Weight and Mental Health

Does Losing Weight Make You Happier?

Max Carmody, MSc

For most people, losing weight does seem to make them happier, because then their weight is one less thing to worry about, it provides a sense of accomplishment, and can allow the individual to feel more comfortable in their body.

My Experience

A couple times in my life I have lost 20+ pounds of weight. The first time was after I came home from the Virgin Islands when I was 19. I had been away from home for my first extended period of time, I studied abroad there. I was away from my Mom’s home cooked food, and in the school dining hall ate everything in front of me. Kind of like the “freshman 15” but a little bit more. I was very uncomfortable with the weight though, and got it off as quickly as I could with calorie counting.

The second time was last summer or a little before. I don’t really recall the exact details, but I do recall that I did a low carb diet, and it worked pretty well for me, and I lost a fair amount of weight.

So when I say this stuff, I certainly don’t claim to be speaking for everybody. Everybody is different, and what applies to me is not necessarily going to apply to everyone. But I think that losing weight definitely makes me feel happier. I mean, it doesn’t make me feel wildly exuberant, but it does make me feel more comfortable with myself. It’s really just one less thing to worry about.

When I lose weight, I feel a sense of accomplishment. I feel like I achieved something that I set out to achieve, and just did something difficult, and it makes me feel good. Mostly though, I just prefer to be slim. I’m not going for crazy stick thin here, I’m not into that. But I do like to look nice and slim, and slightly athletic. I guess that I’m just more comfortable when I’m slim. I feel better in my body, I feel more attractive and desirable. Now I’m not saying that everybody should feel this way or that this is the right way to feel, this is just how I feel.

I don’t think that losing weight is going to provide any sort of true, deep, happiness. It’s not going to solve all your problems. You can still have a terrible job, or a miserable family life, or be very ill. And those problems will remain after you lose weight. So it’s not a cure all. But it’s really just one less thing to worry about. You may feel more comfortable in your body, and feel a sense of accomplishment. I know this may not be a popular thing to say in some circles and I’m supposed to say that it will not lead to happiness, but I’m just reporting my personal experience.

Evidence For

A study by the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior found that people who were depressed who lost weight saw the depression improve. Another study by the international journal of obesity found similar results.

One weight loss and wellness expert, who had seen thousands of clients over the years, claimed that “after 30 years working with thousands of clients and readers losing weight, I can say without reservation, that they became incredibly happy”.

I looked on Quora, to see how real people are answering this question. In response to questions like “Will losing weight make me happier” a large proportion of responses, seemed to be people saying that losing weight did make them feel happier. I’ll give you some sample responses.

“I’m feeling a lot happier now. My self-esteem is drastically higher and I love how my body looks. I feel more secure about myself and the attention/compliments I’m getting from others make me feel even happier. So I definitely think it boosts your confidence, which leads to better spirits and elevated mood in general. If I define a happiness index for myself on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being the most miserable feeling (severely depressed) and 10 being the happiest person on the planet, I could say I’m at 7-8 now whereas before the weight loss I was at 4-5.”

“I am slowly losing excess weight that is allowing me to be more active doing things with my family, which does correlate to making me happier. I have also found that exercising not only helps me meet my weight loss goal, but it’s also a great way to relieve stress”. If you would like to learn about whether losing weight can help mental health in general, you can find an article here that I wrote on the topic.

Evidence Against

Some people on Quora also said that weight loss did not make them happier. So I really think that this question comes down to the individual. If you would like to find out if losing weight can actually give you anxiety, you can find an article here that I wrote about it.

There is another study, that when people successfully lost weight, they became more likely to suffer from depression. This is the exact opposite of what the studies above found. So there really is a lot of conflicting research.

Some people may place too much of their self-worth on the size of their body. I may be a bit guilty of this myself, and it’s probably not healthy. And again, like I said before, weight loss probably isn’t going to provide true, lasting happiness.

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