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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    Why would a new diet and exercise regime make me feel sad and depressed?

    I am a 26yo male who looking to lose 5-8kg.

    I have started eating less and have become more calorie conscious. I am aiming to eat around 1400 -1500 calories a day and think I am hitting that mark. I am also exercising for 45 - 60 mins a day doing mostly cardio.

    Thing is, ever since starting the diet I have just felt really sad, depressed and lack motivation to do anything. I am not excluding any food category from the diet, just eating less calories having smaller portion sizes.

    Does anyone know why this is happening?

  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • 8


    Leanne Hall

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Integrative Psychologist, Health Coach & Personal Trainer in private practice. I have expertise in assessing and treating a range of disorders and conditions; depression, anxiety, … View Profile

    It could be that you are not meeting your energy requirements, especially if your calorie intake before this was significantly higher. The recommended calorie intake for a 26yr old male is approximatley 2000-2800 calories per day. With up to an hour of cardio each day - it could be that you are not providing enough fuel for your body to perform. This can be particularly problematic if you have set yourself goals re: exercise, and feel like you are just not reaching your expectations (or that it is way too hard!). This can lead to low mood and even depression.

    I would suggest the following:
    1. Ensure you are eating a variety of food from ALL food groups to ensure you are gaining all of the nutrients your body needs. Also, eat regularly (every 3-4 hours).
    2. Perhaps consider seeing a GP for a check up &  full blood count - just to make sure you are not experiencing any vitamin deficiencies (eg, B12, iron).
    2. Consider consulting an accreditied dietician for advice regarding diet. We know that there are links between certain macro and micro nutients and mood (eg, lack of carbohydrates and low serum zinc levels have both been linked to low mood/depression). 
    3. Perhaps add some resistance training to your cardio workouts. Resistance training can accelerate weight loss - this is because adding muscle mass increases metabolism, which then increases the amount of calories burned. A qualified personal trainer could certainly help you with this. 

    Finally, have a think about your goals. Is it possible that your depression is because you feel like you are not meeting your expectations/goals? Or perhaps it feels too hard? Sometimes in our haste to achieve a goal - we aim to get there too quickly. The result = we feel like a failure. In reality, a simple tweak of our goals can make all the difference!! With the right advice, it may be that a revision of your goals (by setting realistic short-term goals that you can achieve) could help you feel more positive and motivated.

    Ultimately any successful weight loss strategy is about incorporating perrmanent lifestyle changes.  In other words, if it's something you can't see yourself doing long-term = it is unlikely that it will work!

  • 4


    My research interests include immunology and the mechanisms of amyloid formation. The latter has implications for people who are dealing with Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease … View Profile

    I agree with what Leanne wrote.

    As far as your eating is concerned, it might help if you checked out the searchable Dietitians Association of Australia Web site for a health professional geographically convenient for you who can offer helpful advice.

  • 5


    Chris Fonda

    Dietitian, Nutritionist, Sports Dietitian

    As an Accredited Sports Dietitian, APD and athlete (springboard diver), Chris has both professional and personal experience in sport at the sub-elite and elite level.Chris … View Profile

    Great response from Leanne. It sounds like you are not getting in enough energy (in particular carbohydrates) to support you training. Carbohydrates provide your brain, central nervous system and red blood cells with the energy it needs to function at its best. If you are starving these cells of carbohydrates it can lead to a decrease in performance, loss of concentration, fatigue, and irregular moods. Remember it is best to consume low GI, high fibre types of carbohydrates such as whole-grain breads and cereals, quinoa, fruit and vegetables (e.g. sweet potato), and low fat dairy. These will help you to stay fuller for longer and more satiated throughout the day.

    As a guide if you are exercising for around 45-60min each day, you would need around 3-5 grams of carbohydrates per kilogram of bodyweight per day to give your body enough energy and to replenish the fuels stores lost during your sessions. I would recommend you visit an Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) or Accredited Sports Dietitian (AccSD) who can help you to formulate a plan to allow you to lose 5-8 kg, but also check your diet to see if there are areas where you can improve on to lift your mood.

    To find an APD near you head to the Dietitians Assocation of Australia's website ( To find an AccSD head to the Sports Dietitians Australia website (

  • 25


    Leah Marshall is a multi-book Author, Compassionate Transformational Coach, podcaster & founder of RecliamME! Programs. Her mission is to help adults navigate their Crossroad moments. … View Profile

    Hi there,

    You say that you are limiting the amount of food to the lower calorie intake, yet not excluding any of the foods groups.  I will ask you to ensure you are meeting the minimum of the foood group's recommendations. 

    Another thing to keep in mind, is that when fat is released from its stores - fat cells and used as energy ketosis is created which is acidic.  If it is greater than the body's ability to neutralise it or remove the acid through the kidneys then it too can build up.  There are associations between depression, fatigue and general aches and pains etc and nervous irritation caused by chemical loads. 

    If you have changed your eating pattern to one that is more inclusive of ‘healthy foods’ such as fruit and vegetables, grains and you haven't previously been eating these, then your body needs to adapt to the different chemicals - naturally occuring, and also to the different fibres that these foods provide.  It is possible that you may have a natural chemical intolerance to things like salycaltes, amines, glutimates, or even some of the fibres in these foods.  These can alter the body in a number of ways - nervous system, gut irritation, immune system flaring up to name a few.  

    The relationship between the gut and mental health is profound, so looking more closely at the foods you are eating, how your body is responding; what else could be being released during the detox phase of fat release, is your liver coping with the additional load or is it allowing some of the chemicals into the blood stream to alter another body part.  

    These are questions you many not be able to answer and so it is useful to speak with a professional.  Intergrative Nutritionists who have experience in this field would be a good start, as would an APD with food intolerances.  Ask for a liver profile to be completed & ketosis analaysis would be a good start. 

    On another angle, when we release weight, it brings up a lot of emotions that were contributing to putting it there in the first place - consider the reasons for your previous food choices and you will gain insight into what might be coming up for you.  Fear, depression, avoidance, hurt, grief etc leading to comfort eating, or not taking responsibility for food choices are stored in the body with the excess energy from food.  Remove the excess energy and the fat, along with it comes the feelings stored.  A bit out there, but it has relevence.  I see it all the time with my clients, and there is a whole research field relating to emotions and their impact on health. 

    Consider the possibilities and if you would like help, ask and you will recieve it.  Be open and listen to yourself, you know more than you think you do. 

    To your health. 

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