Can Treating Depression Help You Lose Weight?

iStock_000009295524_SmallRecent studies have shown a clear link between obesity and depression. In this post, I’m going to focus on a few key questions:

­ What is the link between obesity and depression?
­ Does one condition cause the other?
­ Can treating depression help with weight loss? And vice­-versa?

What is the link between obesity and depression?

Unfortunately, there is no clear research to show a linear connection between obesity and depression. Instead, more and more studies are coming to the conclusion that the two conditions tend to enable each other in a self-­destructive downward spiral.

How does obesity contribute to depression?

There are several ways that obesity can lead to depressive thoughts and behavior.

First, obesity can cause depression from the inside out. In other words, obesity or weight gain often causes poor self-­image, low self­-esteem, and even thoughts of self­-hatred at times. These body image issues often lead to social isolation. All of these feelings are clear risk factors for depression.

Next, obesity can cause depression due to interactions with others. Childhood obesity frequently leads to painful ridicule and exclusion from peer activities. Even those who gain weight later in life are often subject to stereotyping and can be discriminated against by airlines, department stores, insurance companies and even doctors.

Additionally, carrying around extra weight makes living an active life more challenging. Fatigue, joint pain, sleep issues, and conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure have all been linked to depression.

How does depression contribute to obesity?

At the most basic level, people experiencing depression are more likely to overeat or make poor food choices, avoid exercising, and become more sedentary. These can all lead to weight gain, of course.

In fact, recent studies show that patients with symptoms of depression were more likely to gain weight over the next year, and that already overweight patients with symptoms of depression were more likely to become substantially overweight over the next year.

Additionally, many patients with depression tend to eat as a source of comfort, or may be “emotional” eaters.

How should depression and obesity be treated?

There is a clear link between depression and weight gain and/or obesity. In other words, being depressed is a risk factor for being overweight or obese and being overweight is a risk factor for being depressed. Additionally, both together confer risk of eating disorders as well.

The question then, is how can this issue be treated most effectively?

A multi-­pronged approach of healthy diet, exercise, medication, and talk therapy is the ideal. This will lead to the best chance of both reasonably quick and also sustainable results.

With that said, the thought of embarking on a program of diet and exercise can often be overwhelming to a person suffering from depression.

If you can relate to that feeling, and especially if you’ve tried the weight­loss first approach (because most people have), it is wise to consider trying to instead treat the mood issue first (or concurrently).

If the mood component isn’t addressed, the chances of keeping weight the weight off are low, particularly if you’ve been in this position before (or several times before). So give yourself a chance, and think about addressing the mood component!

If you would like more information about treating depression, weight gain, or the combination of the two, contact our office at If you feel that you could use additional help, please don’t hesitate to contact our office at 917-­609­-4990 to arrange a consultation. We would be delighted to help.

Be Well,
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff
dr. amanda


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