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Food and Exercise as Antidepressants


How many of you eat when you’re stressed, anxious, panicky, or depressed?

Now, how many of you exercise when you’re experiencing those same feelings?

I didn’t conduct any formal poll, but I’m willing to bet more of you raised your hands for the first question than the second.

(After all, according to the CDC as of 2010, the percent of Americans 20 years old and older who are overweight, including obese, is 69.2%.)

Basically, more than half of American adults are overweight or outright obese.

Geesus Ayche.

I’m assuming a lot of this comes from convenience. Ordering a pizza when you’re out of groceries is convenient. Picking up McDonald’s on your way home from work is convenient. Snacking from the vending machine because you didn’t have time to throw an apple in your bag is convenient.

However, I’m also assuming a lot of this comes from stress, anxiety, panic, and depression.

Think about it: Of those of you who see therapists and psychiatrists – or who have seen them – how many have been asked, “How’s your appetite?”

We tend to overeat (or undereat) when we’re dealing with mental health issues.

We don’t tend to exercise as much during those times, though.

Author and entrepreneur Bill Phillips once said:

Food is the most widely abused anti-anxiety drug in America, and exercise is the most potent, yet underutilized antidepressant.

Speaking from experience, I noticed a positive influence on my own mental health when I cleaned up my diet and started exercising.

Sure, that doesn’t mean you’re “cured.” It doesn’t mean your anxiety disorder suddenly will disappear of that you’ll no longer deal with depression or bipolar disorder. It doesn’t mean you won’t need to see your psychiatrist or counselor anymore.

But, I think it does mean diet and exercise can help with symptoms.

I wholeheartedly agree with Bill Phillips.

How about you?

Food and Exercise as Antidepressants

Alicia Sparks

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2014). Food and Exercise as Antidepressants. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 18, 2019, from


Last updated: 27 Jan 2014
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2014
Published on All rights reserved.