Dieting + Weight Loss = Happiness ?
Have you ever noticed how near enough every lifestyle magazine, news article or advertisement involving a diet or weight loss plan is often portrayed with someone looking happy or at least very content next to it?
There are also those (often annoying!) before and after pictures, with the before image being of a person who looks notably unhappier that the after version? And then there are the masses of publications that speak about the joys of losing weight, and how it helped someone to finally be themselves again and lead a much more fulfilling life
Although losing weight might benefit of minority of individuals (mainly those involved in the organisations that thrive off selling weight loss gimmicks), what we are regularly told about losing weight is part of the mythical assumption that doing this will instantaneously result in happiness.
In actuality, there is very little evidence to suggest that losing weight, or intentionally going on a diet, leads to any health benefits or happiness.
Even when weight is not the main issue that is stopping someone from being healthy or leading a fulfilling life, the clear association between losing weight and happiness portrayed by the media makes it hard to ignore such a method one of the best ways to wellbeing.
Add this to the frequent victimisation and stigmatisation of individuals who are deemed to be ‘overweight’ or ‘too fat, and we have a recipe that involves many individuals unnecessarily striving to lose weight - perhaps even at the expense rather than the gain of any health benefits.
What might be even more concerning is that intentionally aiming to lose weight, or even succeeding at this goal, may increase the risk of poorer rather than better health .
For example, most research suggests that not only do around 99% of dieters regain the weight they originally lost (and sometimes even more due to changes in metabolism and the way individuals view food), many go on to experience poorer self esteem, as well as diminished happiness and overall life satisfaction.
More recent research also found that out of 2000 individuals who were instructed to lose weight to improve their health:
- 14 % lost 5% or more of their body weight
- 15% gained more weight
- 71% stayed the same weight
- Ratings of overall happiness and wellbeing decreased
- Dieters compared to non-dieters were twice as likely to be depressed