The Depressing Nature of Obesity

Lori Boxer
Weight★No★More℠ Diet Center

Chad B. Stewart –



Many people who are very overweight or obese suffer with depression. I’ve been asked numerous times: “What comes first—depression or obesity?”  In my experience with clients, the answer is “both.” 


Obese people are more likely to become depressed.


Severely overweight people may be more likely to become depressed because they are dissatisfied with their appearance, as well as may experience stigma and discrimination, causing obesity to be accompanied by low self-esteem, low self-worth and guilt. This creates a chronic stressful state, which causes significant physical dysfunction, which predisposes individuals to depressed mood.


The physical toll obesity takes on the body is discouraging, and it is difficult to deal emotionally with chronic diseases that are caused and exacerbated by being overweight. Therefore, obese people are more likely to become depressed as they experience poor health.


People suffering with depression are more likely to become obese.


One of the symptoms and consequences of depression is that too often those who suffer with it have difficulty taking good care of themselves.


  • Obesity brings on fatigue, not only from carrying around excess weight but also from sleep deprivation. Those who are overweight or obese, and suffering with depression, are less inclined towards exercise or other forms of physical activity. These individuals are more inclined to a sedentary lifestyle.
  • Those who once enjoyed exercising and a physically active life, may experience a depression-inducing event and then no longer adhere to their once-regular fitness regimens. Or, a previously fit person may undergo a surgical procedure for a sports-related injury; get out of a routine while recuperating and physical therapy, and voila! . . . weight gain and depression.


The CDC issued a report (Depression and Obesity in the U.S. Adult Household Population) in October 2014 of various data collected between 2005 to 2010. Two stats that stood out for me were:


  • 43% of adults with depression were obese.
  • Among adults who took antidepressant medication, of those with moderate or severe depressive symptoms, 55% were obese while 38% with mild or no depressive symptoms were obese.


Given the increase in the obese population since the data for this study was collected, it’s probably safe to assume that these obesity/depression percentages are even higher today. Additionally, given the childhood obesity epidemic, the longer a child is overweight, the more he or she is at risk for depression and other mental disorders.


Regardless of which comes first, depression or obesity, the commonalities are: Negative thinking takes hold; then poor sleep leads to fatigue and lack of desire to prepare regular meals. That brings on a craving for “comfort foods” that are very high in fats and sugars to improve moods (to, in a way, “self-medicate”), but only briefly, and then the cycle is repeated; which is followed by overeating and weight gain.


From my experience working with overweight clients who suffer from depression, I know first hand that reducing weight also reduces levels of anxiety and stress. Eating correctly improves body chemistry, which helps to lift one’s mood and make a person feel better. Those who have always used food as a comfort can be taught how to choose better comfort foods, which won’t leave them feeling deprived or guilty. I have seen clients who suffer from depression lose significant amounts of weight, many for the first time in their lives—and have anti-depressant meds lowered because of it.


If you are overweight and suffer with depression and are taking prescribed medications to control it, remember: Your meds do what they can control; you need to do what you can control:


  1. Put the number on the scale out of your mind.
  2. Start maintaining a healthy diet.
  3. Be active (even minimally to start: walk one lap around the block daily).
  4. Try to get 8 hours of sleep regularly.


Treat your body well, give yourself credit for small victories, and that will lead to positive thoughts. Positive thoughts will lead to positive experiences.

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