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Is there a link between Dieting and Depression?

Over the past several decades, the Western world has been keenly focused on reducing the incidence of obesity.  And, while obesity directly increases the risk of many chronic diseases, there may be some unintentional consequences related to a heightened focus on weight-loss behaviors. 

A recent study published in JAMA Pediatrics by Solmi, F., et al. found an increase in depressive behaviors related to weight loss efforts over the past 30 years.  The study focused on behaviors of adolescents in the UK between 1986 and 2015.  Within this 30-year timeframe, adolescents increasingly overestimated their weight and increased “dieting” behaviors. 

Also of note, in more recent years, a greater proportion of adolescents were also involved in some sort of exercise to lose weight.  And while this may be seen to be a positive change, researchers found a strong association between adolescents who dieted and exercised for weight loss with those who had greater depressive behaviors.  Simply put, adolescents who dieted or exercised for weight loss in 1986 had less depressive symptoms than those adolescents who took part in the same weight loss efforts in 2015.  Significantly, it is important to also note that many studies also show “dieting” to be ineffective for weight loss and associated with poor mental health.  Often consistent “dieting” has been shown to lead towards low self-esteem and a poor body image among teens. 

It is no doubt that managing a healthy weight is vital for long-term health.  However, this study highlights that mental health needs to be addressed within any weight loss program.  Fad diets and extreme eating can often increase disordered eating and negative outcomes, and not just in adolescents.  Finding a healthy balance for weight loss is important at any age. 

IDS has recently launched a wellness and weight management program designed to coach individuals within an individualized program.  The goal of the program is to design a personalized program for healthy weight management and developing sustainable healthy habits. Let us know how we can help you achieve your weight loss goals in 2021 and strike that balance of a healthy lifestyle, a healthy weight, and a healthy attitude!



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