The are many reasons to want to lose weight: to lower stress levels, sleep better, have more energy and prevent or reduce the risk of disease. But it may come as a surprise that losing weight can affect your mind just as much as your body.

As you embark on a weight loss journey, it’s important to prioritize both your physical and psychological well-being. Taking care of your mental health may even help you achieve and maintain your weight loss goals over time.1

Let’s review some psychological and emotional challenges that may come along with losing weight so that your mental health can remain just as “fit” as your body along the journey.

Mood changes

Research has shown there’s a complex relationship between mental health and obesity. Studies have found that depression is a risk factor for obesity, and obesity is a risk factor for depression.2,3 The changes that come along with weight loss, like following new eating and exercise patterns, can also impact your mental health. It’s important to introduce new health patterns slowly to allow your body and brain a chance to get used to them. Drastic changes, such as restricting entire food groups (like carbohydrates), can cause nutrient deficiencies.

Self-worth can take a hit

Self-esteem and body image may improve with weight loss, but that’s not always the case. On a weight loss journey, you’re likely to hit some roadblocks along the way. Self-esteem can be affected when we struggle to hit weight goals. It’s important to remember that your value is not dependent on the size of your body. As you navigate the changes that come along with weight loss, your body and its cues may feel a little foreign at times. Practicing mindfulness can help you stay calm and connected. Mindfulness helps you:

  • Reduce feelings of stress, which may help with emotional eating
  • Gain a sense of clarity, which helps with awareness of the choices you make
  • Slow down and focus on hunger cues and how you are feeling in the moment

Challenging old behaviors and beliefs

Many of us have long-held beliefs surrounding food and exercise. Some we learned in childhood; others we picked up as adults. They can be so deeply embedded that we don’t question or even recognize them: clean your plate; it’s rude to refuse food; no pain, no gain; etc.

Unexamined behaviors and beliefs can get in the way of progress. But, challenging those old beliefs and habits can be uncomfortable and bring up difficult feelings. If you need support, a therapist can help you understand and manage the thoughts and feelings that may appear during, or interfere with, your weight loss journey.

Find a therapist who’s right for you

Relationships can be affected

When a partner loses weight, it can be positive for a relationship, but there may also be some potentially negative consequences to be aware of. The person who’s lost weight may feel like their partner no longer understands them or isn’t supportive of them. The partner who hasn’t lost weight may feel threatened, insecure or left behind. Communication is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship. It’s important to be supportive and understanding as your partner loses weight, even if your health goals do not align.

Disordered eating

Dieting can spark an unhealthy obsession with food and weight. This can lead to disordered eating patterns. Disordered eating is a term used to describe “a range of irregular eating behaviors that put people at risk for serious physical and mental health problems, including clinical eating disorders.”4 Symptoms of disordered eating include:4

  • Restrictive and/or inflexible eating patterns
  • A preoccupation with body image, weight or food
  • Rigid food and/or exercise routines or rituals
  • Feeling a loss of control around food
  • Feeling guilt or shame associated with eating

Disordered eating patterns can lead to nutrition imbalance and increased feelings of anxiety or depression.4 Staying on top of how you feel is essential when you’re losing weight. Any concerns you may have regarding your eating patterns are important and deserve attention. Reach out to a friend, family member or professional to receive the help and support you deserve.

There is a lot that can be done to support a healthier mindset around weight loss:5

  • Make lifestyle changes rather than focusing on losing pounds. Support both weight loss and good mental health by managing stress, staying hydrated and getting ample sleep.
  • Eat well to have more energy. Fresh, whole foods provide nourishment. Pay attention to how different foods make you feel.
  • Exercise for joy, not weight loss. While you may not be excited to work out every day, take notice if you’re consistently dreading it. Going for a long run is only sustainable if you actually enjoy running. If you don’t, find a form of movement that you’ll look forward to.
  • Respect your body. Appreciate your body and what it can do, even as it changes along your journey.
  • Surround yourself with support. Reach out to family, friends and coworkers for encouragement and motivation. A therapist or support group can help you learn simple behaviors that soon become habits.

We all deserve to be happy and healthy. To take care of the whole you, connect with us through the Teladoc Health app, online or by phone.

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Published July 1, 2024


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