According to the CDC, nearly 10% of Americans are severely obese, and 15 million American adults have depression severe enough to impact their lives. Given the growing prevalence of both issues, it is not unreasonable to wonder if the two conditions are linked.  While obesity is not considered a mental health issue in and of itself, prevalent depression and other mental disorders, such as anxiety, may contribute to poor eating and lifestyle habits. This blog will examine more closely the potential link between mental health and excessive weight gain.

mental health and obesity

The United States is always near the top of the list for obesity rates among developed countries. In 2023, roughly 35% of all American adults are overweight, compared to just 10% in the middle of the last century. Obesity correlates with a host of other illnesses, most commonly ailments that affect the heart and circulatory system. As obesity rates climb, the percentage of American adults with these specific conditions climbs alongside it. Obesity can also be a side effect of other diseases, as reduced movement or dietary changes stemming from a separate illness begin affecting the body as a whole.

How Mental Health and Obesity are Linked

Obesity can affect much more than just your body’s physical functions. Many studies have found that Americans that struggle with obesity have a statistically significant higher likelihood of suffering from mental health conditions like anxiety, depression, and eating disorders. Research into the primary driving force of this correlation – which condition has the greatest probability of causing the other – does not have a definitive answer, and each individual is different. For some, lifelong struggles with food and weight can cause their mental health to suffer, while others form unhealthy relationships with food and exercise because of their already-present mental health conditions.

Often, an individual’s mental health and weight need to be worked on simultaneously to get results. Knowing the root cause of your problems is important, but both conditions are not wanted, and life changes should be made that can help address obesity concerns and the mental health problems that come with weight issues.

No matter the reason for your weight, obese individuals often face increased scrutiny and potential bullying when out in public or engaging with peers. While this may cause you to want to reduce your weight, it may also cause feelings of anxiety and stress to spiral deeper and exacerbate the problem. Higher levels of stress have even been shown to directly affect your body through increased levels of cortisol hormones. Increased cortisol levels in the body change your body’s metabolism to the point where similar food choices and an unchanged level of physical activity may lead to an increase in fat reserves.

Making the conscious choice to address your health issues and drastically change your daily food and exercise routine can be near impossible when anxiety and stress cloud your judgment. Everyone knows that exercise and healthy eating are critical, but your mind can sometimes preclude you from taking those crucial first steps. Obesity can be tackled only if you approach it with a clear frame of mind.

If you are living with obesity and are ready for a change, a mental health coach might provide your solution. Denise Schonwald is a nationally certified mental health coach with experience helping those with mental health issues to improve their overall wellness. Based in Sarasota, Denise offers video consultation at your convenience, regardless of location. Call today for more information.

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