Why Being Overweight Hurts Mental Health

I have been overweight since the fourth grade. I have a vivid recollection of sitting in my math lesson, bored, grabbing the fat of my stomach to shake it. When I started paying attention to the lesson again, the teacher was looking at me with a sad, pitying expression, and I felt the flush of embarrassment.

Thus began my journey being aware of my excess weight, and subsequently trying to hide it.

For Type 1 Diabetics like myself, maintaining a healthy weight can often feel like a Sisyphean task. Insulin is a hormone that stimulates hunger, so you eat, inject insulin, eat, and the cycle repeats. It’s common for newly diagnosed patients to quickly gain a lot of weight once started on insulin. In fact, one of the symptoms of Type 1 before diagnosis is unexplained weight loss.

The double-edged sword of insulin, among other reasons, is why I now eat low carb, but the unfortunate truth is that I have been overweight, even medically obese (according to the BMI, which is a terrible indicator of health) for fifteen years if not more.

Why Being Overweight Hurts Mental Health

Sometimes I think I can’t even begin to describe the mental weight I have carried because of this.

  • My clothes must hide my stomach.
  • I cannot wear dresses without bike shorts or leggings underneath to prevent my thighs from sticking and chafing together.
  • Swimsuits, in general, are a problem, and forget trying to look good in a bikini.
  • Many shirts make me look pregnant.
  • I get winded easily when walking up stairs.
  • Crossing my legs (and getting them to stay put) involves grunting, and God forbid I want to cross my legs underneath a table.
  • Any pair of jeans I own is ruined within six months – holes open up at the thighs from rubbing together.
  • I cringe at many pictures of myself because I look so unhealthy. It’s not a self-image thing – when you have multiple chins and the light hits you wrong, yeah, it looks bad.

There’s no need to sugar coat it.

People who say that everyone is beautiful are full of it. If everyone is beautiful, no one is! Remind me why we have supermodels and Cosmo articles on how to be more pretty. 

I’m telling you all this because two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese. Two thirds! More than half of America doesn’t know what a healthy weight looks like, and has deluded itself into thinking anyone who’s skinny must be starving themselves.

I’m one of those two thirds.

It sucks.

I’m positive that my weight has affected aspects of my mental health for years. At times, I did not love myself. In college it seemed like every girl I saw was at a healthy weight, and I judged myself against them. They were skinnier than me, and they must have been doing something right.

Unfortunately, my parents were as clueless about how to lose weight as a diabetic as I was.

I heard “you need to lose weight” from more than one family member far too often, and it reached the point of non-communication because OF COURSE I knew that.

Nothing I did made it better.

It took me years to feel comfortable in my own skin, even if that skin was wrapped around more fat than I wanted. Click To Tweet

An Open Book

I’m going to be super real with you guys not only because it’s scary (so I should do it) but also because the only place I’ve ever seen people be open about their weight and struggles is a couple subs on Reddit, most notably r/keto and r/progresspics.

I’m 5′ 8″.

At my highest, I weighed 225 pounds.

That number showed up on my scale on January 9th, 2016. I was mortified with myself. How could I possibly weigh that much? I went to a gym twice a week, if not more – I even had a personal trainer! I felt so uncomfortable inside my own body.

Why Being Overweight Hurts Mental Health

Something had to change.

My mental health was suffering tremendously.

In the last five years, the lowest number I saw on the scale (that I recorded) was 187.2 pounds, in November of 2013, after a summer of walking a lot and working at a moving company. In short, I was exercising way more than usual, but it didn’t last.

My weight climbed back up.

I wouldn’t see a number in the 180’s again for over four years. In fact, I saw 187.2 show up again the morning of March 22, 2018.

I may have done a little happy dance seeing that number again!

As I’ve been on my weight-loss journey (which sounds super cheesy and cliche, I know) I’ve felt sadness, anxiety, self-loathing, and low confidence melt away with the pounds.

At the time of this writing, I have gotten rid of 37.8 pounds.

So far, what I’ve gained back:

  • Self-confidence
  • Mental clarity
  • Self-control
  • Energy
  • Excitement
  • Positivity

There are sports and activities I love doing that are difficult when overweight, such as skiing, hiking, and biking.

While I ski, I only ski around four times a year and never past 1 or 2 in the afternoon. Partially because of the drive, but also because of how soon I get wiped out.

Hiking is a slow endeavor, and nothing too steep or too long. My stamina just can’t handle it. It’s the same with biking.

I would love to frequently ski, hike, and bike, but with the excess weight, it’s never as exciting or do-able as I imagine.

People like to deny it, but being overweight and obese prevent you from doing a lot of things. Some things are more involved, like going on a bike ride, but others are so simple – tying shoes without straining.

Putting on socks.

2/3 of the population likely struggle to put on their socks. 2/3 of the population probably get winded just going for a short walk.

It’s damaging not only your physical health but your mental health as well. 

If you couldn't put your socks on by yourself in the morning, would that ruin your day? It'd ruin mine. Click To Tweet

Obesity and depression are linked. Is it any wonder that being fat is becoming more accepted now? What about that whole body positivity movement? Where you’re beautiful and healthy no matter what your weight is?

Bullshit.

That might be difficult to hear, but I’ll say it again.

Bullshit.

I don’t believe that being fat is healthy.

At all. Ever.

There’s a reason the doctor tells you to lose weight at every visit. It’s not because he’s rubbing it in your face, it’s because he’s right!

There are so many stories on Reddit weight loss subs that detail the relief of mental pressures when they lose weight.

It’s real.

I’ve experienced it, and if you’ve lost a significant amount of weight recently (or in the past) I can guess that you gained a lot of mental clarity from doing so too.

It's past time to recognize FOR REAL that carrying excess weight is damaging not only to your body but also to your mind. Click To Tweet

Does my story resonate with you? Let me know in the comments.

Why Being Overweight Hurts Mental Health

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  1. Good for you in gaining back all those things. The struggle is real and the mental anguish is terrible.

  2. I so agree with you. Right now I’m at my highest weight ever. I quit smoking but gained 25pounds in the process. It is a struggle between wanting to lose weight and being too depressed to try.

  3. Yes – weight – certainly is an issue for how we feel about ourselves I agree. I have a 2nd cousin who has Diabetes 1. However she is an average weight and controls what she eats particularly well. She doesn’t have sweet fruit like mangoes and watches her carbs too. A lot to learn. I talk to myself too – when I say – encouragement is needed. YOU can do this! Blessings

  4. I have been overweight starting in my teenage years. It’s not a lot, usually around 20 pounds, sometimes more sometimes less, but it is still enough to affect me mentally. I carry all my extra baggage in my midsection. Long before I became a mom, in my twenties I was often asked when I was due. Embarrassed I always had to reply that I wasn’t pregnant. Even now warmer weather is coming and I can’t hide my huge belly under my jacket anymore. I’m dreading picking up my daughter after school and watching her play on the play ground while I stand there with all the other fit moms who have flat stomachs! It is really depressing!

  5. GIRL, YES!!! Everything you said here is such truth. And I love that you called this “movement” out for what it is. We’ve become people that are more willing to lie to each other (at all costs) than to encourage each other to push forward. Thank you for this honesty