We are all very aware of the psychological and physiological ramifications of carrying extra unwanted weight. But, let’s turn to a sunny note on the positive benefits of losing weight and keeping it off.
A recent research review (Lasikiewicz, Myrissa, Hoyland, & Lawton, 2013) looked at the psychological benefits of losing weight either by behavioral, or dietary changes, and surgery. It came up with 4 primary benefits:
- Improved Self-Esteem
- Relief of Depressive Symptoms
- Improved Body Image
- An improvement in health-related quality of life (HRQoL)
Appreciating and understanding the stigma associated with carrying extra weight, it’s not hard to understand why these improvements in psychological tools were seen in conjunction primarily with weight loss, though some of these benefits improved with counseling as well.
Self-esteem is rooted in psychological health, and it affects our psychological health greatly. How you carry on self-talk, and how you present yourself is informed by your self-esteem. Also, it’s like your emotional immune system. Having low self-esteem makes us more vulnerable to psychological injuries and makes us less acceptable of things that can help us like positive feedback.
Unfortunately, people with low self-esteem are more vulnerable to failure, and failing to lose weight, or keep it off is inevitable felt as a failure (Does Self-Esteem Function as an Emotional Immune System? (2013, 26 June, retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-squeaky-wheel/201306/does-self-esteem-function-emotional-immune-system ). Fortunately, weight loss has been linked to improved self-esteem.
Your self-esteem will have an impact on your self-confidence, and emotional resilience- both very important life skills.
Of the 17 studies this review looked at, a majority reported a correlating reduction in depressive symptoms with loss of weight. However, these results can be a bit confusing because 6 of the studies observed no change in depressive symptoms.
Whether we’re talking about clinical depression or situational depression is another question to be answered here. However, this review does still provide hope for those suffering from at least situational depressive symptoms who are working to lose weight.
Your body image is the lens through which you see yourself. We use body image to gauge our sexual attractiveness, compare ourselves to preset commercialized standards, evaluate our personal appearance, highlight our flaws, etc.
Body image encompasses all of your body concerns. Unfortunately, this is one of the areas of our psychological health which is most affected by obesity or being overweight. Conversely, this particular gem holds great power and control over our self-esteem and general psychological health regardless of our weight. It’s more like, how you see yourself against society’s definition of beauty.
Luckily, physical weight loss is associated with an improvement in how we evaluate our appearance in particular outfits, what part of our body shape concerns us, and how healthy our body esteem is. Long-term weight loss adds to this as we maintain the health of our body image.
Health related quality of life, or HRQoL, is a reference to how you perceive your physical, psychological, and social health and functioning. Of all of the benefits of weight loss, health related quality of life carries the “strongest association with amount of weight lost.”
Vitality is your physical strength and ability to be active. Vitality is the strongest recipient of improved psychological health in this area.
Obesity and being overweight is avoidable. It’s our fault when we gain so much weight…
Or, it could just be genetics, biology, and evolution. The point is, that taking personal responsibility is important. You and only you can live your life and make your choices. However, there is a difference in taking responsibility and carrying blame that you don’t own. Fortunately, that’s the biggest psychological benefit of sustained weight loss.
We learn how to love ourselves, appreciate and experience our vitality, and get a boost in self-esteem which shows us where we blur the lines of responsibility and blame.