For years, I’ve noticed a longterm trend with my weight as related to moods. When I’m depressed and have low energy, I either gain or can’t lose weight. When I’m happy and have high energy, I lose easily. Those seem like obvious observations, but they aren’t as straightforward or simple as they sound. For me, happiness and depression are dictated by energy level, not the other way around. Additionally, the conventional thought that depression causes gain or lack-of-loss due to overeating and decreased movement is not at all the case for me. I tend to fight my depression, because I live most of my life in this low-energy state, so I stay very active and am acutely aware of my eating habits during this time. Those things just don’t seem to make a difference, though. It’s like my metabolism just shuts down while I’m depressed, no matter what I do.
Doctors have tested me regularly for problems with vitamin D, iron, thyroid issues, etc and they almost always come back as “fine” or “normal.” Anti-depressants, while helping with the depression part, don’t do a thing for my energy levels, or for weight loss. And when my high-energy times kick in, they tend to do so in spontaneous, sudden changes, like someone has flipped on a light switch in my brain. I’ll be eating and exercising just the same as always, and then one day, I’ll just know that everything’s going to be better. I have energy and start losing weight easily, while doing everything exactly the same. Then the light switch flips off, and I drop back into the other state. For a time, these switches were attributed to a possible mood disorder like bipolar II, but eventually that was rejected by my doctors as well.
I’ve tried to look up metabolism and depression, but have found nothing other than the conventional thoughts I mentioned above. There’s also nothing I can do to force one of those light-switch moments to occur – they come at random and at very widely interspersed intervals. When my body is “off,” all I can do is keep pushing so that all the good habits will be in place when the light turns on again. And this is super frustrating. I wish I had some way of figuring out what is happening in my body – chemically, hormonally, whatever – to flip the switch.
In the years that I was losing weight (either easily or with difficulty, depending on energy level), I did discover one crucial fact: even when I was feeling good, a small amount of processed food (especially sugar) could cause almost immediate depression no matter what my mood had been prior. This wasn’t guilt-related. I don’t feel guilty having a sweet treat periodically when I’m mostly working and eating well. This was instead related to a complete drop in energy by the next day, often with difficulty in motivating myself to return to eating fresh foods.
I’m realistic. I’m not going to stop eating sugar completely. I’ve never been one for full-on deprivation diets as they tend to cause me to rebel with spectacular results. But decreasing sugar (and refined carbs that are essentially just sugar) as much as possible seems a good place for me to start, since I have PCOS and insulin-resistance. Perhaps that will help alleviate the depression, give me more energy, and have a good effect on my insulin levels. Maybe in the long run it’ll help me lose weight, too.