Can Being Overweight Contribute to My Depression?

Can Being Overweight Contribute to My Depression?

Being overweight can make you feel bad about the way you look and feel like a failure if you can’t stick to a healthy diet. But can it actually contribute to depression?

A growing body of evidence shows that obesity and depression go hand in hand and can feed off each other. Weight problems increase the risk of developing depression. Likewise, people who are depressed are more likely to be overweight and experience a faster rise in body mass index (BMI) than people who are not depressed. Which came first—the weight problem or the depression—remains to be seen.

Fat, Depression, and the Brain

Fat tissue can contribute to the problem. Fat cells secrete substances called cytokines that cause inflammation. Chronic inflammation of the brain, which is often found in people who are obese, is also found in those struggling with depression.

Brain imaging studies show that the areas of the brain that are most impacted by obesity tend to be the ones involved in self-control and the regulation of appetite. When these brain regions aren’t functioning at optimal levels, it can make you more vulnerable to overeating and to giving in to cravings for unhealthy foods, which compounds the problem.

People who are depressed also tend to have markedly increased activity in the limbic areas of the brain, which are involved in setting a person’s emotional tone.

7 Tips to Get Thinner and Happier

Losing the extra pounds can help alleviate depressive symptoms and vice versa, getting your depression under control can help you manage your weight. Making minor tweaks to your food, nutritional supplements, exercise, and even your thinking patterns can help you do it.

1. Know your brain type.

Not all people who are overweight and depressed are the same. Knowing your brain type is the first step into learning more about how your unique brain functions. Brain imaging studies show that there are 5 types of overeaters and 7 types of depression:

Type 1: Pure Anxiety

Type 2: Pure Depression

Type 3: Mixed Depression

Type 4: Over-focused Depression

Type 5: Temporal Lobe Depression

Type 6: Cyclic Depression

Type 7: Unfocused Depression

Knowing your type can help you find the best solutions for your needs.

2. Eat more healthy fats to lose fat and feel better.

Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids have been associated with depression and obesity. There is also evidence that low levels of these fatty acids play a role in substance abuse, and it can be argued that overeating is a form of substance abuse. Boosting omega-3 levels is one of the best things you can do for your weight and moods. Research shows it decreases body fat, appetite, and cravings, in addition to reducing symptoms of depression. Unlike what we have been told in the past, good fats are not the enemy of a healthy diet. To increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids, eat more:

  • Fish (wild salmon, tuna, trout, anchovies, halibut, mackerel, sardines)
  • Flaxseeds
  • Walnuts
  • Avocados
  • Green leafy vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach)

3. Optimize vitamin D levels.

Having low levels of vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” has been associated with both depression and obesity. Some researchers believe that nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population suffers from a vitamin D deficiency.  Get your levels tested and supplement with vitamin D if needed.

4. Get moving every day.

It’s no secret that exercise revs your metabolism, but it is also a powerful mood booster. In fact, several studies have found it to be as effective as antidepressant medication. How does it do it? Physical exercise stimulates neurotransmitter activity, especially dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, which elevates mood. One of the ways it helps is by boosting a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which is involved in growing new brain cells and has been found to be instrumental in putting the brakes on depression.

5. Do the best exercises for boosting moods and metabolism.

The best exercises for people who are both depressed and overweight include those that combine aerobic coordination activities and a social aspect. The aerobic activity boosts blood flow and neurotransmitter activity, and social bonding can help calm overactivity in the brain’s limbic system to boost your mood. Try these activities:

  • Dancing
  • Tennis
  • Basketball

6. Change your thinking, change your weight and moods.

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) can infest your mind and keep you chained to unhealthy habits that cause weight gain and mired in the negativity that contributes to depression. You may be familiar with ANTs like these:

“I have no control over my eating.”

“I don’t like foods that are healthy for me.”

“I have to eat to comfort myself.”

These ANTs play a major role in making you fat and stealing your happiness. Learning to challenge your thoughts is critical to winning the battle of the bulge and enhancing your moods.

7. Try the natural supplement SAMe.

A helpful treatment for emotional overeaters is the natural supplement SAMe in dosages of 400-1,600 mg. It is involved in the production of several neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine) that affect mood. The brain normally produces, all the same, it needs from the amino acid methionine. When a person is depressed, however, it impairs the synthesis of SAMe. Taking SAMe has been found to promote positive moods and also suppress appetite.

With the world’s largest database of functional brain scans — 150,000 and growing —Amen Clinics physicians are able to more accurately diagnose and more effectively treat the 7 types of depression than any other healthcare professionals. We also take a unique brain-body approach to treatment that includes brain health nutrition coaching to help you feed your body and fuel your brain so you can achieve and maintain a healthy weight and healthy moods.

Find out how we can help you today at 888-288-9834 or schedule a visit online.


  1. Very informative and helpful article!
    What is SAME and where can I get it?
    I love reading your articles, thank you!

    Comment by Blanca — September 10, 2019 @ 5:31 AM

  2. Hello Blanca, thank you for reaching out. SAMe can be found on Dr. Amen’s recommended website for brain-directed supplements:

    Comment by Amen Clinics — September 10, 2019 @ 7:40 AM

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