Can losing weight actually make us depressed?

I read an interesting article on the Cosmo website (I know, not the most reputable of sources, but still) today which suggested that dieting and losing weight can actually make people more depressed. This was based upon people who lost more than 5% of their previous body mass, as opposed to people who lost less than 5%, or nothing at all. However, the people conducting the study suggested that this was less to do with not being satisfied with the end result, and more to do with the idea that people expected other aspects of their lives to fall into place once they looked better. Unfortunately, this often isn’t the case, and it is this that caused people to be depressed despite a positive transformation.

As the article stressed, this is no reason not to get fit and lose a bit of weight, primarily because it will improve your health (unless, of course, you’re ultra-skinny anyway). But it is certainly something to consider. I’m dieting – or trying to – at the moment, and really thinking about it, I kind of do expect to gain a bit more from losing weight than just a different appearance. I expect to gain more confidence, in both wearing things which I wouldn’t be comfortable wearing at the moment, and also in the way I appear and come across to other people. The other thing I expect, which is possibly the least probable, is that I’ll be able to maintain a healthier lifestyle, keeping up with eating well and more regular exercise. Unfortunately, as well as being bad at dieting and losing weight in the first place, I’m terrible at sticking with a routine once I don’t really need to anymore.

Other examples that the article gave were that people who dieted would expect to become more popular, better at finding friends and dating, an improved work life and even to earn more money and be generally more successful. For someone who has been unhappy about their weight or appearance, this is understandable, but any such belief is unfounded. That’s not to say that this can’t happen. A change in attitude or a perceived confidence boost from dieting can make people act very differently, which could help to better themselves in these ways. But it is not something that will just fall into place. It will require yet more work, which many wouldn’t anticipate.

I guess the lesson behind this is that, although it will be healthy to diet, and dieting can improve how someone perceives their body, it isn’t a cure-all for other problems or discrepancies in one’s life. So of course diet if you want to, and stick to it as best you can. Eating healthily and regular exercise will always be beneficial. But don’t forget to concentrate on other aspects of your life too, because looking great doesn’t ensure happiness.

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