Depression can be absolutely debilitating. It can make doing even the simplest things extremely challenging. Many people confuse temporarily feeling down with being depressed. Some think you can just think positive thoughts, put a smile on your face, and you’ll magically feel better. People with clinical depression know it’s not that easy.
Although often used interchangeably, feeling really sad and being depressed can mean two different things. The feeling might be the same but one be completely gone after a short time while the other can be something one has to deal with for years or even their entire life. For many, the only solution is to be on anti-depressants.
Depression often leads to over eating. Lots of people engage in comfort eating simply because it makes them feel good. When you eat, it changes how you feel. If it makes you feel better, you’ll be more likely to keep doing it. Some anti-depressants can cause weight gain as a side effect.
It’s hard enough for people without depression to lose weight so how can you lose weight if you’re depressed and aren’t very motivated most of the time? Below are some suggestions on how to get motivated to lose weight when depressed.
Simple Formula to Lose Weight
You likely already know this but to lose weight, you simply need to burn more calories than you’re consuming each day. Of course, simple doesn’t mean easy.
Calories burned is greater than calories consumed = Weight Loss
How Many Calories Should I Eat?
If there’s one thing many people who try to lose weight hate, it’s counting calories. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this. If you consume too many calories on a consistent basis, you won’t lose weight. Fortunately, there are easy was to do this.
But first, let’s figure out what your daily calorie limit is. By knowing this number, you’ll be able to not only tell if you’ve eaten too much but also if it’s okay to eat a little more or even something unhealthy. More on that later.
To do this, find out your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and your TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure). Your BMR is how much calories your body burns just to keep you alive. Your TDEE is basically your BMR plus whatever extra calories you burn through your daily activities over a 24 hour period.
You can easily calculate both numbers here. Just enter in your age, height, weight, and how active you are and hit the calculate button. On the next page, you’ll see what your maintenance calories are as well as your BMR and other calorie levels if you became more or less active. If you want to get technical with your macros, it’ll also show you how many grams of fats, proteins, and carbs you need but it’s not necessary especially if you’re trying to make this as easy as possible.
The most important number is the maintenance calorie number which is the TDEE. This is your daily calorie limit to keep your current weight. If you want to lose weight, you have to consume less calories than that number every day.
Adjust Calories to Lose Weight
Your TDEE is the number of calories to maintain your weight. In order to actually lose weight, you need to lower that number. For every 500 calories you take out, you will lose about a pound a week. This is because 1 pound is equal to about 3,500 calories. If you consume 500 calories less per day, in 7 days (a week), you will be at a 3,500 calorie deficit which is about 1 pound.
So let’s say your TDEE is 2500 calories. In order to lose about 1 pound a week, you need to limit your calories to 2000 calories per day.
Important: Losing 1 pound a week is just an average. You will find that some weeks, you’ll lose nothing. Some you’ll lose 2 pounds. Some weeks, you’ll actually gain a pound. The point is to not get discouraged if you don’t lose a pound during one of the weeks.
Another thing to keep in mind is reducing your calories by 500 calories might be too much for you. If so, reduce your calorie limit by 250 instead or even 100. Your weight loss will not be as fast but it’ll also be easier for you to maintain that calorie limit.
The problem many people get into is cutting out too many calories and even try to lose weight by not eating. They eventually feel deprived of food or super hungry or they simply get overwhelmed and end up going back to over eating again. There’s no point in rushing your weight loss if you’re going to end up over eating again.
Remember, baby steps. If you want to stay motivated, make it easy. It may help to take the long term view. Forget about getting quick results. Trust me, lasting results is much, much better than temporary results.
What Do I Eat To Lose Weight?
Now that you have your calorie limit number, to keep things simple, just don’t go over that number. This means you can eat pretty much anything you want as long as you don’t consume more calories than your limit.
Losing weight when you’re depressed can be difficult so there’s no point in creating a bunch of diet rules if it’s only going to make you less motivated. The key is to take tiny steps.
