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By Kevin Belsby
LMFT 32075 

Obesity and depression

DPER Life Center


I recently had a real wake-up call in my life. As an older middle aged male I have dealt with various waves of being in good shape and then slipping into differing shades of obesity. Frequently called the “yo-yo” syndrome, I found myself slipping from running Marathons one year to being called “morbidly obese” by my doctor the next. Over the course of thirty years I found myself getting worse in my “fat” years and not quite as in shape during my “health” years. It was very frustrating and depressing and a spiral that felt like a “Venus fly trap” that held me tighter and tighter the more I struggled to be set free.

Depression is commonly associated with obesity. When combined, depression and obesity becomes a downward and self feeding spiral that eventually becomes so difficult to permanently overcome that many adults simply give up and resign themselves to a life fraught with the consequences of overeating, such as hyper-tension, diabetes, sleep apnea, heart disease and ED, to name a few. In my own case, compulsive overeating was a childhood adaptation to “medicate” the low grade depression that is chronic in my life. When I was sad or anxious I would comfort myself with food. As a child I could overcome this overeating with increased activity; however, the older I got the more difficult it became to overcome my addictive behavior (compulsive eating).

One day I woke up almost sixty years old and a BMI of over 45 which is almost double what it takes to classified as “morbidly obese.” What a label!!, Morbidly obese!! This fed the depression and the compulsive need for food increased. Therapists are not exempt from denial, and my denial about my real problem was literally killing me. My condition got bad enough that I had to go to the hospital to deal with a consequence of hyper-tension. When the “scales” finally “fell from my eyes” I realized that if I wanted a chance to watch my grand-children grow up and enjoy the fullness of the life God has blessed me with, I needed help. I could not deal with this problem myself alone any longer.

The real problem that I and many other adults are dealing with is a chronic “low grade” depression called dysthymia. It is often anxiety-based and is not really felt in any overt way. Like me most of us who deal with dysthymia see the consequences of this condition by the “life strategies” we use to live with it. The problem, however, is that the strategies that we have used to deal with this condition as youths often doesn’t work for us as adults. The good news is that if we are open to dealing with our pride and anxiety over getting help, there is lots of help out there. There are 12 step overeating groups, health classes and lots of material on how to eat right and exercise to get in better shape. But what I have added to my health strategy is a real commitment to finally deal with my dysthymia by starting with a psychiatrist to discuss receiving the proper medication and working with a competent psycho-therapist to develop better skills for dealing with the drive toward compulsive eating behavior.

If you have any more questions about dysthymia or the differences and types of counseling we offer, or for more information on what we do, or if you or a loved one is having a difficult time, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at the DPER Life Center. (818) 521-6477. We offer affordable counseling. Special rates are available to seniors and participating churches and most insurances are excepted.


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