Like most chronic diseases, obesity is influenced by many factors including mental health. Understanding the connection between mental health and obesity can help you along your journey to a healthier life.

Depression, Anxiety, and Obesity

Depression and anxiety are two of the most common conditions associated with obesity. People living with obesity may experience:

  • Low self-esteem
  • Negative self-image
  • Feeling excluded
  • Judged
  • Social isolation
  • Sadness
  • Guilt
  • Pain
  • Decreased quality of life 

Over time, these experiences and feelings can lead to depression. Likewise, depression can contribute to obesity due to increased appetite and reduced activity, and many of the medications prescribed to treat depression can actually cause weight gain. 

Even though obesity does not directly cause anxiety, anxiety can contribute to obesity. For some, anxiety can lead to overeating by self-medicating with comfort foods, binge eating, and compulsive behaviors. 

Hormones That Affect Our Mental Health

Our hormones play an essential role in how our brain functions. The main two we will focus on are dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is one of the most crucial hormones involved in regulating mental health because it is responsible for our sleep, mood, nausea, pleasurable sensations, and pain. 

Decreased dopamine levels make us feel like we need to consume more food to feel full. Eating stimulates the reward and gratification centers in the brain, which stimulates dopamine production and activates the brain’s pleasure center. Repetitive positive gratification related to food consumption overrides signals of fullness and hunger, leading to overeating. 

Serotonin is important in mood regulation, memory, sleep, appetite, and learning ability. Serotonin deficiency can cause digestive issues, depression, anxiety, irregular sleep patterns, and vitamin deficiencies. Serotonin is also the target of medications known as SSRIs and SNRIs, which are used to treat depression and anxiety. 

The Importance of Self-Care

It is critical to seek the care of a mental health professional if you are struggling with symptoms of anxiety or depression. However, there are ways you can support and improve your mental health with self-care. Eating foods like eggs, fish, almonds, and chicken can help increase dopamine levels. And, exercising is a natural way to increase serotonin levels and trigger a release of dopamine. This can be as simple as using your lunch break to take a walk outside or doing some stretching or yoga to start or end your day. 

At CoreLife, we can help you get started on the path to a healthier tomorrow. Contact us to learn more and schedule your first appointment. And, follow us on social media for more healthy tips and advice from our team of medical, nutrition, exercise, and behavioral health experts!