A new scientific study examines the connection between depression in women and their ability to lose weight. A number of news sources have already published articles about this study. It’s big news, right? It’s about women losing weight, or at least some explanation of why women struggle to lose weight, so it’s certainly going to garner readership from people in the trying-to-lose-weight category.
I’m not mocking the scientists who undertook the study. They are after all, endeavouring to find answers to questions, and their research is valid for many reasons, including the one that their work will help provide new questions, for other people to seek answers to. That is what science does.
Rather, I am troubled by the way general media promote such research. There are a lot of people in westernised countries struggling with excessive weight and even full-blown obesity. Many of them want to lose weight, and some of them have struggled for many years with a number of attempts to lose weight. The media – in all it’s forms – continues to publish reports such as this with headlines such as “Treating women’s depression might help them lose weight” which automatically attracts the attention of those seeking answers to their problems.
Now the reseachers themselves stated that they could not be sure if losing weight improved depression, or if alleviating depression resulted in weight loss. All they have proven at this point is that there is a link between being overweight and being depressed. But I suspect, that in this “instant cure, magic pill” world in which we live, people are going to either be looking for this to provide a miraculous way to lose weight, or – people being people after all – use it as yet another way to exploit those seeking desperately to lose weight.
Now, I were to interject some common sense into the equation, I would say it’s pretty obvious that many women who are overweight are probably suffering from some form of depression. Fact is, being overweight is not a state of being that promotes general happiness and self-satisfaction. Of course, the depression may have preceded weight gain, and be directly responsible for it (e.g. comfort eating). But regardless of whether the depression is the donkey or the cart, it needs to be dealt with. Because it’s just not good for you to be depressed.
The issue to be aware of, for those who are struggling with their weight, is that there is no magic cure, ever, for losing weight. No magic pills to suppress appetites, speed up your metabolism, or…cure depression. Depression requires work on your part, just like any other method to lose weight. You need to see someone who is qualified to counsel you, who will help you understand and resolve emotional issues that you have. You cannot get tanked on Valium and watch the pounds/kilos drop away.
There is a reason I am studying a double degree. Exercise Science alone cannot provide long lasting changes in a person seeking to lose weight and improve fitness. And Psychology, while it can treat emotional issues, does not deal directly with fitness and healthy lifestyles. There needs to be a blending of the two (actually it needs Dietetics as well, but I can’t study three degrees at once!).
For those who are not healthy in mind and body, who lack balance in their lives, there needs to be professionals who can address all these aspects of the individual. With obesity on the rise in westernised nations, with a corresponding rise in obesity related illnesses in the decades to come, the issues of weight gain and loss need far more than catchy ad campaigns and governments forming committees to look at the problem. What the situation really requires are qualified people working at the grass roots level to help individuals in the community to regain control of their lives.
Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health (2010, December 27). Treating women’s depression might help them lose weight. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 31, 2010, from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/12/101210095348.htm