Why Losing Weight Doesn’t Bring Happiness
I’m forever trying to lose those 10 extra pounds. But a recent study shows that I shouldn’t worry about it so much.
We all grew up with the myth that if our thighs weren’t slapping together and we could fit into that pair of skinny jeans or wear a bikini again, we’d be SO much happier.
Think again. Although there are reasons to watch our weight – like improving our health – it turns out chasing after happiness shouldn’t be one of them.
According to a recent survey for So Fabulous, a plus-size clothing line from the U.K.-based retailer Littlewoods.com, losing weight doesn’t necessarily make you happier. The survey asked 2,000 women about their current size, happiness, and body confidence. Researchers discovered that 49 percent of those whose weight had fluctuated in the past few years were happiest at a size 12 to 14. Fifty-two percent of size 2-4 women would prefer to be curvier. In addition, women who wore smaller sizes (2-8) were more critical of their bodies than those women who wore larger sizes.
Even more startlingly, according to a new study from the online journal, Plos One, researchers found those who slimmed down were 80 percent more likely to be depressed.
Should this come as a big surprise? Maybe not.
As a society, we tend to admire all those super skinny celebrities. But are they happy? How often do we read about their addiction problems, painful divorces, serial cheater husbands, and miserable lives? However, we often push those facts aside as we diligently imitate their latest crazy fad diets and weight loss methods.
“It’s not the external achievement of some goal that’s going to make us happy,” says clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, Ph.D. “You think that will automatically change your life in some meaningful way, but it could be that your life pretty much remains the same.”
Let’s face it. Happiness doesn’t—nor should it—depend on your weight. Your spirituality, finding purpose in life, your relationships with loved ones, and your overall health are much more important. These are the keys to finding joy, fulfillment, and happiness.
Most of us are aware of that fact, but can’t seem to quit striving after that perfect number in our heads. Even if the constant stress of dieting and depriving ourselves of foods that we enjoy makes us cranky and then depressed when we inevitably gain those 10 pounds back.
This obsession reminds me of a quote from one of my favorite books, Lonesome Dove, when Gus McCrae tells a prostitute who thinks if she can only get to San Francisco, she’ll be happy: “If you want one thing too much it’s likely to be a disappointment. The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk—and feisty gentlemen.”
I’m not suggesting drinking buttermilk or seeking out feisty gentlemen, but hopefully, by now we’re older and wiser. Most of us have watched our weight yo-yo over the years and know that skinny doesn’t always equal happy.
Don’t get me wrong. I still would like to lose those extra 10 pounds (or maybe it’s more like 15 now). But that’s because I’m aware of the health benefits, not because I want the perfect body or because I think losing weight is the key to enjoying life.
And if I never lose those extra pounds, well, I can live with that.