The judging looks, the “helpful” advice, the open mockery. As a person gains weight, he becomes a target of all of those things. This, paired with a societal obsession with slim figures and being inundated by images of thin models and all the talk about diets only serves to create an emotional sinkhole that can only be filled by eating.
Eating feels good. It feels great, in fact. But the satisfaction we get from food isn’t sustainable, and as it wears off, we find ourselves crashing down again, which, in turn, causes us to seek the comfort of food again. And as we eat more, we feel worse as our bodies drift farther and farther from the damnable beauty standard.
Too many doctors, diets and weight-loss programs aim to resolve the symptom of weight-gain without addressing the disease. That disease is what makes you care so much about what other people think about you, it’s what causes you to seek the easiest and most immediate satisfaction, it’s what makes you constantly doubt your ability to escape this cruel cycle.
That disease is depression. Depression isn’t merely “feeling blue”, nor is it an excuse. It’s a legitimate and serious mental condition, characterized by self-loathing, loss of motivation and energy, and a feeling of hopelessness. And that’s the hurdle many obese people need to go over.
Looking at how the two conditions, obesity and depression, seem to feed into each other, a group of researchers attempted to study how an integrated treatment that sought to address both at the same time might benefit obese and depressive people over the period of 12 months. Here’s what they found:
Among a test group of 409 participants, half were enrolled in a program that addressed mental health in the form of problem-solving therapy, aimed at granting the patient tools to cope with stressful situations, as well as antidepressant prescriptions, as needed. The weight-loss part of the program included behavioral weight-loss treatment, counseling sessions and educational videos during the first half of the program, after which they received monthly follow-up phone calls from their health coach. All of this on top of usual care by physicians, mental-health experts and fitness trackers.
The other half of the test group received only the wireless activity trackers and the normal medical and psychological care.
The test results saw an average reduction from 36.7 BMI to 35.9 in those people who participated in the integrated program, compared to those who did not who did not manage to lose weight effectively, at all. And while the data may not be enough to make any substantive claim, study author Dr. Jun Ma is optimistic: "We have shown that delivering obesity and depression therapy in one integrated program using dually trained health coaches who work within a care team that includes a primary care physician and a psychiatrist is effective at reducing weight and improving depressive symptoms."
According to Ma, one of the main obstacles obese people who suffer from depression encounter is that separate therapies for both conditions fail to address the two as part of the same problem, in addition to scheduling and budget constraints to undergoing two different therapy programs simultaneously.