A number of factors in your life can contribute to your mood. Work, family, romantic relationships, and even the weather all play a part in how you feel. But what about weight loss or weight gain? Does how much you weigh affect how you feel? And does how you feel affect how much you weigh?
Speaking from experience, during the times that I am at a healthy and fit weight I’m in a happier mood than the times when I am heavier. Part of it has to do with how I feel about my body—better, obviously—but scientists think there’s more to it than that. Much of why you feel better at a healthier weight has to do with what you’re doing to reach those goals.
First off, exercise produces endorphins, so when you’re working out your brain rewards you with these feel-good chemicals. When you eat healthy foods like leafy greens, healthy fats, and lean proteins, you feed your brain nutrients that have been linked to happiness. (Conversely, when you eat trans fats and other bad for you foods your mood suffers.) And then there’s something to the idea of sticking with healthy habits, something that scientists call self-efficacy, which tends to lead to a boost in self-esteem and mood.
Think about it: Everything seems to link together. When I was in a bad relationship and at a job I did not like I completely rejected the idea of getting up early to work out. I chose to sleep in, go to work, come home, and eat or drink items that were not nutritionally beneficial to me. It turned into a vicious cycle. I was miserable, and my eating, drinking, and exercise habits only made me more miserable.
When I quit that job and left that relationship, I immediately started to feel happier, which caused me to begin working out. As soon as I started to lose weight and feel good again, and I was even happier.
I was also less stressed. It seems ironic because by adding “work out” to my to-do list I actually had more to fit into each day, but regular physical activity goes a long way to lowering stress in the body and brain, helping reduce levels of cortisol, which is the hormone linked to stress. This hormone also plays a big factor in weight gain, so it makes senes that when you have less of it you not only feel better, you also lose weight. One easy way to lower stress and cortisol levels is to incorporate more enjoyable activities into your day, whether it’s a walk after dinner, spending time with your loved ones, or listening to the music you love. Do more of this and you’ll feel better, and be better.