How Mental Health Affects Weight and Ways to Overcome It

Mental health can have a significant impact on physical health, including one’s ability to maintain a healthy weight. Issues like depression, anxiety, trauma, and stress can disrupt normal appetite signals, leading to overeating or a lack of motivation to exercise. However, there are ways to overcome these challenges. If you’re struggling to lose weight because of a mental health illness, keep reading below. We’ll discuss the link between mental health and weight gain and how to overcome it.

The Prevalence of Mental Illness in the UK

Mental illness is highly prevalent in the United Kingdom, affecting around a quarter of adults each year. The most common conditions are anxiety and depression. Government statistics indicate that in England alone, approximately 8.2 million people experience anxiety disorders, while 7.8 million deal with depressive episodes annually. Among young people aged 5-19, 1 in 8 suffer from at least one mental health disorder. 

How Mental Health Affects Weight

  • Depression – Depression is one of the most common mental health issues affecting weight. When someone is depressed, regions of the brain controlling appetite regulation can be disrupted. This may lead to an increased appetite and cravings for sugary or fatty comfort foods. Depression can also sap motivation and energy, making it difficult to maintain an exercise routine. 
  • Anxiety – Anxiety disorders are another mental health issue that can impact weight. The hormonal changes and chronic stress of anxiety can increase appetite and fat storage. Comfort eating high-calorie foods may also be used as a coping mechanism. Additionally, anxiety around exercise and social situations may limit physical activity. 
  • Trauma – Past traumas and adverse childhood experiences have been linked to adult obesity. Trauma impacts hormone levels, neurological function, and mental health in ways that can lead to overeating. Binge-eating disorder is more common among those who have suffered emotional, physical or sexual abuse. 
  • Stress – High-stress levels also affect appetite regulation. Under stress, the body releases cortisol, a hormone that increases cravings for sugary and salty foods. The pressure of dealing with work, relationships, finances, or other stressors can also make it difficult to prioritize nutrition and exercise. Consequently, increased stress often correlates with weight gain over time.

Ways to Overcome this Issue

Perhaps the best way to overcome this issue is by seeking functional medicine support. Seeing a functional medicine practitioner, like the ones at Urban Wellness, can help address mental health struggles affecting weight. Functional Medicine UK identifies the root causes of disease through a comprehensive evaluation. Practitioners use lab testing, assess lifestyle factors, and look at the whole patient picture. They create personalized treatment plans that may involve dietary changes, targeted supplements, stress management, gut healing protocols, and other interventions to improve mood, appetite signals, and motivation. 

There are other effective ways to overcome mental health’s impact on weight:

  • Work with a therapist or counselor to address underlying issues contributing to overeating or lack of motivation. Cognitive behavioral therapy can help change negative thought patterns.
  • Establish a regular exercise routine, even starting small, to relieve stress and boost endorphins. Social exercise groups provide support.
  • Practice mindful eating habits by listening to hunger cues, minimizing distractions during meals, and avoiding stress eating.
  • Keep a food journal to identify emotional triggers for overeating. Find healthier alternatives to cope.

Mental health has a multifaceted effect on weight, often leading to challenges with appetite regulation, cravings, motivation, and activity levels. However, a compassionate, patient-centered approach can help overcome these obstacles. 

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