Depression can be a common side effect of any new lifestyle change.
You may be wondering why you feel depressed in a calorie deficit, and you are now distraught because you thought this was supposed to be a change for the better.
Lets explore some 6 reasons why you may feel depressed while trying to lose weight, and explore what exactly you can do about it.
1. You’re not getting enough sleep
Sleep is important in a calorie deficit
When you’re in a calorie deficit, you need to also make sure you are getting enough sleep. Sleep is such an important aspect of our lives.
Having a restful nights sleep helps our body to recover and to repair itself. Sleep is vital if we want our bodies to stay healthy.
Sleep is important because it allows our bodies to create a great environment for nerve cells to communicate with each other and reorganize, which supports healthy brain function.
Sleep is also important for repairing vital cells, restoring our energy balance, and also helps to release molecules like hormones and proteins.
Our brain is an amazing organ, and it needs sleep to keep it amazing. Certain hormones and chemicals such as serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in our brain need to be balanced.
When we change the balance of these hormones and chemicals, we may start to feel depressed.
Create a healthy sleep schedule in your calorie deficit
Try to make sure you get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night at minimum.
Try to go to sleep at the same time each and every night and wake up around the same time each morning. This helps our body to create a sleep schedule naturally.
When it is time for bed, it is time for bed. Try to tell yourself this. Make a relaxing atmosphere for sleep. Make your bedroom a sleep sanctuary.
Try to eliminate all distractions and make your room dark and cool. Make sure your bedroom has a calm color scheme.
If you have a TV in your room, it is a good idea to take it out, or just do not watch it before bed.
2. You’re not eating enough nutrient-rich foods
A lack of nutrients can lead to feelings of fatigue, depression, and irritability.
Eat nutrient dense foods to avoid depression
Make sure you’re eating plenty of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and healthy fats.
Vital nutrients are necessary for a healthy brain.
Consuming adequate amounts of vital nutrients such as Omega-3’s, Vitamin D, amino acids, and iron for example help to allow our brain to function properly and can prevent feeling depressed when we are in a calorie deficit.
It is amazing how much better you will feel when you eat healthy foods on a regular basis.
Just knowing that you’re eating foods that are packed with nutrients may even cheer you up in the process, because you know you are doing something great for your body.
Easy nutrient dense foods to include in your calorie deficit
Just by including this short list of easy nutrient packed food groups in your calorie deficit can make sure you are getting many of these essential vitamins, minerals, and proteins to prevent feeling depressed.
-Tons of vegetables that you like
-Lean protein such as chicken, fish, and some lean red meats
-Yogurt and low fat milk
3. You’re not getting enough exercise
Exercise releases endorphins, which have mood-boosting effects that are incredible. A lack of exercise can lead to feelings of depression.
The main reason I exercise is because I love the way it makes me feel and the endorphins it releases are better than any drug.
Easy exercise to avoid depression in a calorie deficit
-Take a brisk walk in your neighborhood or at a nearby park.
-Join an online workout class or follow along with a YouTube video for fun.
-Do some light stretching or yoga poses in your living room.
-Ride a bike around your neighborhood and enjoy the fresh air.
-Squat in place
This is a big deal, and I have suffered from this personally.
When you’re trying to lose weight, you may become more isolated and withdrawn. This can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.
We do this because we are so focused on being healthy and on what we are eating, that sometimes we do not want to risk messing up by having fun and getting out.
Many of our relationships with others and as a society can revolve around food and alcohol.
Most times, when my friends or family want to get together, it always ends up going out to a restaurant or for drinks.
You should get out there! You can still have fun with your friends and socialize while maintaining your calorie deficit and reaching your goals.
Make your healthy boundaries known
Just explain to others that you are trying to get healthy and you are doing what you need to do to fulfill your own personal goals.
If this means you do not want to eat an entire pizza with your friends and you just want one or two slices, this is YOUR choice.
If you want to go out for drinks and not get the mixed drinks packed with calories and just one to have healthy alternatives, this is also YOUR choice.
Also, if you do want to have one martini or a couple beers, this is NOT going to destroy your progress. You have to find time for enjoyment, and you will still succeed.
Do not let getting healthy make you depressed or even guilty. Getting healthy should inspire us and make us feel like we are conquering the world.
5. You’re putting too much pressure on yourself
The pressure to lose weight can be overwhelming. If you’re putting too much pressure on yourself, you will most likely not reach your goals in a healthy way.
You should be doing this for YOU and no one else. Don’t ever allow any person to make you feel guilty for wanting to live a healthy life.
