Weight Loss & Management

Many people encounter difficulties with weight management at some point during their lives. People gain weight for a variety of reasons, such as aging or following an injury. If we accumulate weight beyond that which is considered normal for our height, we are at increased risk of health problems and mental health challenges such as depression.

Managing weight can be a real challenge, one that’s not always easy to overcome by willpower alone. If you are finding it difficult to make changes, consider enlisting the help of a therapist. Eating less and exercising more are important elements of weight management, but quite often people struggle with managing thoughts, emotions and changing unhealthy habits. Therapy can help you to overcome the psychological and behavioral barriers to weight management.

Prevalence of weight issues

Many people around the world struggle with the weight issues of obesity or being overweight. The World Health Organization reports that obesity has nearly tripled worldwide since 1975. Their data from 2016 showed that (1):

Psychological challenges associated with weight management

Weight issues can be distressing and can impact on a person’s health and ability to function. Some people experience symptoms of mental health conditions as a result, including:

Other challenges associated with weight issues

Weight issues are associated with a range of social, psychological and physical health risks (2). Physical health risks include:

Social issues commonly encountered include:

What to do if you’re having difficulties with weight management

Weight management is a more complex issue than simply exercising more and eating less. Consider a combination of the following strategies:

In addition, the American Psychological Association suggests the following strategies to help (4):

Weight management: Therapy types to consider  

Psychological treatment can help people work through the thoughts, emotions and behaviors related to weight management issues. Common evidence-based therapeutic approaches include:

What to look for in a therapist for weight management

There are several factors to keep in mind when selecting a mental health professional, including:

Education and credentials

Look for a licensed mental health professional who has specialized training in weight management and/or prior experience working in the area. Many therapists have a particular interest in treating weight and eating difficulties. They will often include this in their biographies so that it’s easy for you to locate when searching.

Personal fit

It’s important to find a therapist with whom you feel comfortable working. The trusting working relationship between you and your therapist, known as the “therapeutic alliance” can have a huge impact on the efficacy of therapy.

Learn more about the types of therapy suggested above and consider which one feels like the best-aligned approach for you. You can then look for a therapist who specializes in that type of therapy.

Talk in advance

The best way to judge how you might feel about your prospective therapist is to ask for a preliminary phone call (you can do this with our vetted Zencare therapists). Most therapists will be happy to oblige. This gives you the opportunity to ask about:

Try to speak to a few different therapists before making your mind up.

Sources and references

  1. World Health Organization, “Obesity and overweight
  2. World Health Organization, “World Obesity Day: Understanding the social consequences of obesity"
  3. Psychiatric disorders and obesity: A review of association studies
  4. American Psychological Association, “How psychologists help with weight management
  5. Lifestyle and Mental Health
  6. Physical Exercise for Treatment of Mood Disorders: A Critical Review
  7. Sleep: A Marker of Physical and Mental Health in the Elderly
  8. American Psychological Association, “How social support can help you lose weight