I Am Depressed and Turn to Food In Secret

By November 19, 2012

I am 33 years old. I have everything going for me – bought my first home 3 months ago, my career is going strong, good relationships (boyfriend, friends and family), working on my MBA, respected in my community, etc. All these things are great and I’m truly grateful for everything that has been bestowed upon me. However, I am depressed (have lost interest in pretty much everything) and turn to food in secret (junk and as much as I can get) to cope and feel crappy after my binge. This is an ongoing problem. I already take Lexapro and it does not seem to help. Am I correct in saying that the depression and eating are linked? And, how do I get out of this cycle? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!! – Trish

Dear Trish,

Depression and eating do not necessarily have a direct correlation. And antidepressants are not always beneficial in ending binge cycle behavior. I am not suggesting that antidepressants cannot help, but the data is not as clear (especially long term) that they have a significant impact on curbing binge/purge behavior as other treatment regimens such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and interpersonal therapy.

The question you appear to be pondering is something like the following: Given that my life appears on the surface to be in order and I am progressing through what culture would say are “good” things, what is causing me to want to seek solace and comfort myself? How is it that those stolen minutes of consuming food seem to change my mood, help me cope, or do something for me?

Having “everything going for you” may describe how others might perceive where you are economically, educationally, or within your age grade. But does it describe the status of your soul? Spiritually, how are you doing? Physically, how are you doing? Mentally, how are you doing? Emotionally, how are you doing? How long have you been contending with depression? How has it impacted what you are doing and how you got there? What is it’s source?

There is so much to consider when we decide to change ourselves and grow beyond a habit or behavior we are practicing. It is not enough to shame yourself for how you have been coping with living. Ask yourself, “When the miracle happens and I no longer have the problem of depression or overeating, what will I have learned about myself? Noticed about myself? What will be the first sign that the miracle is starting to happen? Who will notice first? What would I have to do to start letting the miracle (of no depression and overeating controlling what I do) ooze out?

Many times we reject quickly a behavior that has been brought to the light because we are embarrassed for others to know that it has been a part of us. And when we reject something that served a purpose we are really rejecting who we are and a huge part of our personal history that would help explain how we got where we are. Do not go so fast at rejecting what you are doing. Be willing to love yourself for attempting to find a solution to something that is a problem. Instead of rejecting the truth of the problem, start noticing how you interact once the problem is “out” (you are depressed or you have practiced overeating/purging/binging) how did you interact with it? What choices did you make in order to handle the problem?

As you begin to ask yourself these questions, you might slowly discover a pattern or story that emerges that helps to explain the value and purpose of the problem keeping itself alive. Once you know the purpose of the habit and how it has actually been helpful then you can design more meaningful solutions to it being “out”.

During this process, I recommend you consider finding a recommended cognitive behavioral therapist and/or interpersonal therapist in your area who can provide additional support and insight. Find tips on what to look for in a counselor at “Finding Treatment.”

Good luck and congratulations on the many areas of your life that appear to be moving in a direction that makes you proud and most likely helps you feel competent and alive. I am certain you will be able to utilize the same skill set to work with this habit.