THE BLOG
05/18/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

I'll Be Happy When I'm Thin

Most of us are aware of the studies that indicate women would rather be 10 pounds thinner than almost anything else. As an eating disorder therapist, I can't tell you how many times I've heard the refrain, "I'll be happy when I'm thin." This can take different forms as people will focus on an aspect of thin that they really want. For example, I had a client who had gained enough weight that she couldn't wear any of her jeans. She refused to go buy bigger jeans and would only wear a stretchy skirt, essentially as punishment for having gotten fat. She would say, "I'll be happy when I can fit into my jeans again."

Another one of my clients will be happy when she can wear heels again. At a high weight she feels very uncomfortable in heels and thinks she looks like, "A pig trying to do ballet."

Someone else I work with is planning to go out and meet new people when she gets thin. Since she is afraid to do that now, even though thin for her is only 10 pounds away, her weight is essentially keeping her safe from doing something she wants to do, but is terrified of.

Thinking that you will be happy when you get thin is a slippery slope because there is no such thing as "happy". By that I mean once you reach your goal weight you don't suddenly attain a state of happy that stays put as long as you weigh that number. You might be extremely happy about getting to that weight, looking better, feeling better, wearing pants, heels, etc... but after some time of maintaining that, and getting used to it, it becomes the new normal. It's like when you get something new for your house that you love. You look at it everyday and love it, and it makes you happy. Six months later, you may still love it and get pleasure from it but, more than likely, you don't notice it much anymore.

If you are overweight, there is no question that bringing your weight down to a healthy place is a great thing. It will make you look better, feel better, be treated better in society and your self esteem is likely to go up, just as it would if you accomplished any of your important goals. However, getting thinner, in and of itself, is not the golden ticket to a permanent state of happy.

If you'd like to participate in the research for Irene's new book about the process of weight loss, please visit http://www.eatingdisordertherapist.com/ and take the survey.