Friday, December 25, 2009

Healthy Eating

by Felicia K. Wong, M.D.

In my previous blog post, I brought up the importance of exercise as an effective treatment for depression. Today, I’d like to focus on another aspect of lifestyle that you can control to improve how you feel about yourself:

Healthy Eating.

Psychiatric medications and mental illness can pose a double threat to maintaining healthy weight. A common challenge faced by people with mental illness is weight gain. Some psychiatric medications can stimulate appetite and lead to overeating. Others cause sedation, decreasing your energy expenditure and calories burned. Mood disorders have been shown to create carbohydrate cravings because carbs increase serotonin, a chemical that makes us feel better. Eating too many carb-rich foods can lead to repetitive episodes of weight gain or failure to succeed on weight loss regimens.

For people with mental illness, proper nutrition is extremely important to overall health. Weight gain is not only detrimental to emotional health, as it can lead to poor self-esteem and worsening depression - it can also be physically dangerous, increasing the risk for many medical problems including diabetes, heart disease, osteoarthritis, hypertension and gallbladder disease.

Here are some basic tips to jumpstart a healthier diet and promote weight loss:

1. Read the food label.

2. Pay attention to portion size.

3. Eat slowly to give the stomach time to signal the brain when it's full.

4. Eat more frequent small meals and snacks to lower insulin levels, reducing the production of body fat.

5. Differentiate between stomach and psychological hunger. Try not to soothe your negative feelings with food.

6. Reduce fast food intake.

7. Minimize soft drinks with sugar and other high calorie beverages.
8. Eat more fruits, whole grain, vegetables, lean meat, fish, and poultry.

9. Prepare food by broiling or baking more often instead of frying.

10. Keep food/activity diaries.

Start the New Year out with a resolution to eat healthier and lose weight!

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Comments are reviewed before posting, and comments that include profanity or other inappropriate material will not be posted. The comment section is not intended as, and is not, a substitute for professional medical advice. All decisions about clinical care should be made in consultation with your treating physician. If you need help with a mental health issue, please visit our resource page.