Mood and Weight

The relationship between mood and weight is affected by a variety of components that include food choices, hormones and coping skills.
Science Centre

"Calories in, calories out" summarises the law of thermodynamics in weight gain and loss. But other factors also determine the outcome of a weight-loss plan, including mood.

The relationship between mood and weight is complicated – affected by a variety of components that include food choices, hormones and individual coping skills.

Food Choices Affect Mood

Individual foods and eating patterns can affect mood and weight in both positive and negative ways. Several studies have shown that the caffeine in coffee improves mood.1 On the other hand, a study done in Finland found that people who responded to stress by eating had the highest body weights. More specifically, the study's "stress eaters" consumed more sausages, hamburgers, pizza, chocolate and alcohol than those who did not respond to stress by eating.2

Hormones Affect Mood

There are several hormones and other biological factors that affect mood and, potentially, weight. Examples include cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, and estrogen, a primary female sex hormone.

While there has been a great deal written in the media about the role of mood-altering hormones and weight management, the science is far from conclusive. For example, in a study that evaluated 35 47-year-old women over four years, there was no connection between hormone levels and weight gain. However, the same study found depression and anxiety to be linked to weight gain.3 This topic is likely to be an area of intense research in the coming years.

Mental Skills Affect Mood

The coping skills needed to handle the ups and downs of daily life have been identified as an area with a significant impact on body weight. Studies show that unsuccessful dieting often follows a pattern of experiencing stress, eating in response, and then gaining (or regaining) weight4' 5

Women with high levels of disinhibition (lack of eating control) are more likely to gain weight as adults and to be overweight.6 On the other hand, the development of strong coping skills is a predictor of lasting weight loss.7

Active participation in a weight-management program can quickly reduce the negative mood contributors to excess weight. In a study done in Canada, both men and women showed significant improvements in episodes of overeating, response to physical stress, feelings of depression and perfectionist behaviours after five weeks.8

view footnotes

The Weight Watchers Approach:

Weight Watchers recognises the role that strong coping skills play in achieving and maintaining weight loss. The Weight Watchers Tools for Living are a set of techniques that can be used to develop the coping and other mental skills that are linked with successful weight management.


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2Laitinen J, Ek E, Sovio U. Stress-related eating and drinking behaviour and body mass index and predictors of this behaviour. Prev Med. 2002 Jan;34(1):29-39.

3Sammel MD, Grisso JA, Freeman EW, Hollander L, Liu L, Liu S, Nelson DB, Battistini M. Weight gain among women in the late reproductive years. Fam Pract. 2003 Aug;20(4):401-9.

4Timmerman GM, Acton GJ. The relationship between basic need satisfaction and emotional eating. Issues Ment Health Nurs. 2001 Oct-Nov;22(7):691-701

5Geliebter A, Aversa A. Emotional eating in overweight, normal weight, and underweight individuals. Eat Behav. 2003;3(4):341-7.

6Hays NP, Bathalon GP, McCrory MA, Roubenoff R, Lipman R, Roberts SB. Eating behaviour correlates of adult weight gain and obesity in healthy women aged 55-65 y.

7Institute of Medicine. Weighing the Options

8Stotland SC, Larocque M. Convergent validity of the Larocque Obesity Questionnaire and self-reported behaviour during obesity treatment. Psychol Rep. 2004 Dec;95(3 Pt 1):1031-42.