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Advice on eating and depression?

When it comes to eating, I'm a BIG emotional eater. It seems I eat when I'm depressed, lonely, bored, angry, sad and even when I'm really excited or happy about something.

How can I stop this behavior? I've heard people recommend getting a dog to myself and ward of depression, loneliness, sadness and boredom but I don't know if I have enough time for a dog plus, my apartment is tiny.

Any suggestions? Thanks!

Wed. Jun 1, 1:51pm

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Getting a pet of any kind is a big step that you need to be prepared for. If you have a tiny apartment, you can still have a dog; you just need to be a little more selective about which breed you choose. You can also another type of apartment-friendly pet (cat, ferret, rabbit, bird). However, don't expect a pet to be a miracle cure. I am a chronic binge/emotional eater and I have four dogs, two parrots, and a turtle! I also have a roommate and still frequently eat out of feelings of loneliness/depression.

I find that I most frequently reach for snacks out of boredom; the best thing for me is to go for a walk or a bike ride when the urge to munch comes on. I also call friends to catch up, which alleviates both the loneliness and boredom, as well as keeping me away from food as a courtesy to whomever I'm on the phone with (who wants to hear crunching in their ear?).

The best thing to do is try to work on better outlets for whatever emotion is causing you to overeat. If it's boredom, leave the house. Read a book. Surf the web for health-related articles. DON'T WATCH TV! Studies have shown that people eat more in front of the tube than when seated at a table, and have less awareness as to how much they've eaten and when they become physically satiated.

If you're eating out of feelings of loneliness, I would suggest structuring your social life a bit. Plan a regular girls' night out, join a club, take up classes or a group activity like softball. If you find it difficult to motivate yourself at the gym, see if you can find a pal who's willing to devote a few nights a week to working out. The more you have on your social calendar, the greater appreciation you will have for your just-me time.

Emotions like anger and sadness can't really be headed off, so it's best in these cases to find other ways to express your emotions (maybe by taking a walk or writing in a journal). If you absolutely must drown your sorrow, make it in a bowl of fat-free sorbet rather than a pint of Ben and Jerry's.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005, 4:00 PM

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emotional eating & TV

I definitely relate. I noticed that tonight I didn't watch any TV -- a friend called and I was online. I also didn't have a snack, which I normally would do out of boredom or imagined hunger. Instead I had a glass of water and stayed out of the kitchen. I know that I will also go shopping for the same reasons - boredom, needing a little lift, or to celebrate. At least with shopping, I can always return the item if it was a dumb impulse purchase. I can't really do that with a fattening late night snack. Interesting how they are connected. I guess I just need to be more aware. One thing is to start by replacing the usual thing you'd reach for with something more healthy or to start by having a glass of water to try and fill yourself up. Normally I'd have something hot in the evenings (tea or hot milk or cocoa), but then I want something to dip in it. Water does not make me want to dip anything in it!

I read recently that there was a study of people with depression where one group was encouraged to take walks outdoors for something like 30 minutes a day. Those who did regularly walk in the sun showed huge improvements similar to those on antidepressants.

I know that having been pregnant twice that hormones play a much more significant role in our hungers and emotional states than we might think. During my pregnancies, I was not at all moody, very content, only wanted to eat healthy foods (I had broccoli cravings and didn't have any desire for chocolate or sweets). That stayed for maybe 6 weeks after I had the baby and then I was back to wanting chocolate again! With the first pregnancy, I had a miscarriage about 3 months in and after the pregnancy hormones wore off, I became very depressed. As soon as I was pregnant again a few months later (even before I had a positive test result), I felt fine. It was really freaky and made me wonder what's changed in my hormonal make up over the years -- I started gaining weight each time I went on the pill starting in my late teens and I feel like my body never went "back" to normal except when I was pregnant. Well, maybe that'll be somebody else's research project some day! I just wish I could take or do something that would make me feel like I did when I was pregnant, since I know I'd just naturally lose weight.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005, 10:17 PM

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One other idea, since it sounds like getting a pet isn't really practical, is maybe to try meditation. There's a very relaxing tape I have liked over the years called Creative Visualization by Shakti Gawain. She has the most soothing voice and it puts me into a deeply relaxing trancelike state. The "pink bubble technique" has your troubles floating away to resolve themselves in the universe -- very satisfying.


