Depression — that big black bear — and obesity

Working out can be an effective weapon against depression.

For a cogent discussion of the relationship between the two, see — surprise! —  an interview with the glamorous Charlize Theron in the May issue of Elle magazine. She gained 35 pounds to play an exhausted new mother in “Tully,” and says “I had depression for the first time in my life shooting this film.”

Isn’t that interesting? Maybe it’s not just that depression causes people to overeat but that it might go in the other direction as well!! Certainly, carrying a lot of extra weight 24/7 has to affect your body chemistry and not in a positive way.

“I started eating and drinking a lot of sugar,” Theron says. “It really messed with my head. …I felt like I was in a dark cloud. Getting back to normal took a long time.”

Wow, so a good possibility exists that not only if you feel sad, you’ll eat crap to feel better, but the reverse might be true as well.

I was leading a Silver Sneakers class last week in the Farmer’s Walk which consists of picking up the two heaviest weights you can carry, dropping them by your sides and trying to walk with a normal gait, taking notice of how your back muscles struggle to compensate for the extra load. I struggled to walk with two 15 pound weights and thought about the 47 pounds I’ve got rid of since fall 2005. Good grief — I was compensating with every step I took!

This is why when I broke my foot Thursday night (falling out of a sexy, strappy wedge — nothing athletic!) I wanted to weep, wondering how, for at least six weeks, I’m going to do anything more strenuous than popping back the recliner. I cannot keep weight off — let alone depression at bay — without working out. A lot.

The orthopedist says I can do all the upper body weight work I want, so look for me to resemble The Hulk by the time we go on vacation in mid-August. I’m going to participate as a  sitting class member in Silver Sneakers. I’m going to try a couple of machines on which I can use a flat foot.

I worried that my class members might say, “Oh, she does Silver Sneakers and she still broke her foot.” Well, yes, but because I exercise regularly, I can put my weight on one leg for as long as I need to. I can use crutches without killing my arms. And, most importantly, I did not fall when my foot turned.

When Theron describes her beautiful dancer’s body + 35 pounds, she says she can’t imagine playing the role without gaining the weight: “That exhaustion, the way you feel about your body, the way your face changes. Everything. Your hands, fingers, shoe size.”

This is why when some hugely overweight television star (Crissy Metz) or model (Ashley Graham) talks about loving the shape she’s in, I cringe. Even if you don’t feel it now, the exhaustion and depression are coming for you. Diabetes and arthritis wait around the next corner. You cannot age in a healthy fashion while carrying around 50-60-70-80-90-100 too many pounds.

Yes, it’s possible to be healthy while weighing too much. And yes, that get’s increasingly difficult as you age. As you get older, you’ll find you not only need to do what you’ve always done to be fit, but you’ll have to do more. That’s tough, if not impossible, when you weigh 350 pounds. Good luck to all of us.

 

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4 thoughts on “Depression — that big black bear — and obesity

  1. holy cow…. you hit the nail on the head…. and cousin…. i’m SOOOOOO sorry about your foot….. that is why i don’t wear sexy shoes…. i’d break both ankles for sure…. ask my sister how well i walk in heels… I DON”T!!!! prayers and hugs for quick healing !!!!

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  2. People can experience depression, arthritis and diabetes without ever being overweight. While I don’t doubt Theron’s experiences they don’t necessarily extrapolate to everyone who has gained weight.

    I don’t understand calling out two celebrities you don’t even know and assuming they will end up depressed. That’s unfortunate and marginalizing.

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    1. OMGsh, it’s so exciting when someone comments to disagree and/or discuss! Thank you. While all of those don’t extrapolate to those who are overweight, chances are really, really good that at least one of them will before life’s end. And I call out celebrities (not just women, I hope) who are aggressive about publicizing how OK they are with their weight. So a little girl looks at one of Metz’s congratulatory People covers and says, “Huh. Why do I need to go to P.E. or outside? Why can’t I eat a quart of ice cream? It’ll make me a star.”

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