Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks
Losing pounds and becoming a healthy weight is undoubtedly good for your physical health. Your risk of a whole host of diseases is reduced for a start. Many people feel fantastically proud to have achieved their weight loss. They have extra vitality, better self-esteem and a renewed zest for life. For others though there appears to be a weight loss backlash where negative emotions can creep in.
1. It Doesn’t Always Make You Happier
Weight loss doesn’t always make us feel great emotionally.
A study of almost 2,000 people in the UK in 2014 who were overweight or obese found the participants that actually lost weight were unhappier in the longer term than those who remained within 5% of their starting weight.
Four years on they were in better physical shape but didn’t have a psychological benefit from weight loss as they were less likely to be happy.
2. You May Feel More Vulnerable
Once you have lost weight you are physically slighter so can feel more vulnerable. As a bigger person you had a larger presence, which may have given you a degree of emotional protection. You could also hide behind your extra flesh, but with the weight gone you can feel more exposed.
"For some people, especially those with low self-esteem, carrying extra weight can feel like having an emotional 'buffer' which can feel protective, as if others don't really see or know the real person. When weight is lost, so is this 'buffer', which can leave the person feeling emotionally exposed and vulnerable," says chartered psychologist Dr Rose Aghdami.
3. You Don’t Like the Attention
Some people hide behind their weight. When you lose it you may not like the fact that people comment on your physical appearance and tell you how good you look. You may get more attention from the opposite sex at your new weight, which can be difficult to deal with.
You may experience a change in society’s attitude to you if you have lost a lot of weight. If you’ve been morbidly obese you may have been generally ignored or even passed over for promotion at work perhaps. When you are slim you become more visible.
"Losing weight can mean the person faces unfamiliar and, for them, unpredictable reactions from others," says Dr Aghdami. "Many people prefer to stay within their comfort zone, knowing what to expect, so being seen as a slimmer person can seem welcome but at the same time it can be unfamiliar, and therefore challenging."
4. You May Become Self Absorbed
When you’ve worked hard to lose weight, understandably you are proud and happy with your new body. You may buy new, smaller clothes to show it off, have a new hairstyle or change your image entirely. When you lose weight you may go out more socially and want to show off your new image. Your focus may be more on yourself and your achievements.
Improvements in self-esteem are a positive aspect of weight loss, but in some cases this can go too far. Friends and family may accuse you of being a bit self-absorbed.
5. You Have Relationship Tensions
If you have put all of this effort into losing weight and looking good, you may feel like a person reborn. Your partner will have been watching from the sidelines as you transformed. It can cause relationship tensions on both sides. You might think your partner should make more of an effort themselves to lose a bit of weight, you might not be as physically attracted to them as you were. They may feel threatened by the new you, and anxious that you’ll be tempted to find a new love interest, especially if your social life has changed since losing the weight.
It may be the case that you and your partner used to share a nice meal and a bottle of wine, and now you don’t want to put any weight back on so avoid shared moments of intimacy such as dinner dates that you used to enjoy.
6. You May be Scared and Anxious
The overriding emotion when you’ve reached your goal is fear that you’ll put the weight back on again. It’s a harsh truth but most people do go back to their original weight or more. A US analysis of 31 long-term diet studies found that the majority of people put on the weight they had lost within 4 or 5 years. At least 1 in 3 or more put on 'rebound pounds'.
Having to constantly watch what you eat and keep up the exercise so the pounds don’t creep back on again can be a depressing thought. The thought of having to deprive yourself of the food you love forever is enough to make you feel general anxiety.
"Weight loss can be emotionally rewarding by providing the individual with a sense of purpose, achievement and confidence," says Dr Aghdami. "But it can also mean that a person feels under pressure to maintain the weight loss, otherwise they fear others will see them as a failure. It can also mean a person feels anxious in case they regain weight."
You may fear the loss of those comforting rituals of a packet of biscuits while watching a movie. Embracing a new healthy eating pattern and making it more of a lifestyle change than a diet will encourage you not to put the weight back on. Allow yourself occasional indulgences but don’t fall off the wagon if you want to maintain your new weight.
7. You May be Angry
Losing weight may make you angry. All these people didn’t pay you attention when you were fat but now you are a slim person you are being taken notice of. Attitudes towards you may be changing and it can make you angry that the only thing that’s changed about you is your weight yet people are treating you differently. How shallow is that? Isn’t what you are like inside more important than what you look like from the outside?
8. You Are Still You
Wrapped up in your weight loss journey may have been the feeling of wanting be someone new, to have a different life like the celebrities in the magazines. You may have had months of thinking: "When I’ve lost the weight, everything will be sorted. I’ll be so much happier and life will be brilliant."
It’s an awesome achievement to get to a healthy weight, especially if you’ve had a lot to lose, but you are still you and still have the same life as you did before, the same job, the same relationship and family tensions.
Being a healthy weight is still something to strive for. You will definitely be in better physical shape and may not even have any negative feelings. Don’t use them as an excuse not to try.