. Typical American diets lack omega-3 fatty acids, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. A deficiency of these healthy fats can cause fatigue and depression.Among the best sources are salmon, mackerel, halibut, herring, sole and albacore tuna.
Eat more often. By simply adding a snack between meals you can avoid the depressive symptoms associated with diet. For a healthy and balanced snack, add fruits and granola or whole wheat bread with almond butter to your yogurt.
Create comfortable and healthy foods. "Hot oatmeal has a different taste than an apple," said Sondra Kronberg, registered dietitian and director of the Eating Disorder Treatment Collaborative. "Even though they have the same amount of sugar, There is something nostalgic about oats. " Other comfortable and nutritious foods can include whole-grain macaroons, sweet potato puree made with low-fat milk, and whole-wheat pizza, with vegetable cover.
Focus on the positive. "We must realize how important it is to nurture ourselves physically, mentally and emotionally," said David Klow, a marriage and family therapist in Skokie, Illinois and a psychotherapist affiliate at the Family Institute at Northwestern University. Instead of focusing on what foods to avoid, focus on how to add nutrients to your diet. For example, when you crave an ice cream, cover it with a reasonable-size spoonful of sliced bananas and fresh strawberries. If you start to feel critical of your diet, encourage yourself to point out the attributes of your meals. Have you eaten vegetables? Fruits? Proteins? An ounce of positivity can make you advance a lot in your physical and emotional well-being.