Is Your Weight and Mental Health Related?
Does the state of your mental health affect your physical health as well? According to a Hot Topic by Call to Action Conference, people with mental health problems are twice as likely to develop obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease.1 But do mental health issues cause obesity or vice versa? The relationship between the two can vary from person to person. For example, for some people, mental health issues may lead them to overeat, leading to obesity, but for others, being overweight can lead to low self-esteem and negative feelings about themselves. This article will discuss the relationship between mental health and weight gain and different ways to cope with mental health problems.
Anxiety is one of the most common mental health disorders that people experience. It is categorized as intense, excessive, persistent worry and fear about everyday situations.2 People who are obese are more likely to experience these feelings of uneasiness because of judgment and stigma from others about their weight, lower self-esteem, and any health problems. Vice versa, people with anxiety can use food as a coping mechanism for persistent feelings of worry, which can lead to obesity. They can experience different types of anxiety, including symptoms of social anxiety, panic disorders, and generalized anxiety.3
Depression is a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest in regular activities or hobbies. It can affect how you feel, think, and behave and lead to various emotional and physical problems.
Studies have shown that the relationship between depression and obesity is that having depression can lead to obesity. Like anxiety, food may serve as a way to cope with negative feelings, leading to obesity. In addition, feeling depressed is usually associated with low energy and motivation to engage in physical activities, contributing to weight gain.3
Similar to anxiety, for people with existing obesity, the stress, judgment, and stigma associated with people dealing with depression can lead to negative feelings, which can turn into depression.
Bipolar disorder is another type of mood disorder involving mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. During a manic episode, a person experiences extreme happiness and excitement or an irritable mood for one week periods. Other symptoms include:
- An exaggerated sense of one’s importance or abilities
- Increased energy that interferes with sleep
- Racing thoughts
- Impulsive behaviors
Research does not know the specific link between bipolar disorder and obesity, but like anxiety and depression, people with bipolar disorder may turn to food to cope with distress. And vice versa, the mental toll of dealing with judgment and the stigma of others about your weight can lead to symptoms of bipolar disorders.3
Tips for Improving Your Physical and Mental Health:
As we’ve been discussing in this article, weight is strongly linked to physical and mental health. Specific lifestyle changes can help improve these areas of your life.3
Maintaining a healthy diet: Having a healthy diet and limiting your calorie intake can help you lose weight and reduce your risk of health problems related to obesity. Eating a healthy diet can also positively affect your mental health.
Get plenty of sleep: Not getting enough sleep can negatively affect your physical and emotional health and increase your risk of obesity. Studies have found that people who sleep less than 5 hours a night are more likely to be obese than those who sleep at least 7 to 8 hours.
Exercise: Exercise is an important activity for managing your weight and mental health.
Self-Care is The Best Care: Protect your mental, physical, and emotional health. Remember that you’re doing the best you can. There’s nothing wrong with being honest with yourself about your weight loss expectations.
Treasure Valley Metabolic Medicine is Ready to Help!
If you’re struggling with your mental health, Treasure Valley Metabolic has an in-house board-certified psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, Becky Bole. Becky has over 15 years of nursing experience and has worked in the mental health field for most of that time. She is experienced in treating mood disorders, substance use disorders, ADHD, anxiety, and people with persistent mental illnesses.
In addition, she can help with discussions on nutrition, physical health maintenance, and physical activity. Contact Becky to set up your appointment at (208) 274-9580.
- Oac, Merrill Littleberry, LCSW, LCDC, CCM, CI-CPT. “Obesity and Mental Health: Is There a Link?” Obesity Action Coalition, Obesity Action Coalition, 3 Aug. 2021, https://www.obesityaction.org/resources/obesity-and-mental-health-is-there-a-link/.
- “Anxiety Disorders.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 4 May 2018, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/anxiety/symptoms-causes/syc-20350961.
- Guarnotta, Emily. “Obesity & Mental Health – the Link between Weight and Anxiety – Goodrx.” GoodRx Health, GoodRx Health, 13 Dec. 2020, https://www.goodrx.com/well-being/healthy-mind/obesity-and-mental-health.