Losing Weight Really WON’T Make You Happy

As I sat down to catch up on my Internet reading this morning before I headed to the gym, a Women’s Health article caught my eye. Why Losing Weight Won’t Make You Happy. Now, as someone who has lost somewhere in the 70-80 pound range over the course of the last 3-4 years, and as someone who is getting her degree in exercise science, weight loss articles always catch my eye. Even more so the ones that talk a bit more about the psychological side.

After high school and into my early twenties, I gained a considerable amount of weight. I couldn’t tell you how much because after weighing in at 210 for a softball physical my sophomore year, I was too scared to step on the scale. I knew I was big and you know what? I was ok with it. I was happy with myself and my body. Truly happy. I didn’t know what it was like to beat myself up over a pound or two. I had never been in that mindset, nobody have ever “taught” me to hate the way I look. I didn’t worry about what I was eating when I was out with friends, I didn’t try to calculate calories of mixed drinks in my head when we went to the bar. Why? Because it didn’t matter. I was having fun and enjoying my life.

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As I began losing weight and becoming a healthier person, I never thought “if I just lose X pounds, I’ll be happier.” That never crossed my mind. But to many, it does. We equate being thin with being happy. For me, losing weight came with the added stresses of being terrified to gain back a pound or two and feel like I had failed OTHER PEOPLE. When you start hearing all the time what an inspiration you are, it’s flattering and wonderful and dammit, it is stressful. All of a sudden you don’t feel like you’re doing it for you, you’re doing it not to let down those other people who are following in your footsteps.

I developed my own body issues that had never been there before. Why won’t this roll of fat go away, why don’t I look as toned today? I forgot how to love my body. To be honest, I don’t know if that will ever come back. I don’t know what I look like in a mirror. What’s mean by that is not a day goes by that I don’t look in the mirror and see that 210+ pound girl looking back at me. You go for so long seeing that, it just never goes away. I see little changes (my arms, my face) but not overall. Some days I am just a number on the scale.

I’m not sure I will ever see myself as others do or that I will ever be “happy” with my body. Having been in the “improvement” mindset for so long, how do you get out of it? How do you reach a maintenance phase, where you stop trying to lose weight, gain muscle? There’s always something that can be better.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m absolutely happy I embarked on this journey and it makes me so proud to say that I have inspired others. But if I could tell those people ONE thing, just one, it would be PLEASE do not think this is going to solve all your problems because it WON’T. You will be in for so much heartache if you think that. You are so much more than a number on a scale.

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What I mean by that is that there are reasons you are the way you are, reasons you may eat too much or nit pick at your body and if you don’t deal with those reasons in your HEAD first, losing weight won’t fix that. I think just about anyone that embarked on a healthier lifestyle journey will tell you that. You have to love yourself first so you can appreciate your own journey and your own changes for being the amazing, positive things that they are.

Don’t look at your journey as punishment for allowing your body to become something you don’t like. Embrace your journey. Embrace the changes and allow it to be an opportunity to find things you love about yourself, allow it to help you discover yourself. See the positives, the strengths in yourself you never knew existed. Discover a world you never knew existed, full of possibilities and things you never dreamed that YOU are capable of doing. Let that be your journey, not just a journey of checking off pounds lost. THAT is how losing weight can make you happy.

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