Actress Charlize Theron transformed herself for a new role by gaining 50 pounds, but she was hit with something even more life-changing as a result: depression.
The Oscar winner revealed to Entertainment Tonight that all the processed food and sugar she ate in order to gain the weight to play an unhappy mother in the new movie, “Tully,” made her depressed.
“I gained close to 50 pounds for this film,” Theron shared. “I just I wanted to feel what this woman felt, and I think that was a way for me to get closer to her and get into that mindset. You know, it was a huge surprise to me. I got hit in the face pretty hard with depression. Yeah, for the first time in my life I was eating so much processed foods and I drank way too much sugar. I was not that fun to be around on this film.”
The actress brings up an interesting point about junk food. Can it really make you depressed?
According to a number of studies, yes.
One study from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria and the University of Granada found that people who eat processed “junk food” are 51 percent more likely to develop depression than those who eat little to none.
Those junk foods were defined as commercial baked goods, like cakes and cookies, and fast food, such as hamburgers and pizza. The study showed that the more people ate junk food, the more depressed they became.
Which probably explains why Theron said as much as the first three weeks of eating junk food was “fun,” the more junk food she ate, the less fun she had.
“I would literally wake up at two in the morning and I’d have a cup of cold macaroni and cheese just next to me,” she recalled. “I would wake up and I would just eat it…I would just, like, shove it in my throat.”
James E. Gangwisch, Ph.D., assistant professor at Columbia University in the department of psychiatry, felt the same, which is why he conducted a 2015 study about how diets affect depression.
“When I was a kid, I was almost like a candy junkie,” Gangwisch told Time Magazine. “I noticed for myself, if I eat a lot of sugar, it makes me feel down the next day.”
Gangwisch, along with researchers, had their study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which found that diets higher on the glycemic index, including those rich in refined grains and added sugar, were associated with greater chances of depression.
So what do we eat in order to combat depression and anxiety?
Gangwisch found a diet filled with fiber, whole grains, whole fruits, and vegetables were linked to having “protective effects” against depression. This connection has also been corroborated by other studies, including a 2017 study published in Psychiatry Research that concluded: “A dietary pattern characterized by a high intake of fruit, vegetables, whole grain, fish, olive oil, low-fat dairy and antioxidants and low intakes of animal foods was apparently associated with a decreased risk of depression.”
If anything, these studies prove, along with Theron’s confirmation, that you really are what you eat. If you’re looking for a diet to increase your energy and mood, choose a nutritious, well-balanced one that is high on fiber, veggies, and fruits, and low on processed foods and animal products.
Because, whether you’re an Oscar-winning star or mere mortal, shoving processed mac and cheese down one’s throat is never a good time.
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