Think you’ll be happier if you lost weight? Think again.
Kate Moss once said that “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”, as if being thin is the secret ingredient for achieving happiness. Sure achieving a healthy body weight has a range of improvements to physical health, but when it comes to mental health it’s not as simple as witnessing the number of the scales going down. In fact, research published in PLOS earlier this year found that overweight and obese people who lost 5% or more of their weight over four years were more likely to report feeling depressed than those who remained within 5% of their original weight. For many of us, this doesn’t make sense, as society says that to be happy we must first by thin. But, weight loss can come without happiness for a number of reasons:
Toxin release: When you lose weight, environmental pollutants trapped in fat cells are released back into the bloodstream. Researched published in the International Journal of Obesity, looked at the blood concentration of six pollutants as people lost weight. Compared to the people who gained weight, those who had lost a significant amount of weight had 50 percent higher levels of pollutants in their blood. The chemical release seen when losing body fat may contribute to headaches, stomach problems and sluggishness as you lose weight.
Unrealistic expectations: Too many of us think that if we could lose weight or achieve a certain number on the scales then we would finally be happy. Weight loss though isn’t a magical cure that improves everything in our lives. The true reason for unhappiness must be address and this isn’t always weight related.
Changes associated with weight loss: Weight loss comes with changes in the way you think and the way you act. You replace enjoying a bottle of wine with your friends or partner with a bowl of salad and coffee and cake catch-ups with long walks. For family and friends you have become a different person and this can make catch-ups less enjoyable. It can also make you more critical of other people’s unhealthy habits.
Constant struggle: Unhealthy food options are all around us and constantly resisting the temptation, requires considerable willpower. It can also interfere with social outings, with enjoyable activities being missing in an attempt to avoid unhealthy food options. Overtime this can take a mental toll, which may lead to comfort eating.
Unexpected physical changes: Glossy magazines do a great job of making weight loss look glamorous, but few show the loose skin that comes with large amounts of weight loss. This can leave us feeling depressed when reality doesn’t meet our expectations. So often weight loss is done out of self-hatred when really we need to learn to love and accept ourselves first and then look at losing weight. Weight loss then occurs as a result of making healthy lifestyle choices that help keep us strong, fit and healthy.
Backlash: Weight loss is a long-term commitment that requires effort even after you reach your goal weight. The effort involved doesn’t always match up with today’s society who seeks instant gratification. Many family, friends and work colleagues may be unsuccessful with their weight loss attempts and feel threatened by your success. As a result, they treat you differently as they project their own fears of being inadequate. Even if their anger is about them, it can still hurt us emotionally.
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About the author
Caitlin Reid is a unique health professional with qualifications as an accredited nutritionist, accredited exercise physiologist and yoga teacher. Caitlin is passionate about all things health and wellness, and keeps up-to-date with the latest health research, which she uses when contributing expert advice to health, fitness, lifestyle and food companies. She is also the nutrition expert for the Women’s Fitness magazine, the dietitian for the South Sydney Rabbitohs and ambassador for Papaya Australia. Follow Caitlin on Instagram @caitlinareid or visit her website.