Wednesday, June 01, 2005, 10:21 PM

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Thanks you guys. I can totally relate to eating AND shopping out of dissatisfaction, sadness, etc. I'm trying to fill up the free time when I usually eat emotionally by finishing projects that I've neglected. It keeps me occupied, and I feel better about myself for getting things done. As for the pill. I think it is evil! When I got on the pill my hormones went nuts and it took me trying all sorts of pills to find one that didn't make me feel psychotic. 5 yrs. later- last November- I decided to stop taking the pill so that my body could be free of unnecessary drugs. Well, now my hormones are nutty again- resulting in breakouts like never b4, weight gain, and a lovely thing called a melasma. Someone suggested that I see a doctor about balancing my hormones. Ugh, I was doing all of this to take care of my body! Stay strong out there.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005, 10:27 PM

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Thanks you guys. I can totally relate to eating AND shopping out of dissatisfaction, sadness, etc. I'm trying to fill up the free time when I usually eat emotionally by finishing projects that I've neglected. It keeps me occupied, and I feel better about myself for getting things done. As for the pill. I think it is evil! When I got on the pill my hormones went nuts and it took me trying all sorts of pills to find one that didn't make me feel psychotic. 5 yrs. later- last November- I decided to stop taking the pill so that my body could be free of unnecessary drugs. Well, now my hormones are nutty again- resulting in breakouts like never b4, weight gain, and a lovely thing called a melasma. Someone suggested that I see a doctor about balancing my hormones. Ugh, I was doing all of this to take care of my body! Stay strong out there.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005, 10:28 PM

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hormone therapy is fantastic...

At 27 it wasn't something I thought I needed, but when nothing else was explaining all my various health problems a couple of years ago-- sleep issues, exhaustion, crying... A panel of tests by an endocrinologist revealed that I was low testosterone... a few shots put me back in the game better than anything.

Thursday, June 02, 2005, 12:21 AM

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emotional eating

I am really noticing a pattern with me. When I am depressed or having a lot of bad stress I tend to eat Bad food. The junkier the more comfort. That really explains alot about my weight problems over the last 10 years. I am going through a very stressful time in my life and alot of changes and this is showing in the quality of my food intake.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005, 11:21 AM

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Don't stock junk food in house

It's much easier to avoid junk foods if you simply don't keep them in the house. Don't store snacks or desserts in the house -- if you want them, you'll have to make the effort to go out to get them, and that gives you some time to rethink.

Also, try doing some exercises every time you feel like snacking. It won't make you less hungry, but it might help with the depression. I particularly find aerobic exercise (running, for me) to be very helpful in easing depression -- with nearly immediate results.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005, 11:26 AM

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i use exercise and sunlight to combat depression. Eating just makes it worse.

Thursday, February 19, 2009, 7:39 AM

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Here's what the abs diet recommends:

when you're feeling:

blue: low fat, high carb snack (but good carbs)
depressed: fish or omega supplements
Dull: grab some coffee or diet soda--the caffeine will jolt you
sleepy: lighten up on your dinners the night before
beyond tired: protein!!!!

Hope that helps.


Thursday, February 19, 2009, 9:39 AM

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Ditto on the Omegas for depression. I have 1T of flaxmeal early in the day and then take two flax oil capsules each night (ligans added back in) and it has really helped. When I forget I notice the difference immediately - it's like night and day. Your Omega 3:6 ratio might be off, be sure to get the 3's in early and check how much grain you're eating, you might be getting too many 6's.

Below is from the link, but there's lots of research out there - go for it:
People who do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids or do not maintain a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids in their diet may be at an increased risk for depression. The omega-3 fatty acids are important components of nerve cell membranes. They help nerve cells communicate with each other, which is an essential step in maintaining good mental health. In particular, DHA is involved in a variety of nerve cell processes.

Levels of omega-3 fatty acids were found to be measurably low and the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids were particularly high in a clinical study of patients hospitalized for depression. In a clinical study of individuals with depression, those who ate a healthy diet consisting of fatty fish 2 - 3 times per week for 5 years experienced a significant reduction in feelings of depression and hostility."


