The link between nutrition and your brain is complex but vital. A nutritious and balanced diet is integral for your brain to operate efficiently, as it needs the energy to coordinate all your bodily functions. It also improves cognitive function, powering memory, attention, and problem-solving.
However, an area we don’t talk about as frequently is the brain’s link to mental health — particularly how it is affected by weight loss. Here’s what you need to know.
The connection between weight loss and mental health
The link between mental health and weight cuts both ways. Studies have shown that people who are depressed are more likely to be obese, while people with obesity are at a higher risk of depression. Depression may cause individuals to lose pleasure in eating, driving them to overcompensate by seeking more food to compensate for dull or absent pleasure. Poor mental health can also affect mood and motivation, possibly leading to overeating or undereating. In extreme cases, they may manifest in disorders like bulimia or anorexia.
Fortunately, weight loss and the lifestyle changes you adopt to achieve this can improve your brain chemistry. Exercising releases mood-boosting chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that reduce stress, depression, and anxiety. It also improves cognitive function, helping you perform better throughout your day. Lastly, a healthy and balanced diet encourages the production of good bacteria in your gut, which influences the production of neurotransmitters that carry positive signals from the gut to the brain.
How to maximize the weight loss-mental health connection
Observe sustainable habits, not diets
Cutting too many calories and eliminating too many food groups can feel restrictive and temporary, causing you to revert to old habits once you’ve reached your weight goals. It also messes with your brain chemistry and increases pressure. Fortunately, the best weight loss programs no longer promote restrictions – instead they focus on more holistic and mindful eating habits. Instead of reducing your calorie intake, these plans differentiate between healthy and less healthy foods. By eating meals that use healthy ingredients you like, you can enjoy eating more nutritious foods and feel better knowing that you’re caring for your body.
Make proper sleep hygiene a priority
While mental health and weight loss go hand-in-hand, practicing good sleep hygiene is integral to both. Insufficient sleep can have immediate and long-term effects on your cognitive ability and mood. If you’re predisposed to conditions like depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, your symptoms may be aggravated. Sleep also affects weight since it disrupts the production of leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that control your appetite, making you feel hungrier. Losing sleep can also make you lose muscles and retain fat, impeding weight loss. To boost mental health and weight loss, stick to a regular sleep schedule and build habits that facilitate sleepiness, like keeping the lights and temperature low.
Shift your approach to exercise
Often, we exercise as a punishment for overeating or gaining weight. But shifting your perspective and treating exercise as self-care can make it more rewarding. Focus on the mood-boosting effects of exercise and get into it gradually. Instead of jumping in all at once, find exercises or sports you enjoy and progress slowly. In addition to the serotonin and endorphin boost, this helps you acclimate to regular exercise more smoothly.
Weight loss and mental health go hand-in-hand. Although it may seem daunting to start working on both, shifting your approach by adopting more reward-based perspectives can make the journey more motivating. If you want more content about working towards self-love, you can check us out here at LaKisha Mosley.