Research has found a clear correlation between being overweight and mental health problems like anxiety and depression, but trying to figure out which problem causes the other is almost as hard as calculus. For example, you may be feeling depressed and down on yourself because you've gained a few pounds.

You might then attempt to cope by drowning your feelings in alcohol and trying to comfort yourself with addictive sugary and fatty food that tanks your metabolism and lowers your mood instead of nutrient-rich healthy food that could boost it. Before you know it, fitting into your skinny jeans is a faint memory. Trust me, I know the feeling.

The cultural stigma and health problems associated with being overweight and the stress of dealing with them could also contribute to depression. Whatever the exact correlation may be, tackling the mental hurdles that can get in the way of your optimal weight loss may be just as important as conquering the physical ones. For some people, that might mean investigating therapy.

One form of therapy called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) has shown particular promise for the treatment of obesity. It works by investigating the thought processes that lead you to engage in behaviors that you might wish to stop, like overeating and skipping workouts.

CBT recognizes that many of the problems dieters face come not from not knowing what they have to do to lose weight, but actually getting themselves to do those things, and from patterns of self-defeating thoughts rather than a lack of willpower.

Your therapist will then help you replace those thought processes with some that will help you reach your goals more effectively. For example, a habitual thought of yours might be that you "can't have" a certain food, which leads to feelings of disappointment and deprivation against which you are likely to rebel. Instead, you could learn to mentally reframe the situation and remind yourself that you are choosing not to have a certain food so that you can achieve your goals.

A cognitive behavioral therapist might also help you with setting manageable goals for yourself and teaching you how to monitor your behavior to ensure that those goals are achieved. For example, they may instruct you to keep a food and exercise log so that you are more aware of how healthy your food and fitness choices are and can learn to recognize why you might make unhealthy ones.

Maybe you will realize that you crave sweets whenever you are under a tight deadline at work, or that whenever you fail to adequately plan your meals in advance, you end up eating junk. Once you have a better understanding of the things that get in the way of your success, you can plan for any potential pitfalls in advance.

A therapist can also help you deal with the self-worth issues that are often associated with being overweight by helping you develop a self-image that is less dependent on your weight and a greater sense of personal power. Then, instead of being motivated by fear and shame, you can find a strong positive motivation to be the best and healthiest version of yourself that you can be.

Even if you don't want to commit to a step as drastic as therapy, you can still utilize some of these CBT techniques on your own to help you become a more mindful eater and more confident dieter. The good thing about all the problems being in your head is that you've got all the tools you need to fix them!

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