Mental Health

What is the Link Between Obesity and Mental Health?

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Posted By Alex Perez - Mental Health Writer, B.A.

There is an inexorable link between your psychological state and your chances of overeating and/or developing obesity. A 2010 study published in JAMA Psychiatry, for instance, found that adults with excess weight had a significantly higher chance of developing depression than those who did not battle against obesity. It also works the other way around. That is, people with depression, anxiety, and stress have a higher chance of becoming overweight or obese because they turn to food as a source of comfort. Why is this the case and how can one learn to adopt more mindful eating habits?

Obesity and Mental Health

Stress Influences Your Eating Habits

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The American Psychological Association reports that 38% of adults say they indulge in unhealthy eating behaviors because of stress and that overeating leads them to feel lazy and sluggish and to view their bodies in a negative light. Research also indicates that when people are worried, anxious, or depressed, they can seek out high-fat, high-calorie foods, also known as “comfort foods.” As reported by CNBC, some of America’s favorite comfort foods are pizza, chocolate, ice cream, mac ‘n cheese, and chips, all of which can cause weight gain if consumed regularly or in excess.

Countering Cravings Through Your Sense of Smell

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If you are currently battling stress, it is important to be aware of the effect it can have on your behaviors so you can take steps to avoid indulging in food as a means of dealing with your worries. One easy way to evade unhealthy eating is through candles that contain essential oils. Therapeutic grade lavender essential oil, for instance, has been found to reduce stress. You can also use gourmet-scented candles (like chocolate or vanilla candles) to create a sense of comfort and protection. Finally, you can rely on the scientific approach, smelling scents that are known to boost satiety. These include extra virgin olive oil, green apples, and bananas.

Steps for Stress Prevention

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Avoiding overeating involves more than simply countering cravings when you encounter them. It also requires you to avoid your stress levels getting so high that you feel the urge to overeat in the first place. There are many ways to present stress that don’t involve food at all. One is spending even 10 minutes in Nature (a park or other green or blue area close to your work or home). Cornell University scientists have found that doing so can significantly lower levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. Other tried-and-tested methods include mindfulness meditation, yoga, and Tai Chi. Mindfulness is particularly important when you have a high-stress job or you are undergoing tough times in your personal life, as it enables you to identify thoughts and emotions that can lead to unhealthy behaviors. In doing so, you can channel these emotions to healthier outlets like controlled breathing, exercise, and social interaction.

If you are stressed, you may very well crave comfort foods that are calorific and unhealthy. Many studies have shown that stress is a trigger for overeating. Fight stress daily through mindfulness pursuits, and rely on your sense of scent to curb cravings then they do arise.


How Excess Weight Impacts Our Mental and Emotional Health

The Psychosocial Burden of Obesity

Obesity and Mental Health: Is there a Link?

Associations between overweight and mental health problems among adolescents

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