Remember why you started your journey in the first place. Why did you want to lose weight? What goal were you trying to achieve by getting healthy?
Write down your goals and find motivation. Stick with your motivation and use it to help you.
Losing weight is a process, and it takes time. If you focus on being healthy and making small changes each day, the pounds will eventually come off.
Find your motivators and keep trucking along. Remember that you will achieve your goals and if this takes awhile, so be it.
Restricting yourself is NOT worth your sanity.
Slow and steady wins the race
Remember that losing weight does not happen overnight. In a healthy and effective calorie deficit, you should only lose 1-2 pounds per week.
This may be a slow process, but this will result in changes that will last.
By losing weight in a calorie deficit at a slower pace, you will be able to lose weight more sustainably because it will start to feel like second nature for you.
Being healthy will become a new lifestyle that you don’t even think about.
By losing weight at this slow pace, you have less of a chance at becoming depressed because you will not feel like you are depriving yourself.
Your weight loss journey is a marathon, not a sprint.
6. You’re restricting yourself too much
This is very important and can lead to depression while in a calorie deficit.
When you are restricting your food intake, it can often lead to feelings of sadness or hopelessness.
You may feel like you are depriving yourself of the foods that you love and this can lead to binging.
What is binging and how can it make you depressed?
Binge eating is when you eat an excessive amount of food in a short period of time. This can often lead to feelings of shame or guilt afterwards. This could be a huge reason of why you may feel depressed in a calorie deficit.
Binge eating can also be a coping mechanism for people who are feeling depressed or stressed.
Binging can often make people feel even more depressed because they have “failed” at their diet and may even quit altogether. I have had this happen to me before many times, so I know exactly what these feelings are like.
Sometimes when we indulge on a food or a dessert that we really love, we get the thought in our head “well I already screwed this up, so I might as well just eat more.”
This is the thought that you need to fight. You did not screw anything up, and the food that you indulged in is not going to hurt you. If you are full, just stop and take a walk.
Do something else to take your mind off of this negative thought.
What can I do if I had an episode of binge eating and I am depressed?
The best thing to do is to just start again. Do not let binge eating throw you off course and make you depressed.
No one ever undid all of their progress that they have made in one day, and either did you.
If you did have an episode of binge eating, just start again and pretend it never happened. This episode of a binge did not change anything and it was just a slip up. It happens to everyone.
You will overcome it and likely forget about it! Just continue on with your plan as you have been prior.
Spacing out your calories better can prevent binge eating and depression
What I like to do, is space out my available calories throughout the day and save calories for when I know I am likely to want to eat more or enjoy a snack.
For me, this means that I like to save the rest of available calories in my calorie deficit for the evening hours.
This can help you prevent feeling depressed in a calorie deficit because it lets you know you will be able to enjoy your foods when you want to, and you will not feel deprived.
Healthy alternatives to your favorite foods can prevent depression
This is a great idea. This will allow you to eat the types of foods you enjoy, but you may not feel like you are missing out because your cravings will be satisfied with healthier alternatives.
You can replace certain ingredients in recipes with healthier alternatives you may not even notice.
For example, you could replace regular milk with almond milk, or you could replace plain old sugar with stevia.
Let’s say you love pizza, but your favorite pizza has a lot of calories.
You are able to find little personal pizza options in the freezer section in the grocery store.
You may even be able to make ahead little personal pizzas with easy ingredients that are healthier by researching healthier recipe alternatives.
Sometimes it is all about balance and finding out how to enjoy the foods you love, but healthier versions with less calories.
I know that I love milkshakes, and while I will enjoy one sometimes I know that they do contain a large amount of calories.
One example of how I used this strategy for myself is to create a super easy, low calorie, healthy smoothie recipe that honestly tastes just like a milkshake to me.
This helped me because I found a recipe that I love, that I can make really fast, and that fulfills my craving for a milkshake. You can check out my easy smoothie recipe if you would like to and see if this will help you too!
Related post: Healthy and Delicious Weight Loss Smoothie Without sugar
I hope that I have been helpful in explaining some reasons why you may feel depressed in a calorie deficit, and some things that you can do about it.
Just remember that if you have a slip up, it is not the end of the world and you can always start again.
Life is too short to restrict ourselves and not enjoy anything we put into our mouths. You should never feel like you are not able to enjoy your life because of food.
Find what works for you in terms of enjoying your foods while still staying on track, and do not be afraid to get creative with healthier recipes!
Lastly, balance is key so do not ever deprive yourself of enjoying the foods you love every once in a while. Moderation is key.
You WILL make great progress in time as long as you stay in your calorie deficit range.