Did you know today is World Health Day? Me either! I thought it would provide a way for us to open the book on a real discussion of an issue that effects many people when it comes to food: Depression.
Each year on April 7th the anniversary of the World Health Organization (WHO) is celebrated by World Health Day. WHO works in over 150 countries promoting health standards, education, and care. Every year, a different health concern is chosen as the theme of World Health Day and is brought to the light with provided education and resources. This year the theme is “Depression: Let’s Talk”.
You may be wondering why I would write a nutrition blog based on the topic of depression. I have had the opportunity to work in nutrition for several years and I could never tell you how often I hear clients blame their poor food choices on life stressors, loneliness, loss, etc. They call it “comfort food” for good reason. We all have those “go to” foods we grab when our souls need a little TLC.
There are numerous healthy alternatives instead of feasting on chocolate to soothe an aching heart. For instance, exercise, yoga, playing or listening to music, writing, talking things out with a friend, or perhaps prayer and scripture reading can bring you peace. While it is common to drown your sorrows in a pint of ice cream on a rough night, when this becomes habitual we have a problem. On the other hand, depression and anxiety can also cause a loss of appetite. Tension often makes it difficult to eat and some even experience nausea and/or stomach upset. Again, when we go through the trials of life like the loss of a loved one, being let go from a job, a break-up, etc., we may have some of these symptoms for a temporary time but if it continues or becomes a cycle, it may be time to seek help.
So let’s talk the serious nutrition and depression ties….
At the root of eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating, there is often depression and/or anxiety. Our emotional health can affect our eating habits drastically. Unfortunately, it often becomes a repetitive pattern before we are even aware of the cycle we have fallen in to.
· Anorexia is primarily defined by a dangerously low caloric intake with rapid and excessive weight loss, often accompanied by distorted body image of what truly is a healthy weight.
· Bulimia usually alternates between periods of extreme dietary restrictions to excessive overeating, followed by attempts to purge the body of the excess intake with vomiting, laxative use, or overly strenuous exercise.
· Binge eating is a newer term on this front and is diagnosed when multiple criteria are met. In a nutshell, it involves eating an excessive number of calories, more than would be ordinarily consumed, for multiple episodes within a set time frame and lacking the purging efforts associated with bulimia.
If you or someone you care about has exhibited any of these symptoms, I urge you to seek assistance from your medical doctor and a trained psychologist.
Depression effects more than 300 million people and is a leading health problem worldwide. Some signs to look for include a change in eating and sleeping habits, loss of interest in hobbies or social activities, lack of energy, feelings of restlessness and/or hopelessness, and difficulty concentrating. Nearly half of those suffering with depression are not receiving treatment. The initiative of this year’s World Health Day is to break the stigma off the topic of depression, bring awareness to the staggering statistics of how many battle this illness, and promote open communication amongst patients and doctors to find treatment and prevent further suffering. For more information, visit the World Health Day website and read the depression fact sheet at
Jessica Lindsey, RDN, LD / Katie Newton, MS, RDN, LD