Obesity and Depression

By on April 1, 2013

obesity and depressionIt’s a vicious circle. You’re overweight and you feel depressed. You feel depressed and so you overeat. At least that’s how it is for some. Most people tend to assume that it’s really just a matter of will power for both obesity and depression.

If you really wanted to, you could just get out of that funk of a depression you’re in and lose the weight as well. Looking at popular weight loss stories such as the ones on Biggest Loser would seem to indicate that if you can lose the weight, you’ll probably feel better and less depressed.

And since everyone knows that exercise is a matter of willpower, obesity must be as well. Right?

Wrong. Obesity is actually much more complex as is depression. A number of factors contribute to the development of both conditions. Understanding the potential link between the two, however, can help treat both.

The Relationship Of Obesity And Depression

Which Comes First?

So the big question is which one comes first. Are people who are obese more inclined to be depressed or are people who are depressed more likely to become obese? Research is currently trending toward the latter.

In a study conducted by the Center for Child and Adolescent Health Policy at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine, the researchers analyzed teenagers for three years to determine the impact that obesity had on depression.

The assumption going into the study was that teenagers who were obese before depression likely became depressed because of the obesity, perhaps because of how they felt or because of a chemical imbalance. However, the study revealed the opposite. The teens who became depressed and then started overeating were the ones who became obese.

The current theory is that at that point, the depression caused triggers that made the teens want to eat for comfort and to satisfy the imbalances that the depression caused.

However, in another study published in Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, Dr. Sarah M. Markowitz found that it went both ways when dealing with adults. Obese individuals were more likely to be depressed, primarily because they could not live the lives that they wanted to live, and depressed adults were more likely to become obese as they became more sedentary.

So What Does This Mean?

It’s still early in the game to be deciding whether either condition can be treated early or whether there is some drug that can resolve it. However, the irony is that the treatment for both depression and obesity is somewhat related: movement.

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America released a statement documenting the powerful effects of physical conditioning for combating anxiety disorders as well as depression. In addition to releasing endorphins and other hormones into the bloodstream, physical movement helps the body to work off the stress and to strengthen itself.

Eating healthfully can likewise decrease obesity and depression whereas consuming beverages or foods high in sugar can result in an increase.

Dr. Mercola describes the risk, documenting a 22% increased risk of depression among regular soda drinkers. This is particularly important because the increased sugar consumption can result in increased inflammation and suppression of necessary hormones.

So the cure to depression can lie on a similar path to obesity. The challenge is in moving beyond the crushing vice grip that depression can sometimes have. Individuals who struggle with depression sometimes struggle to even get out of bed. Part of this stems from not knowing where to start.

In those cases, getting a guide that walks you through everything you need to know can be beneficial. In other cases, it’s not feeling as if you have the strength to do a full workout.

A trick that you can use to get past this is to just tell yourself that you only have to do five minutes. If you can make yourself do that, then you are not likely to stop. But even if you do, then it’s that much more that you have done, and baby steps can lead to big results.



“Severe Obesity Not Seen to Increase Risk of Depression in Teens,” Science Daily,  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110421132349.htm (2011).

“Obesity and Depression May Be Linked,” Science Daily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080602152913.htm (2008).

Joseph Mercola, “Why Sugar Can Increase Risk of Depression,” Mercola, http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/21/sweetened-beverages-increase-depression-risk.aspx (2013).

About JessicaBFry

Jessica B. Fry has had a passion for writing and health since she was a child. In college, she studied Writing and Pre-Law as a double major before she went on to Regent University to obtain her J.D. She now practices law and works as a freelance writer in rural Indiana where she enjoys being with beloved family, friends, and pets. In her spare time, she works on graphology, writes short stories, and practices knife throwing. She and her husband enjoy exploring Indiana and the surrounding states in their free time and hope to one day complete a trip through every single one.
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