The United States is in the grip of an obesity epidemic. Americans have been overweight for years, and the crisis only seems to be growing. Staggering proportions of Americans are overweight or obese, and roughly 18 percent of American deaths can be tied to obesity, experts say. Americans of all genders and all ages are simply too heavy.
But even as the obesity epidemic rages on, another epidemic is rearing its head. Some experts believe that, on the whole, American mental health is in decline. The US has a mental health crisis among young people, and more cases of anxiety and depression (among other mental health issues) are being diagnosed every year.
Every American should be aware of these twin threats to their health — and every American should understand the ways in which the two are related.
The relationship between weight and mental health
Mental health and physical health may seem like different things, at least at first glance. But the reality is that they are two sides to the same coin. What we do to help or hurt our mental health will affect our physical health, too, and vice versa.
Living as an obese person is tough on the body, explain weight loss surgery experts who specialize in gastric sleeve surgery, but it’s also tough on the mind. Being overweight can make a person less energetic. It can lead to aches, pains, and feelings of discomfort. All of this can hurt a heavy person’s mental health — as, of course, can issues related to self-image and self-esteem.
The reverse is true, too: Those suffering from mental health issues may be more likely to gain weight and less likely to lose it. The symptoms of depression include low energy levels and a lack of interest in old activities. Being depressed can lead a person to be less active, which in turn may lead to weight gain.
Healthy living for your body and mind
The grim alliance between obesity and mental health challenges is a reminder of how we should really approach our health — namely, holistically. No, this isn’t some new age mumbo-jumbo: Taking a holistic approach still means relying on doctors and medical experts. What “holistic” means in this context is merely that you should recognize that your health factors and health outcomes are interrelated. If you work out and eat right but fail to keep up with your mental health, you won’t be healthy. The reverse is true, too.
So, by all means, eat right. Experts agree that a plant-based diet of whole foods is the way to go. Exercise, too: You should be getting 30 minutes per day, five days per week (which works out to be 150 minutes per week). See a doctor regularly for checkups. But don’t stop here.
Continue to focus on your whole health, and see a mental health expert. Therapy can help virtually anyone, explains one expert NYC therapist. It’s great for those suffering from depression, anxiety, or another mental health disorder, but it’s also great for other things that may seem less obvious. Big-city stress, for instance, is a common reason for folks to head to therapists in New York City. Therapy is a good choice for those who are grieving or going through big life changes — be they positive or negative. And therapy is an excellent ally for those who are looking to make healthy changes. Losing weight and keeping it off (and, more importantly, being healthy) can be more doable when you’re caring for your mental health along the way.