I know that you've heard that losing weight is not the key to happiness and will not solve all your problems. But, after 30 years working with thousands of clients and readers losing weight, I can say without reservation, that they become incredibly happy. As they shed the pounds, my clients show an amazing transformation in their mood and quality of life. To describe them as ecstatic would not be an exaggeration in most cases. There is no question that losing weight makes people happy.
What is happiness? Happiness is a state of being. It's the experience of joy that you've known when something terrific happened, like getting that job you were hoping for. Do you remember how great you felt when you finally got the job you wanted, or that great car you had your eye on, or when you went on the best vacation of your life? You were tremendously happy, right? That's what I see in my clients every week. It's what my readers write in the mail I get from my them. It's what I feel everyday as I practice the method that helped me solve my weight problem 30 years ago, losing 140 pounds after 25 years of failing at diets. It's what my clients feel every day they practice what I teach them. Yes, losing weight will make you happy if that's something you've struggled with.
This is not to say that if you are unhappy weight loss will fix everything. It is not the magic key to happiness.
While weight loss is my specialty, I am a licensed mental health counselor who has helped people with all sorts of problems, from severe and persistent mental illness to the more common problems people face, like depression, anxiety, stress disorders, and adjustments to traumatic experiences like the losses of loved ones, relationships, career, or hopes and dreams.
If you are overweight and unhappy, I'm sure losing weight will make you happy as you succeed, but shedding some weight will not result in long-term happiness if it is done the wrong way or it is the only thing you seek to change. In fact, a focus on weight loss alone can make one more unhappy if it is approached improperly.
For instance, if you don't like yourself, if you are mad at yourself for one reason or another, you may think that losing weight will fix that. While solving your weight problem permanently would certainly help your self-esteem, fixing your relationship with yourself has got to occur as a priority above and before anything to do with weight. We need to love ourselves regardless of circumstance, fat or fit, with our successes and our failures. That's more important than weight loss. That has more to do with long term happiness. When we adopt a habit of compassion and forgiveness of people for their human failings instead of passing a judgement of eternal damnation, healing can happen. And that goes for us as well as others. Without it, we don't get better. Without it, we get stuck in the disorder.
If we go about losing weight the wrong way, we won't learn how to change ourselves permanently, and we'll gain it back. In that case, we'll be making ourselves miserable instead of happy. I know, because I did this for 25 years before I developed the ability to succeed. We need to equip ourselves with scientific, medical and behavioral truths instead of nonsense. If we keep ourselves ignorant of the truth, our head filled with myths, we'll have no hope of ever solving the problem. Using diets and plans that are not science-based, and plans that are not focused on making permanent changes in behavior and habit, is a prescription for misery instead of happiness.
You may have to undergo a conversion experience, replacing some of your most closely held beliefs with more worthy ones, based on whole health and science rather than diet gossip and folklore.
Here are a few examples of the belief swapping that needs to be a part of this conversion:
1) The way a person looks and how much they weigh is not the measure of them. We need to stop believing that the way a person's body is made makes one better than another. It's a superficial and ugly way to think. We need to value and respect all people, regardless of how they look and what they weigh.
2) We need to stop believing that self-control and other personality characteristics are a simple matter of character and "will-power." It's a mistake to believe that all people have the same drives to deal with. It's foolish to believe that we really know what causes our feelings and behavior. There are unknown forces at play. It's wrong to believe that we are in charge and we simply choose our feelings, desires and other inner experience. Multiple powerful factors cause our feelings that result in a huge appetite or no appetite, attraction to men or attraction to women, preferences in music or sports and other characteristics of our personality. We are born into a body and brain that we did not choose or create ourselves, and then we have to figure out how to live in it. However, we do not have to be helpless passengers in this journey of life, taking no responsibility ourselves. Some things, we can change. Some of us have a more difficult time changing than others, while some seem to have been born into perfect conditions. Good for them. I was not one of them. However, I do not have to be a helpless victim of my unique circumstances and neither do you. Change is possible. We may have it harder than others, but blaming ourselves or anyone else for it is as unhelpful as using our unique characteristics as excuses. The solution is to accept the hand we've been dealt and learn how to make our lives and ourselves better.
3) We need to stop believing that failures and a history of quitting makes us defective. I heard a coach say, "Winners never quit and quitters never win." Hearing that made me sick. I had a history of failing and quitting just about everything that was really hard. In time, I came to realize that what the coach said was not true. Sure, people who were able to persist, who could tolerate the tough trials, did better. But I learned that persistence is not a matter of having never quit. Persistence is getting up and working at it again. Look at how a baby learns to walk. They keep falling and going at it again. Sometimes, they quit trying and go back to crawling. But they keep trying to stand and walk. After a while, they are falling less, and eventually, not at all. It's the same with finding and doing what makes permanent weight loss. Like a baby, people who are successful fail and quit many times. But they keep getting back up, and eventually, they are doing well enough to be fit for life.
If you are overweight, I guarantee that losing weight will make you happy. I encourage you to go for it. I encourage you to relish the joy and happiness it gives you. At the same time, I guarantee that there are other things you need to change about yourself, and with that, you have a chance at lasting happiness, not just a flash in the pan.
William Anderson is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor who specializes in weight loss, eating disorders and addictions. He is the author of The Anderson Method.