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Karen's Blogs

Blogs are brief, to-the-point, conversational and packed with information, strategies, and tips to turn troubled eaters into “normal” eaters and to help you enjoy a happier, healthier life.Sign up by clicking "Subscribe" below and they’ll arrive in your inbox. 

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Curb Anxiety and Depression with Activity

If you turn to food when you’re anxious or depressed and are looking for a remedy with no side-effects, try staying active. Exercise actually changes your neurochemistry and helps lessen the blues, the blahs and the agita you may be feeling. Here’s how it works.

“How exercise combats depression and anxiety” by Amanda Loudin (Sarasota Herald-Tribune, E18, 5/25/16) explains the power of activity in reducing these discomfiting emotional states. “Researchers at the University of California at Davis Medical Center found that exercise increased the level of the neurotransmitters glutamate and GABA, both of which are depleted in the brains of patients with depression and anxiety. The study shows that “exercise activates the metabolic pathway that replenishes these neurotransmitters.” Pretty simple and straightforward.

If you tend toward emotional dysregulation as well as yo-yo eating, exercise can help. Richard Maddock, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the study’s lead author, says, “This is about the brain working better, including those parts of the brain that regulate emotions. Those patients whose glutamate and GABA are at low levels are at a disadvantage for controlling their emotions.” Doctors are so impressed with studies linking a reduction in depression with exercise, that they’ve begun incorporating it into their treatment plans.

If lowered glutamate and GABA mean a disadvantage at controlling your emotions, you know what that may mean for your eating. Having depressive and anxiety disorders puts you at higher risk for emotional eating. Treat the underlying cause of these conditions—neurotransmitter insufficiencies—and you might have an easier time being a “normal” eater. If you envy emotionally well-balanced people, consider that they might not be that way without exercising. You may assume that they’re among the genetically fortunate, but maybe they’re using activity to keep their mood disorders in check.

See for yourself. Next time you’re depressed or anxious, move your body. Put on a dance video, take a walk, vacuum, rake leaves, shovel snow, shoot hoops, go for a run, or do jumping jacks. Notice if there’s an improvement in your mood. Try another experiment. Engage in more activity for two weeks, then don’t for two weeks. Observe your mood and emotions under both conditions. All else being equal, are you as anxious or depressed when you’re active as when you’re not? Try the experiment for a month and do another assessment. Activity may be the key to managing your emotions.

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This website is owned and operated by Karen R. Koenig, M.Ed., LCSW. It contains material intended for informational and educational purposes only, and reasonable effort is made to keep its contents updated. Any material contained herein is not to be construed as the practice of clinical social work or of psychotherapy, although adherence to applicable Florida States, Rules, and Code of Ethics is observed. Material on this website is not intended as a substitute for medical or psychological advice, diagnosis, or treatment for mental health issues or eating disorder problems, which should be done only through individualized therapeutic consultation. Karen R. Koenig, LCSW disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained on this website. This website contains links to other sites. The inclusion of such links does not necessarily constitute endorsement by Karen R. Koenig, LCSW who disclaims any and all liability arising directly or indirectly from the use of any information contained in this website. Further, Karen R. Koenig, LCSW, does not and cannot guarantee the accuracy or current usefulness of the material contained in the linked sites. Users of any website must be aware of the limitation to confidentiality and privacy, and website usage does not carry any guarantee or privacy of any information contained therein.  Privacy Policy