There’s no shortage of articles and posts documenting the many ways that your life will change if you lose a substantial amount of weight. Seriously, Google it. I believe those bases have all been adequately covered.
And being someone who has lost a huge amount of weight myself, I can totally vouch — it’s a massive change and your life seems to be globally affected. Notice that I said seems.
Aside from the occasional slightly unpleasant unexpected side effect (loose skin, etc.), it might appear that once you drop a bunch of weight, your life will start to fall into place. And to some extent, it’s true.
It can change the shape of your body. It can change the size of clothes you buy. It can change your grocery shopping list and your priorities. It can certainly change your energy levels and overall health and well-being. All fabulous stuff.
However, there’s one very important thing that weight loss cannot change.
Losing weight won’t bring you happiness.
How Your Life Won’t Change
The odds are that your weight isn’t the root cause of your unhappiness. In fact, it’s very possible that your weight is merely a symptom of your unhappiness.
In my case, I was just as unhappy after dropping 70 pounds as I was before. I’d succeeded in changing my clothing size and my health status, but it didn’t change what was wrong in my soul.
The biggest underlying issues for me were my struggle with feelings of not being good enough and loads of negative self-speak. It ultimately led me to gain and, for many years, fail to lose a ton of weight. My weight wasn’t the real problem — my head was. When I finally did lose the weight, I discovered that those feelings of inadequacy and the harsh self-criticism didn’t go away, they just popped up in other areas of my life, like in my jobs and my relationships.
It was never really about the weight. Being overweight and unhealthy was simply a manifestation of how I felt about myself on the inside. It wasn’t the cause of it.
Why does it matter? Well, because whatever led you to gaining the weight will be right there waiting for you at your goal weight unless you address the true root of your unhappiness.
What many people — myself included — don’t expect is that a big physical change doesn’t necessarily change the mental and emotional stuff underneath it all. Perhaps this is why such a high percentage of people are unsuccessful at keeping the weight off. Without addressing the underlying issues, you’re unable or unwilling to sustain the lifestyle change.
The Bottom Line
Be careful with articles and anecdotes that speak of this wonderful place “post-weight loss” where all your dreams come true. Or even the ones that tell you that the worst side effects of weight loss are loose skin, losing friends and credit card bills from clothes shopping.
You can shed the fear that your poor heart could, someday, have enough of your unhealthy ways and just give out, which is HUGE and awesome, don’t get me wrong. But losing weight alone isn’t enough to make you shed the self-criticism, self-loathing and all the other stuff that’s causing you to be unhappy.
Please don’t misunderstand me and think I’m advising you to not lose the weight. By all means, give yourself the gift of wellness — it’s the highest and most precious form of self-love. I support you fully and completely.
My point is this: aside from major medical concerns, your weight probably isn’t the true reason for your unhappiness — that is, most likely, tied to other factors. Therefore, losing weight alone won’t fix what’s really wrong with your life. It won’t fix your job or your marriage, or heal your family or your past, or bring you the perfect partner.
As you walk the path of changing your physical shape and reclaiming your health, spend just as much time working on changing the shape of your life and reconnecting to yourself. Don’t expect to peel the layers of fat away and unveil a bright, shiny new version of yourself where life is always fabulous and your concerns are gone.
Better yet, make the firm commitment to yourself (right here, right now) to start addressing the sources of unhappiness in your life, no matter how much weight you think you need to lose. If you do this, you’ll find that many of your self-destructive and self-sabotaging behaviors naturally start to dissolve. When you hold happiness inside for yourself, you begin to lose the desire to look for it elsewhere.
Weight loss is wonderful but what it isn’t is a one-size-fits-all magic potion that just fixes how you feel about yourself or your life. Lose the weight because you love yourself, you deserve better and want to live in alignment with your highest potential.
Don’t do it because you think it’ll automatically make you happy.
Have a successful strategy for finding true happiness? Please share! —Alison