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How to Enjoy a Healthy and Sustainable Weight Loss Journey

Posted by Brooke Grant
healthy weight loss

It may seem surprising, but a significant number of people experience severe depression during and after weight loss. In fact, many studies show a link between losing weight and reduced emotional and psychological well-being. Unfortunately, these feelings of depression and disappointment often lead people to abandon their efforts and regain the weight.

It turns out that many people who struggle with their weight have unrealistic expectations about what their lives will be like as a thin person. They imagine themselves sexy and confident, with a new visa of opportunities and experiences ahead, if only they lost the excess pounds. If they lose weight, and discover that their lives and inner selves are relatively unchanged, it can lead to negative feelings and disappointment, as though all that hard work didn't pay off the way they imagined. 

It's important to promote emotional health as well as physical health during weight loss, and we can do that by being realistic about goals, outcomes, and rewards. Focusing on realistic outcomes and positive accomplishments can alleviate the symptoms of post-weight loss depression.

Keep these things in mind before and during a weight-loss journey:

  • Fitness is its own reward. Regular exercise benefits every part of the body and brain, regardless of the number reflected on the scale. Exercising every day, even for short periods of time, improves the function of your organs, reduces the risk of osteoporosis, and can even improve memory and reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease. Thinking of physical activity as an act of self-care, rather than an unpleasant means to an end, helps reframe it more positively in the here-and-now.
  • Fitness enables experiences. Overweight people may struggle to perform activities that enhance their quality of life. Focusing attention on the fact that reduced weight and greater physical fitness makes it easier to fly in an airplane, shop for clothing, or play with children is a good way to create meaningful emotional rewards.
  • Fitness improves physical health now and into the future. Physical fitness reduces health problems and complications now and into the future. For overweight people who have joint and back pain, diabetes, or other health issues, being more physically fit can reduce or eliminate these issues. Furthermore, exercise improves heart and circulatory health, making other medical treatments and interventions easier and safer.

Being thin doesn't magically resolve all a person's problems. But it does make health problems more manageable, and reduce many of the obstacles between a person and their personal or professional goals.

Here are some ways to care for yourself during and after weight loss:

Consider therapy. Frequently, issues with food and body image are tied to deeper emotional traumas. When a person begins to reassess their relationship with food and their body, it brings these issues to the fore, since they are adjusting their existing coping mechanism. It's worth talking with a professional to find healthier ways to manage negative emotions, and address depression early.

Strengthen your support system. As your body changes, some of your relationships will as well. Share your thoughts and feelings with trusted friends and family members who will provide healthy emotional support during this time of change. If necessary, seek out support groups or online communities to reduce feelings of isolation.

Consider body contouring. One source of severe post-weight loss disappointment is that a person may discover that excess skin and uneven fat deposits still undermine their self-confidence and self-image. Body contouring can smooth out the skin and improve the look of a post-weight loss body, helping to enhance the success of diet and exercise.

Weight loss isn't, and shouldn't be, all about how you look in a mirror. Focusing on the superficial and expecting your life to transform as your body does, often leads to depression and disappointment. Those negative feelings often lead people to give up, putting them on a cycle where they feel worse than they did before. But focusing on realistic outcomes and rethinking our expectations of success can help reduce those feelings and enhance the real rewards of a healthier lifestyle.

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