Food for the Psyche: Losing Weight Helps with Depression

Losing weight through healthy eating can also affect your mental health. There seems to be a connection between the gut and the brain.

You are what you eat. This sentence carries weight. Because what we eat may have an impact on our nature, our moods, on mental illnesses such as depression. At least, researchers around the world have more and more evidence of this. There seem to be connections – between the gut and the brain. So, eating healthy that leads to weight loss may even affect our mental health. And that goes beyond the feeling of happiness that often goes hand in hand with less weight.

Losing weight would be good for the psyche – but this often stands in the way of weight loss: in people who are overweight, the control function of the metabolism in the brain is disturbed. In order to permanently reduce weight, this malfunction must be reprogrammed – this can be achieved with behavioral training instead of a diet.

Does inflammation in the gut disrupt control functions in the brain?

Researchers suspect that the gut of overweight people sends fatal signals to the brain that make them eat more than is good. Being overweight is associated with inflammation in adipose tissue and in the intestines. Presumably, inflammatory substances get from the intestine into the brain and disturb the control function of the metabolism there, among other things. New research suggests there is a link between gut microbiota composition and brain disease. In this context, researchers speak of the “gut-brain axis”. The connection could be proven in studies with mice.

Healthy intestinal flora strengthens the immune system

The intestinal flora is important for digestion, defense against pathogens, and strengthening the immune system. In humans, it consists of around 1,000 types of intestinal bacteria. In total, the estimated 100 trillion bacteria in the intestine weigh up to two kilograms. Everyone has their own individual composition of the intestinal flora, which is mainly influenced by nutrition and immunological processes. Research results show that this composition of the intestinal flora can have protective and pathogenic effects.

Proper nutrition is important for the intestines

The intestinal flora can be positively influenced by diet:

  • through prebiotics and probiotics, for example in yogurt
  • through high-fiber foods, which are broken down in the large intestine and fermented into organic acids. For example, the dietary fiber inulin, which is found in large quantities in chicory, artichokes, and parsnips, is beneficial.
  • by lactic acid, for example in yogurt, soured milk, kefir, buttermilk, sauerkraut, sourdough, and bread drink

Behavior training and weight loss app instead of a diet

Numerous hormones that act directly in the brain are involved in controlling appetite and eating habits. The signals control the entire metabolism. The control function is often disrupted in people who are overweight: Even if the body has enough calories available, the brain gives the command to eat. Long-term behavioral training can lead to the hormonal control circuits in the brain leveling off again – a corresponding weight-loss app for Apple and Android, which was developed by the University of Lübeck and is available to everyone free of charge via the University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH), can also help here becomes.

Heed the basic rules for losing weight without pressure

Food intake should be based on the natural regulation in the brain. But overweight people often have to learn that again. Instead of going on a diet, you should approach weight loss without pressure like training and follow these basic rules:

  • Eat regularly to avoid cravings.
  • No ban on certain foods if you have an appetite.
  • Do not eat for emotional reasons, such as stress or sadness.
  • If you have an appetite outside of the three main meals, ask yourself why you want to eat now – recognize the real reason and reward yourself differently or distract yourself.
  • Stop eating when full.
  • Gradually get used to smaller portions without feeling hungry after eating.
  • Reduce the weight slowly but steadily.
  • Perceiving food as something positive (instead of: “I’m not actually allowed to do that”).
  • Avoid frustration eating, and increase joie de vivre and self-satisfaction.
  • Get enough sleep on a regular basis.

Reduce the amount of food: Eat less with little tricks

Obesity often arises because learned habits make you fat, for example always eating your plate empty. Experts therefore recommend:

  • Arrange food on small dishes: This makes small portions appear larger.
  • First fill the plate with salad or vegetables, the other half with fish, meat, and carbohydrates such as potatoes, rice, or pasta.
  • Eat bulky foods, for example, more peppers than potatoes.
  • Chew as long as possible while putting the cutlery away.
  • When eating in company, use the slowest eater as a guide. The feeling of satiety is sluggish: it only sets in after 15 to 20 minutes.

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