Binge eating and depression are what psychologists call ‘bi-directional’ – one causes the other, and vice versa. This is good news, says food psychology coach Laura Lloyd, because improving your relationship with food can positively influence your mood overall.
Weight and depression are correlated. Overeating and depression are too.
Let’s think about this. What is depression, to you?
To me, it’s this:
Feeling like a victim = depression.
Feeling out of control = depression.
Feeling like you’ve failed all the time = depression.
Feeling like there’s something broken about you = depression.
Feeling like you’re alone = depression.
Depression, binge eating, weight and overeating are what psychologists call bi-directional.
This means, overeating (and being overweight) makes people feel depressed.
AND that feeling depressed makes people want to overeat.
This is great news, people.
So before you look at this and think “it’s a vicious cycle – so I’m screwed”, I’d offer you the opposite view:
If you can improve your relationship with food, you can improve your overall outlook on life.
I’m not trying to reinforce the cultural message that “if I could just lose weight, I’d be worthy and feel amazing and people would like me and I’d be happy all the time”.
Losing weight can’t make us happy. The truth is, it’s our thoughts about ourselves when we lose weight that make us happy.
So when we solve your binge eating, overeating, weight management and depression, it’s what you’ll learn about your mind that’ll improve your mood.
The process of dealing with our relationship with food is illuminating.
Because to stop binge eating we have to change our thinking. And it’s super empowering!
And because taking control of things that feel beyond you right now, un-victimming yourself, will give you coping strategies and a sense of self-possession.
These things were world-changing for me.
(Not to mention the fact that the self-coaching skills I’ll teach you, which originate in CBT and hypnotherapy, can be used in your life overall afterwards.)
I still use the same tools I used to overcome binge eating 25 years ago to manage my mind, feel better and improve my relationships today!
Before I get into some psychology studies that show the correlation between binge eating and depression, I’d like to make you an offer.
For your depression and binge eating, the most instantly-empowering thing I can teach you is what an urge to overeat is, and how to manage it, practically, so you don’t end up with an empty Oreos wrapper before you can say “Holy macaroni”.
(Fun irrelevant fact – when they did sugar experiments on rats, feeding them Oreos, they ate them the same way my kids do – splitting them apart and scraping the creamy bit off with their teeth first.)
Binge eating & Depression studies: There is a wealth of research about the complex link between weight and mood.
This study finds a correlation between binge eating and depression, among students at a university in Palestine. Remember that a correlation doesn’t show that one causes the other, it could be the other way round or in both directions.
Of course there’s a nutritional dimension, with research showing poor nutrition (which you may have if you’re binge eating mainly junk food) is a factor in depression and anxiety. Like me, you may be a binge eater who is consuming whole foods though!
Of course feeling depressed can affect your brain’s reward systems. Things that used to give you pleasure – like moving your body – no longer hold any allure. Whereas food reaches those reward systems.
The Anxiety & Depression Association of America have a webinar you can watch about the co-occurrence of eating disorders with mental health concerns. There’s also a literature review here.
Notice that, as ever, psychologists conduct studies around measurable criteria, such as weight (obesity measures, for example) and diagnoses (eating disorders, for example).
For me, these studies have limited relevance to the majority of clients I see, and the kind of eater I know myself to have been or be.
I help women who are dealing with those in-between concerns: They have put on weight but are not clinically obese; or they feel depressed but aren’t working with a medical diagnosis; they habitually binge eat but don’t have a BED diagnosis; they are spending a lot of energy trying to control their overeating but the results, although misery-making, aren’t really a matter for doctors to intervene on.