It would be much better if you started eating healthier foods rather than junk food but if that’s a challenge, start small. Maybe eat healthy foods during one of your meals or even a few meals over a week. Or just one piece of fruit or vegetable. If you can’t do that either, then just stick with staying below your calorie limit.
The benefits of eating healthier foods is having more energy. You could be mentally motivated to lose weight and exercise but if your body can barely get itself out of bed, you’re going to struggle. Junk food will usually make you feel sluggish which will make it more difficult for your for follow through on your weight loss goals when in turn can lead to feeling more depressed.
So make the gradual change from eating unhealthy foods to eating more healthy foods. Go at your own pace but at least make an effort to eat healthier. You’ll have more energy and end up feeling better in the long run.
Since the goal is to not go over your calorie limit…
Easy Way to Keep Track of Calories
Use an app called My Fitness Pal. It will allow you to track the amount of calories you consume each day so you know how many calories you’ve already eaten and how many more you can consume for the day. It also has an option where you can scan the bar code of whatever you’re eating and it’ll instantly have the amount of calories for you. Of course, you can also input the calories manually.
If you don’t know how many calories of the item you’re eating, you can do a search. So many people use this app that 99% of the time, the app will have the calories for whatever you’re eating.
We usually eat many of the same foods throughout the week so with this app, once you put down the calories of whatever you’re eating, the next time you eat that same food item, you can simply choose it from a list.
It might take some getting used to but once you get the hang of it, keep track of your calories will be quick and easy.
The Truth About the Food Industry
By the way, there’s a great documentary that talks about how most of the food we see in the groceries is designed to keep us overweight. Perhaps it can help you make the switch from unhealthy, processed, sugar fueled foods to healthier, nutrient rich, energy producing foods. Here’s the trailer.
How to Get Motivated to Exercise When Depressed
Realize that getting fit can take some time depending on how far away from your goal you are. When it comes to long term type of goals, what you need more than anything else, is a strong purpose. Why do you want to lose weight? What reasons do you have that are strong enough to get you to follow through even when the temptation of getting back into old habits is so strong?
What’s Your Purpose?
Motivation comes from a strong purpose. When you have a weak purpose, you’ll constantly be struggling with motivating yourself to take action and with goals that take a while, it can be mentally exhausting to stay motivated.
Take out a piece of paper and write down why you want to lose weight. The more emotions that stir up when you think of these reasons, the better.
You can write down positive reasons as well as negative reasons.
How would you feel if you achieved your weight goal? How would you feel if you failed to achieve your goal? What would it mean for the quality of your life if you continue overeating? How it affect your depression? How do you think those around you who care about you will feel seeing you giving up on your fitness goals? What would it mean for your confidence if you stick with this goal until it’s accomplished?
Not everyone is motivated by the same things. For some, looking at a picture of someone with their ideal body can be extremely inspiring and will help them through the tough times. For others, thinking about the pain they’ll go through if they give up is a much better motivator. Use whatever works best for you.
Is Exercising Necessary?
If losing weight just comes down to consuming less calories than your body uses, then what’s the point of exercising? The biggest reason is because it’s healthy for you.
A review of studies stretching back to 1981 concluded that regular exercise can improve mood in people with mild to moderate depression. It also may play a supporting role in treating severe depression. – Harvard
Exercise releases feel good chemicals which is why many people are actually addicted to exercising just like how many people are addicted to eating junk food.
I can only assume that you associate negative feelings toward exercising, otherwise, you probably wouldn’t read this section since you’re already exercising plenty. Many people see exercising as boring or difficult or even intimidating. They imagine spending hours on a treadmill, sweating and grunting, and being in pain from the soreness the following few days.
Make Exercising Enjoyable
If you don’t like running or lifting weights and have actually tried doing those activities in the past, then just find another physical activity that you enjoy. Take up dancing or try rock climbing or play some sport. As long as it makes your heart beat increase enough where you break a sweat, you’ll be burning extra calories and improving your overall health.
