The Bond Between Weight Loss & Mental Health


Written By: Dustin Ross Kebre, MA LMFT EMDR

The Bond Between Weight Loss & Mental Health

Today’s zeitgeist is in the midst of a ever growing debate of how mental health contributes to weight gain and/or eating issues or disorders. This conversation emulates similar debates between Medical Dr.’s and Psychotherapists that have been going on for many years. The debate also mirrors the history of Psychology as well which struggled for many decades to establish itself as a science vs. a pseudo practice. Psychologists have argued for almost a century now whether mental illness is behavioral, environmental or linked to chemical imbalances in the brain.

Today the belief in Psychology is that a combination of many different variables that can contribute to mental illness and/or mental health disorders. Still even with the research and the established facts available some in the Psychiatric/Medical field struggle in accepting more than a medical solution to mental health. I have said many times to my clients that a pill alone will not solve all your problems and that psychotherapy in combination with medication will give you a higher probability of a positive outcome. These issues are now effecting the weight loss industry.

Food & Addiction

There are many medical and nutritional based diet programs available to consumers who argue that there is a medical explanation to your weight gain which is you are addicted to harmful foods. That the foods we consume prey on our endorphins and the neurotransmitters in the brain that cause us to crave foods even though they hurt our bodies. Let me tell you they are not wrong. Many facts have come out related to sugar related foods creating an addicted pattern in our brain, as well as our fruits and meats being injected with harmful preservatives, antibiotics and hormones; however, that is not the whole story.

An article by ( quoted a 2017 review by Psychology Research and Behavior Management showed, “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is particularly helpful in treating binge eating disorder, characterized by repeated episodes of eating large quantities of food, typically followed by discomfort as well as shame and guilt.” Shame and guilt as we know is linked to anxiety & depression which may be internally experienced as a repeated trauma. These mental health concepts according to research are also linked to low self esteem, low self efficacy and a weak sense of self.

There are many other possible mental health ramifications that can come out of this which includes suicide. One who is not trained in Psychology may be unaware of this in treating an individual for weight loss which means we are missing a major piece of the pie. My empathy and sympathy goes out to these individuals who are most likely suffering mentally, emotional, physically, socially, spiritually and even vocationally. Weight Loss Programs must be designed to meet these needs.

The Benefits of Therapy During Weight Loss

Personally, I believe that many different modalities would be beneficial to treat individuals suffering from the mentioned mental health issues such as DBT, EMDR, bio-feedback, Psychodynamic and many more. In fact many therapist in todays zeitgeist follow a integrative approach which uses many different modalities based on the individuals specific needs and situation presenting.

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Ariel Winter Gets Candid About Her Recent Weight Loss and Mental Health

In general we do not benefit from linear mindsets, but open and collaborative ones. More research needs to be done; however, a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Women’s Health also quoted from (, “female dieters who underwent eight cognitive behavioral therapy sessions lost more weight over the course of four months than those who tried to lose weight without therapy”. The research does not lie and as clinicians and practitioners who are helping individuals lose weight must not be threatened, but open to adding therapeutic services for their clients. Diet programs must not feel threatened or feel their programs are diminished by adding therapy.


Why does CBT help?

CBT believes in basic terms our thoughts create our feelings and our feelings create our behaviors. So, if we change our thinking we will produce more positive feelings and more positive behaviors. CBT also helps retrain our negative Self-Talk which is the little voice in our head that speaks to us all the time. If anyone says they do not speak to themselves they are lying. Many based on their shame, guilt and/or trauma have created negative schemas and thought processes that dictate their thoughts, feelings and behaviors in their daily lives.

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You could call that our irrational thinking which is related to our cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions simply is how our brain lies to us. Why does our brain lie to us because our brain does not like pain. Many people who have struggled with weight have dealt with years of self-harm, as well as harm from our society which is filled with prejudices and stereotypes to degrade those who struggle with weight. There has been much research done on these topics it is important that we are open and not close minded when it comes to helping people and be prepared to think out of box in order to help.



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