Thursday, February 19, 2009, 11:47 AM

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we just posted this in the health blog, asking the question how women in particular have dealt with depression. very helpful suggestions.

One question we are really interested in is "how is the mainstream treatment of depression evolving?"


Tuesday, February 24, 2009, 6:45 PM

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These comments are so good. I realized recently i eat for every emotion! My counselor helped me realize that I eat when my spouse is away because I am seeking comfort so I feel more empowered knowing why I want the food.
I try really hard to make plans with others and "mother" myself with baths, pedicures and social interaction just calling someone instead of eating.

Knowing why makes me feel in control and then I can think first and then decide if I really need to eat. Now I know when I am feeling low I will want to eat crap.
I also think that I crave simple carbs but they make me feel more depressed which is a bad cycle then I am bloated and more depressed for not following my plan. So I try to eat veggies and fruit first if I still want chips or chocolate then I can have it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 3:01 PM

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I've tried the omega 3 for depression and it does seem to help me. Good comments above!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 3:04 PM

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Have you had a professional evaluation for depression? Well worth doing. If you're experiencing clinical depression, consider treatment options with your doctor.

Are you getting enough vitamin D and Omega 3 supplements? I've found both of these very helpful. RDA for vitamin D is not considered enough according to some reports.

Friday, February 27, 2009, 2:58 AM

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I'm not sure

But I know what works for me. Sometimes I just let myself give into it. Usually, I end up getting sick of the food or sick of myself and my corrective self and behavior automatically kick in. For me, fighting the urge just makes things worse.

Friday, February 27, 2009, 10:43 AM

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Eating and depression

I am going through a bad time with husbands very difficult health issues. I am trying to stay on track with my weight lose but am finding it very hard. What I try to do is keep reminding myself I have to stay healthy for both of us right now. He would do the same for me if he had too. I also try really hard to eat three meals a day and get the proper amount of foods in each day. I have quite alot of weight to still lose so it is hard. I try not to buy junk food that I like. If it's in the house I might eat it! Ha, who am I kidding, I would eat it.

Saturday, February 28, 2009, 5:06 PM

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Like the others here, Vitamin A & D (for lack of sun), and Omega 3's work wonders for me....I am off all antidepressants since taking these. Also try to get 20 mins a day of sunlight, directly through your eyes between 10 am and 2pm to increase serotonin for your depression/moods. Physical exercise of any kind reduces depression. Make a list of things you are grateful for. Journal your feelings when hunger hits at the wrong time. I make sure I eat 3 lowfat, healthy meals, and 2 snacks of fruit....then if hunger hits at the wrong time, I know it is either Hurt, Anger, Loneliness, or Tired (remember HALT). This website has so many good solutions but as our bodies are all different, different things work for each of us.

Sunday, March 01, 2009, 1:46 PM

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omega 3s and vitamins a and d

Reading this thread was eye-opening for me. I have been treated for depression for years and no psychiatrist ever mentioned omega 3s or possible vitamin deficiency. i know vitamins are readily available, but where can you purchase omega 3s ?

Also HALT is brilliant and easy to remember, THANK YOU for posting that!

Sunday, March 01, 2009, 7:16 PM

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I'm that type too, worked for years to de-tox my soul, and body and life etc. etc. Now I'm perfectly happy and guess what? It turns out I like to eat every time I feel any emotion. So I can only have 2 one hour meals, no snacking in between. Then I'm forced to feel my emotions without chemical (serotonin- I eat carbs) assistance. I'd eat three meals, but I sleep through breakfast, lucky me.... =)

Sunday, March 01, 2009, 10:07 PM

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omega 3's can be bought at either your natural food store, they are fish oil, but if you are vegetarian, the flax oil capsules do the same thing they told me. You also can buy these omega 3's at wal-mart, or rite-aid, although I preferred the natural food store , as they are very knowledgeable and always direct me to the products and explain the uses as well as look them up for me on their computer. Remember the sunlight and exercise are also necessary to boost your mood.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009, 2:49 AM

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I would HIGHLY recommend Kathleen Desmaison's book "Potatoes, Not Prozac." She has a simple program that really helps for depression and eating problems. You can also get a lot of the same info from her books at her website at The first step in her program is to eat breakfast with protein and a complex carb within an hour of waking up.

Her program definitely helped me!


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