Do It Anyway
If you can’t find any physical activities you enjoy, then take the “do it anyway” approach. Basically, know that it’s not going to be that enjoyable but you’re going to do it anyway because you understand the physical and mental benefits that you will gain by just doing it. Not everyone likes their job but they go to work every day anyway because they see the benefit in it.
Hopefully, as you start to see results in the mirror as well as feel the results of being less depressed, the experience will rewire your brain and help you to actually feel pleasure when you exercise or think about exercising. If it does, great! If not, just keep going anyway.
I’m Too Depressed to Exercise
Just like with your diet, if you’re having a tough time exercising, start small. Can’t get to the gym? Take a walk around the block. Don’t have the motivation to get dressed and go outside? Do some jumping jacks or run in place in your pajamas.
By doing something small enough where not much motivation is needed, it will often create momentum where you end up doing a lot more than you had originally planned. Some people motivate themselves to go to the gym by just getting dressed and getting out of the house. Once they’re in their car, they can decide to go back in the house if they want to but most of the time, they just go to the gym.
If you can’t even get out of bed, then it’s fine to rest. Instead of mentally beating yourself up and feeling even more depressed, just see it as one of those days where you give yourself a break. Just do what you can to not turn a few days into a few months.
It may be helpful to concentrate on one thing at a time. Instead of thinking about the actual exercise and what a drag it’s going to be, concentrate on just getting out of bed or getting dressed or driving to the gym. You can even concentrate on the part you actually enjoy like the end of the exercise when you’re done perhaps or even the after workout meal you’ll be eating.
On a personal level, work on controlling your internal dialogue. We will sometimes say the most hurtful things to ourselves, things that we would never say to other people so give yourself a break. Learn to encourage yourself and realize that as long as you’re trying, you deserve a self pat on the back. If you catch yourself thinking something that makes you even more depressed, immediate think of the opposite. It may or may not help but give it a try.
How To Stay On Track
Getting started is usually the hardest part but continuing to work toward losing weight isn’t exactly a walk in the park either.
Depression can cause you to fall off the wagon pretty quickly and it can often be extremely frustrating. My advice is to deal with your depression in order to make losing weight less of a struggle.
Exercising and losing weight can help you feel better but that’s not even a guarantee. It’s possible that you could hit your weight goal and still feel depressed. If dealing with your depression means taking anti-depressants, then take them. Of course, see a doctor/psychiatrist and all of that to make sure you need it. If you do, it can be a life saver.
Even if you have your depression somewhat in control, you can still have a challenge with motivation. Remember, even people who don’t have to deal with depression find it hard to stay motivated to lose weight and exercise.
One advice that I think really helps is to reward yourself for taking action. Forget the results. Forget what your scale says. You already know what needs to be done (keep under your calorie limit and exercise). As long as you do those things, you should feel good about yourself because your actions are the only thing you have complete control over. You don’t have complete control over what your scale says so if stepping on the scale and seeing a number you don’t like has discouraged you in the past, then stop judging your results that way.
It’s literally impossible to not lose weight if you limit your calories and exercise and let enough time pass for the results to show.
What has helped a lot of people get motivated to lose weight and stay motivated is to have the support of their friends and family.
If you know someone who is also trying to lose weight, help one another. By helping others lose weight, you will feel more motivated with your own weight loss as well.
If you don’t know anyone willing to help you out, find support online. My Fitness Pal has a forum full of supportive people who can provide encouragement and advice to help you stay on track and answer any questions you may have whether about diet or exercising.
There are groups you can join who basically meet up to do physical activities like hiking. When you’re depressed, often the last thing you want to do is socialize but keeping yourself locked up in your house and not having any human interaction will usually just make things worse. Just letting you know there are groups out there you can join to make exercising a bit more fun if you’re up to it.
I hope these tips on getting motivated to lose weight when you’re depressed as help. Here’s to having the courage to fight those inner demons.