How obesity affects mental health
Not so long ago, it was commonly believed that overweight and obese people were compulsive eaters, anxious, depressed, under stress, or trying to compensate for deficiencies in their lives. But today, when almost everyone seems to be getting heavier and obesity has become a national issue, both experts and the public are dismissing the idea that weight gain is a personal emotional problem.
Obesity and overweight can lead to stigma. Obesity stigma is ubiquitous, with one recent study from a country in western Europe showing that 18.7% of people with obesity experienced stigma. For people with severe obesity, the figure was much higher – 38%. Individuals with obesity experience stigma from educators, employers, health professionals, the media and even from friends and family.
The reasons cited for the link between obesity and psychiatric problems are unsurprising: poor self-image, physical inactivity, the biological disruptions caused by obesity, and the social stigma related to being overweight all contribute to a predisposition to mental illness.
Depression and low self-esteem have been observed in obese patients around the world, even when there has been no previous history of mental illness. Studies are confirming that the obese are at greater risk for depression.
Stigma is a fundamental cause of health inequalities, and obesity stigma is associated with significant physiological and psychological consequences, including increased depression, anxiety and decreased self-esteem. It can also lead to disordered eating, avoidance of physical activity and avoidance of medical care.
The relationship between mental health and obesity is complex
It has become increasingly clear that obesity may also be a side effect of medications used to manage mental health issues. Increased appetite or overwhelming lethargy can both contribute to undesired weight gain and the associated long-term consequences.
Moreover, the development of co-morbid conditions such as diabetes or joint pain can significantly reduce quality of life. As medication is often an essential element of treatment, diet and lifestyle changes should be first-line interventions for managing weight.
Ethical considerations and the importance of social environments
Over-simplifying the causes of obesity and implying that easy solutions will lead to quick and sustainable results – for example, “eat less, be more active” – contribute to weight bias and can set unrealistic expectations, masking the challenges people with obesity can face in changing behaviour. Additionally, this often focuses discussion around individual behaviours and perceived failures, while neglecting to take into consideration important social and environmental factors.
It is important to understand the causes of obesity and for governments to invest in prevention and early intervention measures to halt its worrying rise. But, at the same time, it is vital to recognize that government and society have ethical obligations to act – particularly on behalf of children – to reduce not only the health but also the social consequences of obesity. Failure to do so will impact the social and health capital of future generations and increase inequities in Europe and beyond.
It’s why it’s so important to have a method like My Secret Pound who educate people to face obesity or overweight without any medicine or surgery and guarantees to put an end to obesity.
Keep in mind that many different variables go into mental health and obesity, so no one answer is the perfect answer. Today, what we know is that when obesity and issues with mental health are found to co-exist, they can create a negative spiral effect for any individual. Each condition will continually aggravate the other, which in turn only creates a vicious cycle. This makes it difficult to determine which condition was present first, which also makes the overall situation worse.