Does this crazy make my butt look big?

Mood disorders are increasingly common and even more so in women. One of the things that I continue to see in my family practice is the hesitancy of women to admit when they are stressed or have a mood disorder but the truth remains; depression and anxiety are the single most common disease processes that affect women. It is 2020, which means it is about time that we talk like sisters, openly and honestly, about our mood. So, with that said, my goal with this article is to not only increase awareness about mood disorders in women; but also explain how your mood may be affecting your weight. That’s right! Your mood can affect your weight, but we will get to that in a minute. 

The “I am not depressed” depressed person 

Maybe you don’t struggle with mood. Congratulations you are a minority. LIFE IS HARD! Life is hard for people that have all the luxuries that life could ever offer. Add stress, responsibilities, children, HUSBANDS, jobs, unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, and suddenly life gets much harder. Also, mood fluctuates with hormone levels, primarily the reason why it affects women of all ages, premenstrual and postmenopausal. Yet, even though it is so NORMAL we are still so hesitant to admit when we struggle. 

It’s often a superwoman complex. We can do everything and handle everything life throws at us. That may be true but it doesn’t always mean you are happy about it. Some of the things that I hear the most from my patients are; “I don’t have depression, I just don’t have motivation or desire to do anything”, “my mood is good, I am just tired all the time”, or “I have a little anxiety but no depression”.

 I like to explain it like this; Depression and Anxiety are like a couple of girl friends who decide to show up to the party. Anxiety is the in your face friend. She is wild and loud! You always know when Anxiety has arrived! Because she doesn’t go anywhere and NOT make her presence known. She often demands you take notice! Unsurprisingly, most people really don’t like her and wish she would leave. 

Depression, not so much. She’s pretty chill. She likes to hang back and watch Anxiety do her thing. If you weren’t looking for her, you may not even know she’s there; but they do almost everything together. Where there is one, the other is usually not too far behind. 

Sometimes Depression does like to go it alone, but she may not initially catch your eye. Depression can be subtle and show up dressed as fatigue, lack of motivation, sleeping too much or too little, eating too much or too little, loss of interest in people or things that you used to enjoy. She doesn’t always come dressed in tears and sadness. So, before you say you are not struggling with mood ask yourself if maybe you are having symptoms that aren’t so obvious to see. 

“Okay, so maybe my mood is off. Now what?”

Despite our quick fix mentality, there is no magic pill for depression and anxiety. There are medications that can help but some of the best treatments are nonpharmacologic. What does that mean? It means that there is no magic pill for depression and anxiety! The best treatments can be in the form of stress reduction, counseling, support groups, diet, exercise and sleep! That’s right, SLEEP! We will talk about that more in another article. However, I will say that getting a good night’s sleep is imperative for mood and we do not prioritize that enough. 

Neither do we prioritize self-care. We have the responsibility of keeping other humans alive, getting them to their activities, housework, jobs… all kinds of things that we think we SHOULD be doing. We even berate ourselves when we don’t feel like it, or just “want time to ourselves”. You absolutely need a day off from being a wife and mother. Get away from your kids for an evening. Leave them with the hubs. Get away from him, too! Studies show that husbands make us crazy! I don’t know that there are actual studies but there are articles out there that seem legit. I know I like to blame mine. What I am getting at is… it’s okay to call in for a mental health day from your family. A little louder for those in the back… FROM (clap) YOUR (clap) FAMILY (clap)!! 

Women love to take care of everyone else, neglecting themselves. Its our favorite thing to do, but the old saying “you can’t take care of anyone else, if you don’t take care of yourself” is 100% true. So just do it, it will make you feel and perform your roles better. With that said, if you are struggling with mood don’t hesitate to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider. 

Won’t do it for yourself, do it for your figure

Alleviating stress and treating mood disorders will also help with weight. It seems that sometimes we are more worried about how our bodies look than how we feel in them, so I sometimes like to use this little pearl to get women to practice stress management. Sneaky? Yes. I don’t feel bad about it though as, regardless of the why, it is another important reason to focus on your mental health. Weight gain can lead to obesity which is a leading cause of disease. This weight gain is for various reasons. 

First, because a lot of food behaviors are linked to mood. I am a feeder; this is something I have had to really work on. That old saying, “feed a fever, starve a cold”? Yeah… I don’t do that. I feed a fever, a cold, anxiety, depression, boredom. If it can be fed, I feed it and I am not alone in that. This is something that we (as a whole) struggle with. We celebrate with food. We mourn with food. Food is central to a lot of our daily activities. However, food is supposed to be fuel for our bodies. Food is medicine. You wouldn’t skip a dose of a three time a day medicine, neither would you take it 5-6 times a day. Why? Because you would overdose and die. Now diet is a universal hot topic, and some will say, “small more frequent meals are better”. I am not arguing that, all I am saying is overeating is bad and mood disorders often lead to overeating. 

Another reason is stress affects hormones in our bodies. Cortisol and Ghrelin being a couple of them. Everyone knows cortisol. It is our stress hormone and long-term increased cortisol levels can increase our weight. Also, other factors that increase cortisol are things like consumption of high glycemic index foods. Namely simple sugars and carbs, which have become a staple in a lot of diets. I like to remember Ghrelin by thinking of a stomach “growlin”. Corny? Yes, but stay with me. This is the hormone in the body that increases appetite. Those days that we are hungry, and we just don’t know why? Ghrelin is probably high on those days. With increased stress and lack of sleep this hormone increases and in turn we become hungrier, eat more and gain weight. It’s a vicious cycle. All you really need to know is stress = weight gain and de-stressing can help you in your 2020 weight loss goals, so add it in to your diet. 

Get to the point already

As you can see, treating stress and mood disorders are important for more reasons than just so you can be happy. There are far too many to include in this article. This will likely be a topic that we will discuss many times in this platform as this is a REAL issue for women. We are biologically more likely to suffer from mood disorders. 50% more likely if you want a little factoid to throw at people. I like to throw factoids, because throwing other things at people is usually frowned upon. All joking aside, I want you to know that you are not alone in this. We all struggle in the same ways. Not always to the same degree but we struggle and THAT IS OKAY! So, make your mood a priority this year. If you are struggling, seek out a friend that you feel comfortable speaking with or visit your healthcare provider to see what you can do to make yourself healthier both mentally and physically.

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