FIT Connection: Mood’s Role in Health

Emotional wellness is part of being fit. Mood affects how you eat, exercise, and rest.

From the WebMD Archives

"Sometimes we arbitrarily, artificially separate emotional well-being from physical well-being," says David Ermer, MD, child psychiatrist with Sanford Health, WebMD's FIT educational partner. "They are intimately intertwined. Being positive, valuing yourself, respecting yourself, and having good self-esteem are part of being fit, too." In fact, emotional health is one of the four areas of the FIT Platform: MOOD, FOOD, MOVE, and RECHARGE. All four of these areas of life have an impact on you and your family's health -- and all four interact with and influence one another.

Here is how MOOD can influence FOOD and MOVE choices, as well as the ability to RECHARGE.

MOOD Can Affect Your Motivation to MOVE Your Body

If you've ever blown off a session at the gym after a particularly ego-busting day, you know that stress can lead to poor lifestyle choices. You may feel as though you don't have the time and mental energy to deal with exercise.

"I've seen people who are nervous or stressed drop out of activities like sports," says Ermer. That’s unfortunate, because if they could just take that first step, they’d find that moving could help them feel better. Instead, blowing off a workout leads to that spiral of feeling bad, not exercising, feeling worse, not exercising, and on, and on.

MOOD Often Influences Our Ability to RECHARGE

You're lying in bed knowing a work deadline looms. While the thing you need most is sleep, you've just checked the clock again for the fifth time. It's 2 a.m. -- and you're still wide awake.

"Certainly if you are stressed, it can affect your sleep. Stress can affect your ability to calm yourself down," says Ermer. "You can ruminate about things, worry about things, and maybe not sleep as well." In fact, insomnia is a common symptom of depression.

Mood can affect the sleep of children as well. A National Sleep Foundation poll from 2006 found that of the children aged 11 to 17 who reported being unhappy, 73% said they did not sleep enough at night.

MOOD Can Lead Us to Choose FOOD That Is Not as Healthy

Often, the foods we want to eat the most to try to soothe us after a bad day are the worst for us. (And way too easily available at drive-through fast food pick-up windows.) "People talk about their comfort foods or eating to relieve stress," says Ermer. "That's a coping strategy you want to turn around pretty quickly." Calming yourself with food is a sure road to weight gain. (To learn more about the effect of MOOD on weight, read FIT Connection: Weight Management.)

Plus, if your children see you deal with emotional upset with unhealthy foods or by overeating, they are likely to follow your lead. You may exacerbate the problem if your stress results in you feeling like you don't have the time to prepare healthy meals. Then, your whole family's nutrition may suffer.


How to Make Managing MOOD a Priority

What's best is for everyone to manage their moods in healthy ways. That's just what you'll learn in the articles in the MOOD section of Raising FIT Kids.

Learning healthy ways to manage stress as a family and keeping tabs on everyone's emotional health is just as important as choosing healthy foods, making time for physical activity, and getting plenty of sleep.

Healthy family time can not only improve everyone’s mood but impact every FIT component.

  • Find ways to move together -- go for walks, play catch, or dance to some music.
  • Take time to plan and prepare meals together. Families that eat meals together are more likely to make better food choices and less likely to be overweight.
  • Sit at the table together to eat to give you time to find out what's going on in your children's lives. Giving children your time and attention is one of the best things you can do for their emotional health -- and yours.
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Roy Benaroch, MD on February 03, 2012



David Ermer, MD, child psychiatrist, Sanford Health, Sioux Falls, S.D.

Luppino, F. "Overweight, Obesity, and Depression: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Longitudinal Studies," Archives of General Psychiatry, March 2010; vol. 67, no. 3: pp 220-9.

Sánchez-Villegas, A. "Childhood and Young Adult Overweight/Obesity and Incidence of Depression in the SUN Project," Obesity (Silver Spring), July 2010; vol. 18, no. 7: pp 1443-8.

National Sleep Foundation: "Depression and Sleep."

American Council on Exercise: "Exercise Can Help Control Stress." "Parents Can Successfully Set Limits on Children's TV Watching," "Media Time Family Pledge."

Arcan, C. Public Health Nutrition, March 2007; vol 10(11): pp 1257-1265.

Barlow, S. Pediatrics, 2007; vol 120: pp S164-S192.

Anderson, S. Pediatrics, March 2010; vol 125: pp 420-428.

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