We Need to Stop Associating Weight Loss With Happiness

The advertisements of weight loss diets and exercise programs to lose your belly jelly is sending a skewed message to those with chronic diseases. Granted, there can be benefits to losing weight, but the overall message is once you lose weight, you will be happier. Happier with yourself. Happier your energy level is higher. Happier you’ll be able to fit into your favorite pair of jeans. Happier you’ll be able to keep up with kids – the list goes on and on. The message being sent is when your weight decreases your happiness increases, but if your weight increases your happiness decreases because you can’t do what you used to be able to do, because you have more belly jelly than before, because you feel bad about yourself, because you cannot keep up with your kids… and on and on and on.

This is garbage!

Weight loss should not equal happiness in my eyes. Happiness should not be dependent on weight. Happiness should not have to increase when weight is decreasing and happiness should not have to decrease because weight is increasing.

This may seem like a peculiar idea to wrap your mind around, so let me explain.

Two years ago, I was an active runner. I had a seven-minute mile under my belt, and I could play basketball all afternoon. I liked the activities I could engage in. I liked the muscle tone and strength I had. I liked how I was able to participate in physical activities with others, and I enjoyed being able to participate because I was athletic. I had lean muscle and I was toned in my legs from running and in my shoulders and arms from basketball. My “bat wings” were toned, I didn’t have a “thigh gap” and I liked my body and the strength it encased when I was heavier. I was happy with an athletic body because I could do what made me happy, which was running five to seven miles a day, five to six days a week.

As for today, I have lost 25 to 30 pounds due to an underlying rare, genetic and chronic lung disease along with an underlying autoimmune disease. I am limited in my physical abilities as my lung function hinders which activities I can engage in. Bringing a basket of laundry up from downstairs makes me short of breath. Scraping ice off of my car in the winter causes an asthma flare, and I walk slower than the rest of the crowd at college. I may not have as much belly jelly as I did when I was heavier, but I am definitely not toned or in shape. I have a difficult time gaining muscle mass, and when it feels like I am breathing through a straw I am not really enthused by the idea of getting in a “light” workout. I do not weigh as much as I did two years ago, and I cannot participate in activities like I used to because it exacerbates breathing difficulties, coughing up blood and wheezing. See, weight loss companies would say I should be happy I lost the weight. But weight loss companies do not know I lost a part of myself when I was diagnosed with my lung disease. I lost the outlet of running because of my lung disease, poor lung function, lung scarring and lung calcifications.

I’m getting the message that I am supposed to be happy for my weight loss when my weight loss took away an outlet, a coping strategy and an activity I enjoyed. I’m also getting the message I should have been sad when I was heavier, even though I was happy with my weight and my ability to participate because I was healthy and active.

It is a gray area if you ask me. I think we need to stop placing our happiness on a number because it’s only causing me more confusion and frustration.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Image via Thinkstock.

Find this story helpful? Share it with someone you care about.

Related to Chronic Lung Disease

Marie with her husband kissing Benjamin

What Anxiety Looks Like in My Life as a Special Needs Mom

No one likes to admit their weaknesses. But having a child with special needs will eventually and inevitably make your shortcomings known to you at some point in time or another. And while I have many, one of the things that has become clear to me, is that at times, I still struggle with anxiety. But [...]

You Took My Son's Last Breath, Chronic Lung Disease, But You Didn't Win

Dear Chronic Lung Disease, When I first met you, you terrified me. I’d already met your friend, heart disease, the day I met my tiny newborn son. The word “disease” is scary enough, but throw “heart” in front of it, and then “lung”… Well, you two were a terrifying pair. I watched you play your [...]

The Absolute Hardest Part of My Daughter's Complex Medical Journey

To my daughter’s complex medical issues, We don’t know yet if you have a formal name, like “syndrome,” “disease” or “disorder,” or if you’re just a random group of health issues, but I’ll be honest. I wouldn’t really feel the need to call you be your formal name if I knew it because we’re pretty close. [...]

Why I Feel Sorry for My Chronic Disease

Dear Scleroderma, I feel so sorry for you. When you picked my life to destroy you probably thought, “This is an easy spot, I’ll bring this girl’s life to shambles. She will be overwrought with grief. She will give up quickly, losing all of her beliefs.” Slowly but surely you took everything from me. I become a [...]